In my practice, I frequently hear about 3 issues related to primary relationships:
1) The desire to spend more quality time together
2) Communicating in a healthier way
3) How to request a behavioral change from your partner
If you find your problem in one or more of these buckets, you are not alone! Below you will read about these three problems and some quick suggestions on how to make progress with your partner.
1) Spending Quality Time Together
Take a few minutes to imagine your time as a piggy bank. Are you adding pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters or bills? How is it adding up for you? Ask yourself if you are investing in activities or behavior that takes time away from your intimate relationships. If your choices could be better spent, it might be time to make some changes. Be on the look-out for intimacy invaders like shopping, kids, TV, electronics, social media, alcohol, drugs, other people, pets, reading, etc.
If this speaks to you, try one of these strategies and see if it helps… Commit to 30 minutes a day of non-distracted time with your relationship partner. Resolve to check in with one another, share an affirmation or something about your day, and then make a request you may have on your mind.
2) Healthier Communication
Being able to communicate your feelings in an open and honest way is sort of like a three-legged stool. It requires one leg to be able to listen and hear what is being said. The second leg is being able to properly identify the thoughts or feelings you want to express. Those are the behaviors that might need closer examination. And the third leg is timing. Finding the right time to talk about something important requires heightened awareness and empathy for your partner. It is more likely to illicit a better result versus demanding to be heard on the spot without regard to timing.
Everyone wants to feel validated but if you or your partner find yourselves stuck remember – your situation is not about one partner being right or one being wrong. It is directly related to each of you being able to empathize, relate and understand one another. The help of a trained professional can help move couples forward to establish new and better ways to communicate, particularly in areas that are difficult to express.
3) Asking for Behavioral Change
Think about making your request by stating how you’d like the behavior to be done differently. For example, proclaiming, “You never do the dishes” puts your partner on the defensive and negative. But if you say “I would like to ask for your help with the dishes” or “I would appreciate it if you could do the dishes for me tonight” invites participation and demonstrates empathy.
Hopefully these tips can help. Remember that even strong relationships need help to navigate through conflict at some point. It is a natural part of all relationships.
Abbe Barclay, MSW
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Certified Sex Addiction Therapist