High Performance Couples, Great Communication...by Stan Hyman, PhD, LCSW
Couples who work well together are not just born to be together. More often than not they have struggled to create a relationship that works for both of them.
Partners are not made for each other in Heaven, there is no Santa Clause and, sorry to say, sitting around waiting for a miracle to solve your relationship problems doesn’t work! Read what real people have said are their secrets of successful relationships.
Effective Communication: Almost every successful relationship agrees, there is no substitute for effective communication. Couples will often misunderstand or misinterpret each other’s remarks or intentions. One partner might make an assumption about what the other should know and be disappointed when the other partner doesn’t deliver, respond well or meet the other’s needs. Communication is a learned skill. Some people may have learned it earlier than others but it can be learned at any time. Successful relationships tend to work at improving the communication between them. Partners will often check with each other to make sure there are no misunderstandings.
Active Listening: One of the secrets of successful relationships is simply listening. Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. The listening partner does not jump to conclusions based on what is going on inside his/her head. Instead he/she checks with the speaking partner about the meaning of what was just said before causing an argument. If the speaker seems upset or angry the listener might ask a question or make a comment like, “you seem upset or frustrated” rather than become aggressive or defensive.
Accepting Influence: Here one partner will actually listen to the other’s thoughts or opinions about something and give it serious consideration. This does not mean that he/she will have to agree. It does mean that the tendency to spontaneously reject or diminish the substance of what a partner says is replaced by an acceptance and respect of the other’s credibility and right to speak. Successful relationships accept each other, without condition.
Arguing Without Total Destruction: Almost every successful relationship agrees that all couples argue; some more heatedly than others. However, the ability to “agree to disagree” sets couples in successful relationships apart. These couples have learned that if they want to maintain a healthy positive relationship they have to treat each other as partners, not enemies. When an argument does take place they tend to stay on point and not dredge up all the old, irrelevant but hurtful material. Couples who want to get better at their relationship need to restrain themselves from immediately attacking the other’s integrity or intentions when there is a disagreement. (See my Newsletter on “Talking Without Bloodshed”).
No Shame or Blame: Humiliating your partner is perhaps one of the worst things spouses can do to one another. This happens when a couple has not learned (or does not care about) the rules of fair fighting. (See "The Blame Game") Couples in successful relationships tend to be much more careful about how they speak to each other even when arguing. They will keep in mind the potential damage, both short and longer term, shameful or humiliating remarks will likely have and use language more effectively to get their points across. If things get too heated they will often decide to take a break and come back to the discussion when they have calmed down.
Compliments: There is ample evidence to show that couples in successful relationships tend to compliment each other at least 5 times more often than other couples. This behavior tends to create a positive, friendly and morale lifting climate in which partners feel accepted and appreciated. Compliments are so easy to give and yet partners often forget or have not learned to give them. Using this simple tool more often in your relationship might help to soften or improve your communication.
Repairing Wounds: I’m sorry, but it is often not good enough to say, "I’m sorry". This is especially true when feelings have been badly hurt. Some couples use the “I’m sorry” card for almost every occasion where things have gotten dicey between them. After using it several times for similar occasions it tends to lose some of the intended sincerity. One of the secrets of successful relationships is that these couples will try to correct or change the pattern of dysfunctional behavior that created the argument. Each partner will own or take responsibility for his/her role that led to a regrettable event and carefully consider how to alter their perception and behavior for the next time. The couple will take the time to review what happened being mindful to keep the conversation productive, not accusatory.
The old adage about “learning from our mistakes” is certainly applicable to a relationship. Successfully managing life pressures while staying connected and strong as a couple requires that you learn how to treat yourself and your partner with dignity and respect.
Want to learn more secrets of successful relationships? Contact us today, we're here to help.
*Seminal research on the study of good marriages has been done by The Gottman Institute of Seattle, Washington.