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Communication tips in a relationship?

(12 Posts)
egnahceman Wed 26-Aug-09 12:06:08

DP and I seem to have grown apart of late. We get wound up, we blank each other, we get more and more resentful and then we lash out at each other and neither of us have a clue where the other is coming from. We had a huge falling out last night, at the bottom line is that he doesn't think we have a future or anything left to fight for. I think we really do, and whole situation is making me uncharacteristically angry.

I've set about arranging a free day for us on Sunday, minus DCs, for us to sit down and really thrash it out. The main problem we have is that of communication. I get very emotional and am not easily angered, I hate confrontation and clam up when put on the spot to try and explain how I feel or why I feel it.

Basically, I'm looking for some tips on effective communication. I know we have so much to give each other and I want to fight my corner for the sake of our relationship and actually get us to see where the other is coming from.

Relate is an option, of course, but I'd rather try and get us to open each other by ourselves, because I really think it's something we should be able to do.

Does anyone have any tips?

egnahceman Wed 26-Aug-09 12:09:28

I'm also not sure if we're better just staying in and focus on sorting stuff out, or whether we should go out somewhere, try and reconnect a little and hope conversation will flow as a result of that. I think we might end up just skirting round the issue. I really want to address it full-on, no hiding, no escaping. Would wine be a help or a hinderance?

mumsiebumsie Wed 26-Aug-09 12:19:51

I think that sometimes setting some ground rules when conversing helps. For example:

1. No accusing - state your opinion - don't accuse the other person of something. Say "I feel you do this", rather than "You do this"

2. No talking over other person

3. No interrupting

4. Keep points brief (don't rant for 5 minutes)

5. Sit down and speak at eye level (i.e. no standing up and waving arms about)

6. No raised voices

7. Try not to cry (my DH feels I'm trying to emotionally blackmail him when I do despite that not being the case, your DH may feel the same)

8. If you find confrontation difficult, then write a list of points you want to cover

9. Don't try and tackle every single issue in 1 go. The fact that he refuses to put the bin out doesn't necessarily have to be mentioned when other matters are more pressing

10. Agree on what success looks like. For example - is success that one of you will change your opinion and agree with the other person? If so then you've failed already. Success could be that you agree on a way forward that you can both live with despite it not being the most ideal resolution. For example if you argue about money then success may not be that one of you agrees to completely disown ownership of the purse strings, but rather that purchases over a set amount (say £100) will be discussed before money is handed over.

Promise I haven't got this out of a textbook - I just know that a lack of communication can destroy a relationship - the above worked for me.

All best!

mumsiebumsie Wed 26-Aug-09 12:22:17

IMO stay in. And wine is a hindrance. Set a time and location (midday on the sofas in the lounge). Decide who speaks first and let convo flow.

Overmydeadbody Wed 26-Aug-09 12:34:51

I agree with mummsie's list but would also add:

11. Listen to what the other person si saying, without immediately jumping to the defensive or arguing the point, just listen and accept, and acknowledge that you have taken it in, or acknowledge that the other person feels like that.

Listening is vital for effective communication.

egnahceman Wed 26-Aug-09 12:45:15

Thank you so much, that is an excellent list. I was considering making sort of notes of what I want to talk about, but didn't know if that was a bit too business meetingy. Usually when we decide to 'talk' it's a case of, 'erm, so, what exactly are we talking about?' and we just sort of shuffle and avoid talking about very much at all, which creates an atmosphere. We definitely need that starting point.

Definitely relate to the crying thing, too. Drives DP mad and I know it's counter-productive. Definitely a barrier.

I'm also a bit worried about coming across to self-centred. "I feel", "I think" etc sounds like I'm only fighting for myself, when really I'm fighting for the relationship.

Definitely sticking to water only, and stay at home. Anything else we will use as a distraction.

mumsiebumsie Wed 26-Aug-09 15:12:19

When written down "I feel" and "I think" does sound rather self centred but in reality it is rather effective. Saying "When you do this it makes me feel such and such" is far better than "you need to stop doing so and so".

