Be sure to add examples if you think they will give your comments more depth or understanding. Recount any experiences with humor, passion, appreciation, and value.
Whatever makes your partner better able to understand exactly what you mean will better enable them to experience exactly what you mean.
When you are done, wait for a time when there is no pressure and a gentle environment, and then read your “What I Like About You” list aloud to your partner.
Make sure that you give him or her whatever length of time needed to allow a full response to each of your expressions.
If you’ve taken the time to do this exercise in depth, you will surely see positive signs of appreciation in your partner.
It is not unusual for our partner, even when you’ve been together for a long time, to feel more secure in your love after hearing what you like about him or her.
Some partners choose to both do this exercise simultaneously. If you decide to follow suit, you might get even more out of the exercise if you exchange one “like” at a time, rather than reading the entire list first or second.
Before you take the next step, assure one another that you will listen without defensiveness, invalidation, or challenge when you do the second exercise.
Listening to things your partner dislikes about you is not easy, even when you’ve agreed to listen.
The Second Exercise: What I Don’t Like About You
Make sure you and your partner are ready and willing to begin the next exercise.
Be certain that you both agree to stop and renew your caring feelings for each other if things begin to get out of hand, or either of you feels over-loaded.
Remember, you can do only part of this at a time. It is crucial that you stay open and receptive to whatever your partner needs to tell you.
The goal is to listen and then process what either of you needs to do to change the behaviors that are causing distress.
On this new list, you are going to tell your partner, or each other, the thoughts or actions which are beginning to wear on each of you and which, if not identified and changed, could erode your capacity to recover from them.
The best way I have found for partners to communicate these potentially damaging behaviors is to separate them into the following four categories:
1. Behaviors That May Be Simply Annoying
The items on this list are usually things that your partner does which are somewhat irritating in the moment, but soon lose their negative charge as you’re able to reconnect with each other in more positive ways.
They don’t seem to “add up” over time, so you don’t need to be too worried about them, unless they begin to bother you more.
As you go through the following list, use the examples to help you add to or change them for those that are unique to your relationship.
Most couples respond to these kinds of simply annoying behaviors without disagreement and do not feel overly offended by them.