“When I saw the lipstick on your collar, the story I told myself was that you’d been fooling around with Denise.” Read on to learn how to strengthen your relationship.
It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without also helping himself. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s one thing to vow never to have a screaming match with your partner…
Chances are that the models you’ve had (movies, your parents) didn’t teach you safe communication.
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HOW TO STRENGTHEN YOUR RELATIONSHIP
So here are some potent communication keys collected by Carl Frankel, my friend and author of “Love and The Perfect Union.”
Carl says conscious communication protocols don’t come naturally, and we must practice them. They are the difference between litigation and mediation. Litigation is win-lose. Mediation is win-win.
- Kindness breeds togetherness.
- Negativity takes us toward hell, and positivism toward heaven.
- Venting negative emotions generates fear and mistrust. So no dumping of anger, ever.
- Feel-good neurochemicals are generated by how we treat ourselves and our partners.
The general requirements for safe communication come from numerous relationship books, including:
Shut up and walk a mile in their shoes.
Mirroring your partner’s words until they feel genuinely heard.
Do you understand what they are saying? Repeat and see.
Identifying the meanings you attribute to your partner’s behavior as stories you tell yourself, not the objective truth about what’s happening.
When we get into “This is what happened” or “No, this is what happened!” arguments, we’re litigating rather than meditating. Instead, leave the truth space open for everyone’s perspective.
NVC is a category of communication created by Marshall Rosenberg which includes no attacking, no criticizing, no counter-complaining, and no non-dealing, for instance, by responding to your partner’s story with a parallel story of your own (That reminds me of when…”)
This is couples’ therapist Terrence Real’s term, by which he means staying in a respectful relationship with your partner even though your triggered self may want to shut them out or put them down.
THE STORY I TOLD MYSELF.
When Joe comes home with the proverbial lipstick on his collar, the only truth his partner Mary can know is that she feels agitated.
“When I saw the lipstick on your collar, the story I told myself was that you’d been fooling around with Denise.”
This approach is much fairer than, “You’ve been cheating on me!” Using “the story I told myself” acknowledges the fear you feel from the conclusions you’ve drawn. It allows your partner to see what is upsetting you without being attacked.
UNDERMINE NEGATIVE PROGRAMS THROUGH PROACTIVE POSITIVISM
Proactively activating kinder, gentler communication points you toward being appreciative and grateful.
Let’s say your partner blurts out something irritable because the house is messier than she’d like. One option would be to counter, “Feeling bitchy, are we?” A better choice would be, “I appreciate you for how much you value having a clean house.”
REFRAME NEGATIVE JUDGEMENTS POSITIVELY
Try this simple exercise. The person formerly known as a coward becomes someone with “a strong instinct for self-preservation.”
A liar becomes someone with “a gift for narrative flexibility.”
A judgmental bitch becomes a person with “powerful critical faculty.”
You can laugh, but the overarching point is “accentuate the positive.”
The more you appreciate your partner, the more your relationship appreciates and becomes valuable.
REQUEST A DO-OVER
If your partner triggers you, request a do-over.
AVON: Where are the light bulbs?
BRETT: The same place they were when you asked me yesterday.
AVON: Ouch! Can I have a do-over?
BRETT: Sure. They are in the hall closet. And by the way, you asked me that same question yesterday.
AVON: Thank you.
THE DEAD-STOP AND THE TIME-OUT.
The dead-stop is an agreement between the partners that if one calls for a dead-stop, the other will immediately cease their behavior, whether or not they believe the person’s request is merited. The dead stop is a request by the other partner to stop.
The time-out is called by the person who needs to walk away.
Carl has designed Six Principles for a harmonious relationship that keeps getting better, a life where fun is interspersed with episodes of profound, ecstatic connection.
If you like these conscious communication skills, you’ll also love the Soulmate Embrace.
It’s all about the perfect way to hold your partner in your arms that takes both of you to your loverspace.
Time slows down to a complete stop, and your relationship heals and grows more and more beautiful with each passing second you hold each other this way.
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Knowing how to fight fairly, or even how NOT to fight at all, goes a long way toward relationship bliss.