Allow this space to be a place of celebration too. If you have a victory at work or as a parent, mention that. Beyond sharing frustrations, a relationship is about sharing and relishing in the victories of life together. That’s what makes it meaningful.
7 Steps to an Effective End-of-Day Conversation
Below are detailed instructions for using active listening during the stress-reducing and intimacy building conversation.
1. Take turns.
Let each partner be the complainer for fifteen minutes.
2. Show Compassion.
It’s very easy to let your mind wander, but losing yourself will make your partner feel like you’ve lost touch with them. Stay focused on them. Ask questions to understand. Make eye contact.
How can you make your marriage better and stronger? Read 43 Pieces of Best Marriage Advice by Top Relationship Experts
3. Don’t provide unsolicited solutions.
It’s natural to want to fix problems or make our lover feel better when they express pain. Often partners just want an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. Unless your partner has asked for help, don’t try to fix the problem, change how they feel, or rescue them. Just be present with them.
Men get caught up in this trap more frequently than women, but it is not the man’s responsibility to rescue his partner. Often trying to “save her” backfires. In the Love Lab, Dr. John Gottman noticed that when a wife shares her troubles, she reacts negatively to her husband offering advice right away. What she wants is to be heard and understood.
It’s not that problem-solving doesn’t have it’s place. It is important, but as psychologist Haim Ginott says, “Understanding must precede advice.” It’s only when your partner feels fully understood that they will be receptive to suggestions.
4. Express your understanding and validate emotions.
Let your spouse know that you understand what they are saying. Here’s a list of phrases I have my clients use.
- “Hearing that makes perfect sense why you’re upset.”
- “That sounds terrible.”
- “I totally agree with how you see it.”
- “I’d be stressed too.”
- “That would have hurt my feelings too.”
5. Take your partner’s side.
Express support of your partner’s view even if you feel their perspective is unreasonable. If you back the opposition, your spouse will be resentful.
When your partner reaches out for emotional support (rather than advice), your role is not to cast judgement or to tell them what to do. It’s your job to express empathy.
6. Adopt a “We against others” attitude.
If your partner is feeling alone while facing difficulty, express that you are there with them and you two are in this together.
Looking to know more about the proper talk that will benefit your marriage? Read Resolving Conflicts: The ABCs of Escalating Conflict and 7 Tips To Prevent Them
7. Be Affectionate.
Touch is one of the most expressive ways we can love our partners. As your partner talks, hold them or put an arm on their shoulder. Hold that space for them and love them through thick and thin.
Here is how the conversation changed after these instructions were given to Steven and Katie.
Katie: How was your day, dear?
Steven: At my weekly meeting my manager challenged my knowledge of our products and told the CEO that I am incompetent. She’s such a jerk.
Katie: What a jerk! She is so rude. (us against others) What did you say to her? (expressing genuine interest)
Steven: I told her I feel like she is out to get me and it’s not fair. I am the number one salesman on the floor.
Katie: I completely understand why you feel like that. I’m sorry she’s doing this to you. (expressing affection) She needs to get taken care of. (us against others)
Steven: I agree, but I think she’s doing it to herself. The CEO doesn’t appreciate her telling him everyone is incompetent but her. It’s probably best to leave it alone.