Also at first the conversation will be rather stilted and maybe sound a bit false as you try really hard to not cause offense but the fact is you're both trying to re-train yourselves. Your present strategy isn't working so you're trying something new.

Hope everything works out for you.

dollyparting Wed 26-Aug-09 16:44:01

I think that one of the difficulties during this phase of a relationship, when neither of you are feeling overwhelmingly positive about things, is that "sitting down to thrash things out" can be really tough going.

It isn't usually something you will be looking forward to, so in some ways it can put even more pressure on your relationship, and make you feel even more like giving up on it because it's all just such hard work.

There's also a risk that either the whole thing goes on for hours and hours and you both end up feeling completely exhausted. Or that when things get difficult, one of you feels like walking away (which is quite easy to do in your own home).

I would suggest:
Going somewhere neutral - a quiet coffee shop, a picnic table in a park, a bench somewhere.
Do not try to tackle everything at once, it is unlikely that you will get everything sorted in one session.
Set aside a regular time when you can have another discussion e.g. every Sunday at 11am.
Agree on one or two topics and discuss them only. Avoid getting drawn into discussion on other topics.
Agree a time limit e.g. 45 minutes for your discussion - it is easier to stick with it during the difficult bits if you know the discussion has a finite end (and give yourselves permission to run over by 5 minutes only).
Structure your discussion e.g. you talk about what you hope for for 5 minutes then he responds for 5 minutes; he talks about what he hopes for for 5 minutes then you respond for 5 minutes.
Finish your discussion with a commitment for you each to take one simple action e.g. I am going to switch the TV off immediately the news has finished.
Make an effort to notice the positive things in the week between one discussion and the next, and tell your partner what you have noticed.
If it is possible, do something afterwards, together that is relaxing and neutral e.g. go for a walk, get a cup of coffee, watch the kids play football: just something that keeps you in the same space, but does not require you to actually interact.

I am sure that all the above sounds like a business meeting, but there are very good reasons why counseling sessions are time limited, structured and on a regular basis.

Good luck

egnahceman Thu 27-Aug-09 08:57:43

Thank you for all your advice. Merely the threat of a 'talk' seems to have caused us both to open up already. We were talking last night about our dreams for the first time for as long as I can remember without one of us getting snappy or offended at the other. I still want the 'talk' to go ahead but since we're making some very slight headway already I hope that will only encourage us both to open up even more and be completely honest.

Thanks again. I'll try and feed back if I remember!

BonsoirAnna Thu 27-Aug-09 09:04:40

Please don't think in terms of "thrashing it out".

Try to make your communication as clear and unaggressive as possible.

And don't dismiss Relate. It may well be that you and your DH do not yet possess the skills for peaceful debate, negotiation and compromise, which are very much "higher skills" for humans. A few lessons can work wonders!

skihorse Thu 27-Aug-09 09:12:47

Men do not respond well to "I feel" type stuff. Think of them as recruits to your sergeant major - they need clear instructions! wink

Seriously though, mumsiebumsie makes an extremely valid point where she says you can't talk about everything. This communication break-down hasn't happened in the last 36 hours because the loo seat was left up.

So why not ask him to write down the two top things which are bothering him, and you do the same. Then when you sit down and compare you'll both know what the issues are which are bothering each other. Naturally as the conversation evolves other issues will be taken in to account, but you should agree to talk about your "top" issues.

I disagree about a "nice coffee shop" type neutral zone. Nothing will make a man feel more uncomfortable than that. Men like to "do" - he won't give a toss about the "pleasant ambiance". Why not get out for a walk in the country? That way you're continuously moving - neither of you will feel that you are being i) scrutinised by others, ii) that you have to gaze in to each others eyes. The walk of course is a physical progression - perhaps this can spur on the psychological/communication one too.

Best of luck!

lilacclaire Thu 27-Aug-09 09:28:27

If you feel you can't not cry, say to him beforehand that if you are crying it is because you are emotional about what you are talking about and not meant to blackmail him.

I've told dp before when we're having a talk to ignore the tears and listen to the words.

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