Introducing…Our New Monthly Relationship Column!
This is the first in a regular column from bestselling author Laurie Puhn, where you will discover revealing personal and client anecdotes and learn quick tips from her current book Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In. You’ll get the right words to say to your spouse, at the right time, to inspire a lasting and happy relationship—always, of course, keeping in mind that kids are in the mix.
As a lawyer, couples mediator, and self-help author, people turn to me for my expert relationship advice. They assume that because I have all the answers, I must have a perfect marriage myself. The truth is that I have a happy marriage with good days and those less-than-perfect days that require me to put my own communication advice into practice.
What I have found as a couples mediator is that the same verbal skills work to improve every relationship (including my own). If you want to have a superior relationship with your spouse and be a good role model for your children, then enhance your verbal skills today by adopting the 10 tips below from Fight Less, Love More. Get ready to keep the peace in the family and make your love connection stronger!
1. Pick the Right Battles.
Before you get angry and reprimand your spouse for making a mistake or doing something you told him not to do, stop and ask yourself this one wise question: “Does this affect me?” If it doesn’t, button your lip and avoid a fight. After all, your mate is the one who must deal with the consequence, not you.
2. Be a Detective.
When your mate’s mistake does affect you, what then? Rather than being hostile, find out what really happened. Ask neutral and respectful questions like, “Can you tell me what happened?” or “I don’t understand. Am I missing something here?” You might discover a good reason for the oversight or blunder which could avoid a blow-up.
3. Complain with Impact.
When you have a complaint, say what you do want, not what you don’t want. For example, rather than saying to your child or mate, “Get off that darn computer, you’re so rude!” target your mate using a positive approach, “I miss your company. Can you join me in the living room to hang out?”
4. Skip the “Whatever” Word.
Being passive by often saying “whatever you want,” might temporarily avoid a fight, but it could breed resentment because it leaves the majority of decisions to your mate, which can be stressful. Instead, have a real opinion and share it. To find out about your relationship communication style and whether it’s harming your relationship, take my quiz “Are You Mismatched?” at my blog www.expectingwords.com
5. Create Policies. If your mate does something that affects and disturbs you such as overspending or making plans for both of you without asking the other first, don’t get sucked into the heated “how could you?” argument. Instead, focus on the future by creating policy solutions, as in, “from now on can we agree to make a budget for our personal expenses?” or “can we agree to check-in with each other before me make plans for both of us?”
6. Show You Care.
Forgetting to ask about what’s going on in your child or your mate’s daily life is a surefire way to erode a relationship. From now on, if you know that someone in your family has an important meeting, test, doctor appointment or event that day, don’t neglect it, instead respect it. Call, email, text or ask in person, “How did it go?” This sends a clear message: I care about you.
7. Avoid Factual Arguments.
Do you and your spouse often find yourselves arguing about the name of a restaurant you went to, a certain address, someone’s birthday, an historical fact or sports figure? Then you are prone to having a dumb argument! Stop the conversation and do an online fact check, call a friend or simply drive by the location.
8. Apologize with the “B” word.
Quickly saying the words “I’m sorry” is a bad apology because it often comes off as insincere, and could trigger another battle. Next time you seek mercy, add the “B” word: Say, “I’m sorry because….” and share how you hurt your mate and what you will do to prevent the wrongdoing from recurring. Research shows that when you add the “because clause” your words are more persuasive.
9. Create Border Control.
Are you ever angry with your spouse for revealing something to others that you consider private, like a health issue, a child discipline issue or a marital disagreement? If so, bypass the “how could you say that?!” argument. Instead, establish border control: Outline the topics that should remain private to insure that neither of you becomes an accidental traitor.
10. Give a Daily Dose of Recognition.
Most couples on the divorce path seldom compliment each other. In our on-line survey for “Fight Less, Love More,” we asked people “would you rather your mate compliment you for being kind or good-looking?” the result was that 84 percent of people said “kind.” The lesson: find daily opportunities to recognize your mate for something that reflects a character strength (i.e. you are such a wonderful mother/father, you are so thoughtful when you…).
Are you ready to become a happier family? Go for it!
10 Habits of Happy Couples,