The number one thing to improve couple communication​

Article - source: Body+Soul

The number one thing to improve couple communication

3 September 2021

Body+Soul investigates how to quell a fight in the early stages and deal with it in a way that will be better for you and your partner.

Have you ever had your partner say, do (or not do) something and just loose the plot?

Maybe they’ve been rubbing you the wrong way and then there was that moment the switch flicked and it was game time on the screaming match, with both sides likely to lose out?

Well, you’re not alone, but psychotherapist and couples counsellor Lissy Abrahams, says it doesn’t have to be that way.

Speaking on Body+Soul’s daily podcast Healthy-ish, she says that the single most important step to stop fighting is to literally stop. To take a breather.

“There’s absolutely nothing we can say to each other that we’re really going to take in. Our defences are up, we’re often in fight or flight mode, and we’re trying to survive the moment,” she tells host Felicity Harley on the Healthy-ish episode A psychotherapist on the No 1. thing to improve couple communication.

“The first thing we can do is just take a pause, take 10 minutes and see if that’s enough time to calm down.”

If you’re having trouble calming down, Abrahams suggests trying breath work and taking the time to move your mind away from the discussion. Essentially, relax and regroup.

It may also be beneficial to reflect on the part of yourself that was triggered in the situation, the ‘ego’. And no – we don’t mean ego in the sense of self-importance – it’s a term often used to describe part of your personality in psychology and, in fact, everyone has one.

“One of the ways that we can really look after our relationship and not damage it is by understanding our ego and also understand it’s linked to feeling fear or shame,” she explains.

“Where we perceive our partner as a threat…or feel like they’re shaming us in any way, we’re going to get into fight or flight mode and we’re going to have something to tell them that we’re not very happy about.”

This response can be one of two things:

  1. Superiority: That we feel like they don’t know the situation like we do, and that we know how to navigate the relationship better.
  2. Inferiority: This is victim mode, where one partner may start crying or show weakness to get their partner back alongside.

“We can do a lot of damage through the ego by not understanding it. The best thing we can do is to learn about what it is that makes us feel frightened with a partner or ashamed and then take responsibility for that and go and learn about it,” says Abrahams.

How to keep your ego in check

The first step is to understand our ego and how it operates. What is your response? It could be attacking, blaming, judgement, complaining, screaming, shouting, standing up and making your body big.

If we know what it looks like when we’ve been triggered, we can notice it and say to ourselves, ‘that’s my ego’. It might be time for a cool down minute.

“We don’t always know that we’ve got a choice in those moments. We feel fully justified to be sulky or be attacking in that moment. So the best thing we can do is to identify themes around it and work out what upsets you.”

That’s the second part – knowing what it was that triggered you.

Even if you didn’t start the fight, there’s always a point where you became invested in it. Which button did your partner push that made you respond?

Abrahams says this might be a tone of voice, when your partner doesn’t listen to you, or perhaps even a particular behavior or body language movement that irks you.

Think about why it sets your teeth on edge.

Do you hate not being listened to? Perhaps you were always listened to as a child and you’ve come to expect that, or maybe you weren’t listened to and you regress back to the way you acted when you were younger to get attention. Unravel those feelings and it will help you respond better next time.

If you have trouble doing this on your own, a professional therapist may be the perfect person to help you work through it.

Can we get over it?

Abrahams says we can.

“It’s a life journey for all of us. And with different people, they’ll be different,” she says.

“The ones who are doing it well are people who have the ability to really listen to each other and allow their partner to be different from them.”

She explains that often when we meet our partner we accept their differences, but as time goes on we can see them as a threat because they’re not alongside us in the way we want them to be.

“So, one thing we can really do is to learn to listen to our partner and to allow them to have their own mind and not be threatened by them in that way.”

You can download Lissy’s free ebook, Top Tips for Improving Couple Communication, here, or for more info, see her website here.

No products in the cart.