1. If you want to be a better communicator, be a better listener. This means listening without reaction and without judgment. When your partner shares, you are observing your partner’s innermost feelings and emotions. These feelings are neither good nor bad. This is just how your partner feels. You don’t have to agree.
But, the first step in effective communications is to listen and understand that your partner feels that way. Communication in a good relationship isn’t just two people talking to each other. It is also two people listening.
2. When your partner is sharing a belief, an opinion, or a feeling, it is his feeling. He is entitled to it; it’s his. Telling him he’s wrong never works and makes people defend their positions. Do you remember your reaction last time when your partner said that you were wrong? It works just the same the other way. Remember that understanding and accepting that your partner has these feelings does not mean you agree with them.
3. Being a successful couple is not a win-lose game where one person has to give in. Being in a successful relationship means that neither of you is completely right, nor completely wrong. Successful communication between you and your partner may help you find a third alternative where you can both live happily. Example: you hate Chinese food; he hates Mexican food. You could argue forever until one person gives in and is miserable throughout the meal. Or, you could go to an Italian restaurant that you both like.
4. Learn the 3-step approach to solving the differences in your relationship:
a) Verbalize the behavior that is causing you a problem
b) Explain how the behavior is creating a problem for you
c) Request that your partner do something to change the situation. Notice that I did not say correct the behavior. Correcting implies that the behavior was wrong. You don’t need to make the behavior wrong. You just want the behavior to change.
5. Finally, never say no to your partner’s request. Not for money, not for help around the house, not even for sex. Your answer should be either “yes”, or you should make a counteroffer. Your partner can then counter your counteroffer. The counteroffers continue until both partners have a solution that both can live with.
This is another example of finding that third way. This process will strengthen your relationship. When you say “no”, you cause hurt and feelings of rejection. Saying “no” also shuts down future communication. Your partner will start thinking “I won’t ask her anymore, because the answer is always no”.
After all, that is what marriage is all about: a continual meshing, accommodating, and negotiating between two individuals trying to act as a couple. If you had wanted everything your way, you should have stayed single. Remember, when it comes to your relationship, it’s not my way; it’s not his way; it’s our way. Always look for that third way – that common ground where both of you can be happy.