Since we’re not really taught how to effectively communicate in loving relationships, I thought to ask one particular successful couple I know, Mike and Fran. They're in their mid 30s, have a growing family of three, and have known each other since high school. “What's your secret relationship sauce? How do you keep it all together between family, home, work, and the community activities you support?”
It was pretty easy for Mike and Fran to answer. Mindful communication; purposeful connection, deep listening, gratitude offering, a desire to learn and be understood. They frequently stop to check in with each other beyond the householder duties and activities, supporting one another on an emotional level. Knowing that each day is different, curiosity versus assumption is the viewpoint they take.
Here's what they offered as some guidelines for healthy partner communication:
- Set up a regular day and time (even a time everyday) where you won't be disturbed by others or feel rushed. No kids or cell phones.
- Bring some flowers, a candle, or something beautiful to the setting, creating a space that is warm and inviting.
- Spend a few quiet minutes just being together, letting the day go, breathing to settle into the moment. Holding hands or touching is wonderful.
- The Sharer shares 2-3 things they appreciate and are grateful for about the other; remembrances of the things they did or said that week that were positive and nurturing. The Receiver receives these gifts of appreciation.
- The Sharer shares one thing that was found to not feel as nurturing; perhaps an unskillful remark, action, or temperament. While we can often “let the little things go”, sometimes they fester in the background. Reconciling them with understanding has them being fully “let go”. Of importance with this sharing is that it’s communicated in a way that doesn’t instigate blame or wrongness but rather using I statements. “I felt unappreciated when your dirty clothes were all over the bedroom floor after I spent 3 hours cleaning the house.” (Note this is different than “You’re such a slob!”) The Receiver listens deeply to what is being shared without defensiveness or reactivity, trying to understand the other’s perspective.
- The Sharer then requests support so that the suffering can be lessened or relieved. “It would really help me if you could put the dirty clothes in the hamper so that we can enjoy the clean house together. I know you want to honor my efforts and this would help me greatly.”
- With a calm body and mind, the Receiver expresses gratitude for the sharing, curiosity if needing to learn more, and whatever they're able to support in the way of correction, understanding, or insights.
- When the sharing is complete, a few words of gratitude are expressed before they switch roles.
(This article initially appeared in Around Concord Magazine, Spring 2018 issue.)
Enjoy! Peace and Love,