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April 03, 2009

CHEAT SHEET TO BEING RELATIONAL: FOUR TIPS THAT CAN TURN YOUR RELATIONSHIP AROUND TODAY

Fortunately – or unfortunately – there are several common mistakes people make in their relationships that lead to an increased distance.  For those of you who would like to close the gap between you and your partner, here are four tips for you to begin incorporating today in your relationship so you can feel the changes tomorrow:

o Listen to understand.  When your partner is sharing his or her experience, your goal is to be able to put yourself in your partner’s shoes for a moment.  You want to be able to get, on a gut level, what your partner is thinking, feeling and experiencing.  This is true whether s/he is sharing something about her/his upset over something you did or sharing about an experience that had nothing to do with you.  Your job is to listen and get the gist of what it’s like from your partner’s perspective. 

It’s important to note that understanding what it’s like for your partner does not mean you agree with her/him.  It simply means you understand.  For example, if my partner tells me he was upset that I wore jeans to church because when he was a kid that was seen as disrespectful, I can understand how he thinks that, given his upbringing.  I personally don’t agree that it’s disrespectful, yet I can understand what it might feel like to him.
  


o Share yourself and your story.  Too many people have difficulty sharing themselves with others.  This can sound like “I’m not much of a talker,” “I don’t like to wear my heart on my sleeve,” “I don’t have anything to say,” etc.  The problem, however, with people who don’t share their stories with others, is that they block intimacy.  Intimacy means into-me-you see.  It’s the sharing of a part of you.  If you choose to not share, others don’t get to know you on any meaningful level.  While this may be okay for you, I’m betting it’s not okay for your partner.  Start talking!

o Don’t fix…just be empathic.  When your partner is sharing a problem s/he had that day, do not try to solve it.  Be empathic, understanding and LISTEN (to understand – remember?).  To assume that your partner needs help solving something that s/he did not directly ask for help with is frustrating, a bit grandiose and will often get you into trouble.  Men, in my experience, struggle with this the most.  Here’s the rule:  unless you are EXPLICITLY asked to help solve a problem, do NOT solve it. 

o Don’t defend...just listen.  When your partner, boss, friend or family member is upset about something you do/did, DO NOT DEFEND YOURSELF.  Defensiveness only leads to trouble.  It’s also frustrating, annoying and blocks change.  If you’re always defending your actions, then you’re not looking at changing them.  This can lead to a hopeless feeling for your partner and often resentment as well.  Resentment will kill any loving feelings, trust me.

Relationships require mindfulness.  Being thoughtful, deliberate and respectful is to a relationship like oil is to a car -- it keeps it running smoothly.  Too often we want to just be ourselves and not have to think in our relationships.  Not thinking destroys relationships.  If you want to not think, respond as you feel pulled to respond and listen as you’d like to listen – then be single and enjoy the freedom.  If you want to be in a loving relationship, then pay attention, be deliberate, be respectful, be thoughtful and…enjoy the love as a result.

CHALLENGE:  Look over the list above and take an honest inventory of each tip.  Choose the two points that annoy your partner most (or that you’re the weakest at) and change them.  Focus only on these for the next two weeks and see what you notice.
Good luck!

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GReat article-- this is true-- most men do not really listen to their partner. If she or he starts a sentence with "I feel that what you did last night was..." they will, before the next line is out, go into defense mode. Big mistake. It does make a person resentful and that builds up each and every time until no one is talking. The closeness loses its meaning and the line of openness is closed..
The excuses given above are also true. "I am not much of a talker" is a big issue. It tells the other person I'm really not interested enough in you to express my concerns or yours. Like you said, walk away then and you won't have to deal with anything ,except yourself-- lonely life.

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