8 Ways to resolve this pattern and create a healthier relationship.
1. Know your communication style
Have a conversation about your own first family and how your parents and other family members communicated with one another. This is key. Look for differences and similarities. Have that conversation. What IS your communication style? Do you pursue? Do you distance? Are you passive aggressive? Aggressive? Passive? Understanding your style and garnering insight can lead to change.
2. Create greater safety and trust
Build a strong foundation – just like the strong foundation of your home. Begin with a soft startup (Is this a good time to talk and if not, when?). This allows both people to be on equal footing and can start the conversation with both people feeling optimistic and on the same page. This means honoring how each person feels even if you disagree. This allows each person to feel ‘safe’ that they can share how they feel.
3. Recognize patterns
Are there certain trigger words? Trigger behaviors? We ALL have them. What are yours? How will you catch yourself? Are there certain times that you feel more overwhelmed or need to continue to have the conversation?
4. Have a plan
Recognize and examine when moments of disconnection occur. Start to slow down the “spin cycle” so you can give it the closer examination. For example, make a plan to take a timeout. When both people are flooded with emotions your brain is literally on overdrive. By taking a timeout – say 30 minutes or so – couples can decrease their anxiety and start to talk about the issue at hand again.
Come up a plan BEFORE you start to argue or when there are moments of calm when cooler heads prevail and they are at a good place. Observe the process of communication within the relationship – not the content or the topic. The goal is not to figure out how to manage every topic or discussion, but to create a different processor dance- that will allow each of you the opportunity to change how you communicate with one another.
5. Alternative communication
For example, I am not a huge fan of texting – especially something serious and in depth – however, if people limit themselves to only talking to one another in person, they may feel very frustrated, especially in the beginning. Some people do better at email (which gives them the time to share feelings). You can use this a springboard to deeper conversations. Some couples start a journal together as they learn how to communicate in more effective and healthy ways.
6. Have a ‘we’ attitude
Nothing creates greater intimacy and a stronger relationship when both people feel and say they are on board. They also recognize they may have many ‘fits and starts’ and that’s ok – but if they both feel they are in this together and want to find a way out of their unhealthy ‘dance’ they have created, that speaks volumes!
7. Manage your own emotions
In times of stress, we are flooded with emotions. Each person needs to have the emotional bandwidth to manage their own shi*t. This is our number 1 responsibility in life. You don’t like how you behaving? Ok. Change it. It’s not your partners/spouse job to manage your emotions.
8. Stay on topic
Nothing says let’s fight more by bringing up all the issues that you feel are still unresolved. When you are in the midst of a discussion – stay on topic. By choosing one thing to discuss and leaving the other issues to another time, will help each person stay on task. And by the way, this can also be part of your plan! (see # 4)
Eventually, you will both get to a better place – one in which you can stay in the conversation, recognize your triggers, and make a plan to stay connected! (Yes, this can happen) By doing that, you will ultimately create a stronger relationship, one that you both believe will stand the test of time, with both people feeling better about they communicate with one another.