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Any relationship has its ups and downs. All couples argue and disagree. There is no way around it.

Every person grows and changes in time, has his or her own opinions, expresses emotion differently, and makes mistakes. We are human and sometimes our emotions cloud the logical side of our brain. Each of the factors above can explain why disagreement is inevitable in any relationship – romantic or not – but learning to communicate effectively may decrease the chance of these arguments ending dramatically.

Seeking guidance in the form of couples therapy or marriage counseling may be extremely beneficial and give your relationship a push in the right direction, especially if you don’t know where to start. During the sessions, you may uncover the root of an issue and learn specific skills to improve overall communication between you and your partner.

To get you started on the road to productive and calm communication with your significant other, our marriage counselors suggest the following tips. This advice can be integrated into your daily routine and will ensure that you bring your A+ game to relationship counselling.

Seek to understand before being understood

You should always seek to understand before attempting to be understood. In other words, acknowledge your partner’s feelings and thoughts before voicing your side, even though you know they do not have all the facts. For example, “I understand your upset, because you think I forgot our anniversary.” Later explain your side: “I was going to surprise you with a lovely candle light dinner under the stars, but you couldn’t wait.” Once both people have stated their sides then you can move on, decide if it was a simple misunderstanding, and work out a solution. Taking the time to recognize the other person’s feelings will prevent unreasonable escalation and help you to see the situation from their point of view.

Active listening

Your friend is telling you about how a coworker spilt coffee on her or his pants right before an important board meeting and they ramble on and on in significant detail. All the way down to the thread color of their perfectly polished suit. Meanwhile, you are thinking about what to eat for dinner later: “chicken ravioli, juicy steak with sweet potato fries (mmmm…) or a roasted vegetable panini.” You see your friends mouth moving and hands waving, yet you fail to realize what they are saying except for a few words here and there. This is a “disease” called mind wandering. Everyone is guilty of it, so don’t be ashamed – but try to be more aware. When it comes to our partners we want to eradicate this habit, because active listening can be one of the top solutions to arguments. This means giving the speaker your full attention without distraction, focusing on understanding their words in their entirety, providing feedback (nod, smile, reply) and allowing the person to finish their statements before interjecting. I know it is hard, but put down your phone – Facebook or whoever it is can wait. Active listening can reveal how the other person is feeling and lead to quiet discussion of an issue rather than shouting and aggravation. This is a skill and takes practice. Next time someone is talking to you, take away all potential distraction, and maybe even repeat their words in your head and show genuine interest. You may be surprised at the result.

Use “I” statements

No one wants to feel like they are being attacked or blamed. A key to avoiding this issue is using “I” statements (I feel, I want, I need) when addressing a problem. Avoid saying things like, I cannot believe you did not call me last night, stop leaving the toilet seat up before I fall in, or you’re a pig, our room is a mess because you throw your dirty clothes all over the floor. Instead rearrange the words to express how you feel, because no one can argue with that. For example, I feel worried when you don’t call me to say your running late, I am afraid to fall into the toilet by accident if you leave the seat up, or I would like for you to put your clothes in the laundry basket in case we have a surprise visitor. These are mere illustrations of how focusing a statement on yourself can extinguish any flames before it spreads into a full-blown fire.

Be empathetic

To be empathetic means understanding and sharing feelings with another individual. In relationships, and in marriage counseling, it is important to learn how to see things from your partner’s perspective and comprehend why he or she may be expressing a certain unpleasant emotion. Practicing empathy will open the gateway to effective communication, show compassion, and strengthen your relationship.

Watch your tone of voice

A person can say the same phrase with three different tones and the inference by another will have three separate reactions. During a discussion, especially, it is crucial to maintain a calm, positive tone that invites collaboration rather than conflict. Skip the passive-aggressive statements. They can release some of your pent-up energy, but will only lead to your partner feeling disrespected by insincere responses. Be gentle, and productive dialogue will follow inside and outside of couples therapy sessions.

Time out

First you feel your face heat up. Anxiety starts from your stomach. A brash statement is working its way through your esophagus…and we’ll pause right there. This is the beginning of a raging outburst. If you sense the argument is leading to foul play, call in the referee and ask for a “time out.” Sometimes it’s best to take a break from a discussion, let both parties cool off, and address it later. Whether it’s 5 minutes or 8 hours, it’s best to walk away and come back with a calm, logical mindset. Keeping the small referee alert on the sidelines can completely flip your relational dynamic and lead to more open communication after a short break.

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Communication is one of the most important aspects of a healthy, long lasting relationship. If you are having trouble and don’t know where to start, then seek guidance in the form of couples therapy, marriage counseling or relationship counselling to get you started on the right path. When couples experience communication breakdown and are unable discuss or resolve problems in a constructive manner, there will undoubtedly be a downward spiral to an unhappy ending. Treat each other with love, be empathetic and practice active listening. These tips will lead to a sweeter and deeper connection with your partner.

Remember: end the day with a kiss, a long hug (release that serotonin!) and an “I love you.”

Contact Creative Counseling Center

If you or a loved one is having trouble communicating peacefully with his or her significant other, couples therapy could be the perfect solution. Complete the brief form below to get in touch with a therapist who can guide you through the steps of finding a relationship counselor. We offer a free consultation to new patients – start improving your relationship, and your quality of life, today.

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