Are you having the same argument over and over again? Does it seem as though no matter how hard you try, discussions dissolve into fights? Couples often struggle with communication. While they may gain some clarity regarding the causes of their conflict during therapy sessions, the same unproductive pattern can repeat itself at home. Sometimes, it feels as though nothing works! However, couples therapy can be effective, with 70 percent of couples reporting improvements in their relationships (Lebow, 2011). Implementing certain communication practices between sessions can help your relationship to be part of that 70 percent.
Many arguments start when there is a fundamental misrecognition of either party’s subjective experiences. I have seen this while working with neurodiverse couples in which one partner does not understand why the other is especially sensitive to noise or changes in routine. Similar kinds of misunderstandings and arguments can occur with neurotypical couples as well. Sometimes, these misunderstandings can lead to arguments. Therefore, implementing some of the below mentioned techniques at home can help to improve communication before arguments begin.
- Practice articulating your experience in a fashion that your partner can understand.
Let’s say that you and your partner disagree about here to take a vacation, and that you are adamant that you would prefer to go to a city instead of a rural area. Instead of saying “I hate the country because there is nothing to do there,” try making statements that describe your discomfort while also expressing an openness to compromise. For example, “I understand that you would like to enjoy some time away from the stress of the city, but I would like you to understand that it is really hard for me to be in isolated areas because it increases my anxiety. For some, changes in routine and location can cause significant anxiety. However, maybe we could compromise by choosing a rural location near a town.” Statements such as these help to show appreciation for your partner’s needs and desires, while also sharing your experience without making an accusation.
- Make it relatable to their experience.
It may be a challenge for your partner to relate to your experience. For example, if you have a fear of loud noises that your partner simply cannot understand, maybe relate it to one of his or her personal experiences. A statement such as, “remember how scared you felt when you drove along that cliff? That is how I feel when I hear loud noises.” Relating your experiences to ones your partner has had makes it to be more likely that he or she will listen to you.
- Don’t assume that your partner understands
Sometimes, we become frustrated because we expect our partners to understand us. When they don’t, we may feel invalidated. However, remember that just because they do not understand does not mean that they can’t or don’t want to. Sometimes, he or she just needs the opportunity to relate to some aspect of your experience. You can help him or her by making your story relatable and expressing an interest in your partner’s story.