You know those arguments you always have with your significant other?
The ones where you both argue about the exact same thing in the exact same way and get nowhere?
(You load the dishwasher wrong… and you spend too much money!)
They might be trivial at the start, but they will inevitably fester and threaten the strength of the relationship over time.
We might nod our heads and agree with that, but when we start trying to think about how to communicate differently—in a way that builds a relationship rather than tearing it down—we get stuck.
We feel like we’re destined to argue about the same thing for eternity.
Here’s the good news, friends: there’s always a way out.*
In fact, that’s exactly what Mollie Eliasof told me last week when she joined me over on Instagram to talk all about relationships.
Mollie is a couples therapist and relationship expert who specializes in helping power couples maximize their success in love and business (aka: she really knows her stuff).
We talked a lot about communicating with your significant other during our conversation, and I want to share a few highlights below—I think they’ll really help you and your significant other learn to communicate in a way that builds your relationship up rather than tearing it down.
Tip 1: No one is going to win if there’s a right or wrong.
(Mollie tells it like it is, y’all).
Rather than approaching an argument with the perspective of “I’m right, he’s wrong – how do I position my perspective better so that I win?” Mollie encourages us to approach a conversation with an intent to listen and to understand and not to prove our point.
Think about it this way: how do you want to be treated? For me, it’s less important if someone agrees with me than if he or she says “oh, your feelings make sense. I get why you have this perspective.”
A “win” then becomes about each person truly hearing the other – not one person getting his or her own way.
Here’s what I’ve learned as I’ve practiced this: I’m actually motivated to compromise when I’ve spent time listening and empathizing. Once I’ve truly understood the other person’s heart, I can’t help but want to find a way of working things out that benefits them and shows that I care.
In Mollie’s words, we don’t have to agree with our partner—but we do need to hear them.
And that makes such a difference.
Tip 2: Get to know your own deep needs.
This is so important. It takes some time and energy to dig deep and figure them out, but it’s so worth it.
Here’s an example: Susie is an extrovert and loves having people over for dinner. Todd isn’t – he prefers a quiet house. Susie is constantly getting frustrated at Todd because he never wants to have people over.
She feels stuck.
If Susie takes some time to get to know and then share her own deep needs (having people around helps me feel supported and not feel so alone) and Todd does the same (having quiet evenings helps me recharge after a stressful day), they suddenly have a much deeper understanding of the other and can come to some solutions that help to meet both their needs.
Maybe they agree on having friends over just one night a week. Or maybe Susie goes out with girlfriends one or two nights a week without Todd – that way they can both recharge and feel supported in a way that’s meaningful to them.
Tip 3: Talk in advance about how you’ll handle gridlock
Gridlock refers to those conversation where you feel like you’re at a standstill – we all have them to some extent and that’s ok! What matters is what you do when you’re in one – and one thing that can be super helpful is talking ahead of time about some rules for these conversations.
A few examples from Mollie: you want to affirm that you’re on the same team. You also want to affirm that you won’t always think the same way as your partner and that’s ok.
The Gotteman Institute has a super helpful article on four things to avoid when in a gridlock (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling) – click here if you want more info on each (I highly suggest reading the article – so good!).
Tip 4: Practice and have fun!
Mollie told me that people can easily get overwhelmed as they try to become more intentional about communicating their needs and listening to the other. Remember to give yourself and your partner so much grace – the more you practice it, the better you’ll become.
And have fun along the way, too! Mollie shared a super fun date night idea if you’re still stuck in quarantine: dress up (in separate rooms, like you would for a first date) and have a special dinner that resembles one of your favorite dates. Make your own personal speakeasy or recreate a romantic beach dinner. Make it special, be intentional, and have fun.
(You can do it!)
As always, I’m here for you and happy to answer any questions. Just email me ([email protected]) at any time. And head over to Mollie’s Instagram account right now and give her a follow – I’ve learned so much from her and I know you will, too.
*Note: all this applies to normal relationship issues. If you’re in any sort of domestic abuse situation, please reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233. If you're unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.
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