The Secret to Better Communication With Your Partner, According to a Relationship Expert
"COMPASSION IS ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL TOOLS WE HAVE."
Everyone always says that the key to a successful long-term romantic partnership is healthy communication. But communicating isn't as easy as it sounds. No matter how hard we try to avoid them, arguments happen. And when they do, it's important that we not interpret the situation as us versus them. In fact, having more compassion for your partner could be the key to a healthier and happier relationship.
Shirley Baldwin, relationship coach and author of Get What You Want from Your Man, recently told Best Life that it all comes down to something that's simple in theory but difficult in practice: trying to understand your partner's perspective.
Many women tend to label men as "the enemy," but Baldwin instead advocates for a more compassionate view that takes into account that, like women, men have feelings that they don't always express in the healthiest way.
"Kindness and compassion are often viewed as signs of weakness. I see the opposite," Baldwin says. "Compassion is one of the most powerful tools we have. Having control over your emotions is much harder to do than reacting and allowing anger, impulsivity, and frustration to take over, but it's worth it."
Here's an example: Your husband comes home from work and is visibly irritated before he even closes the door. He gets unreasonably annoyed with you for not having done the laundry yet, when you promised you would. The household chores are a sore spot between the two of you, as they are with many cohabitating couples. You view this as a personal attack and lash out, saying it wouldn't kill him to pick up a sock every once in a while. He retaliates, and it all spirals from there.
Does him having a bad day at work justify taking it out on you? No. But do we all do that from time to time? Yes. Does making it all about us instead of seeing what the real problem is help the situation? Not at all.
What if, instead, you could respond to his annoyance not by getting defensive but by saying, "Hey, are you OK? Did something happen at work today?" According to Baldwin, you might be surprised to find that—instead of an argument—this indication of sympathy and openness helps your partner mellow out and allows you both to actually discuss the true source of his frustration. Instead of the conversation ending with you both feeling attacked and hurt, you reach a place of greater intimacy and understanding.
"If you see yourself as a reactor, then you will react, trying to match the energy of the other person, and only heighten the situation further," she says. "If you see yourself as a creator—as someone who can shift the conversation, calm the emotions, and defuse a battle—you will show up in a way that could bring out a different side of the other person."
And for more great relationship advice, check out Making Eye Contact Is the Key to a Healthy Marriage, Experts Say.
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