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Communication 101: steps to a healthy relationship

Relationships need a strong and sturdy foundation to build a thriving bond- and one of the key elements to the foundation is communication. Relationships don’t live solely off of love alone; it requires healthy communicating with the damage-free discussions.

Here are a few tips you and your partner can work do to improve your communication:

1.Straight up or on the rocks: Your partner can’t read your mind, so don’t put them up for failure. Hinting what you need or testing your partner will only lead to a rocky disaster. Instead, tell your partner your needs straight up and in a clear message. Once they learn how to meet your need, the less you will have to ask. Let’s face it…your partner isn’t a mind reader and they just might need a bit of training.

2.Safe Place: Since communication is one of the key pieces to a relationship’s foundation, it has to be safe and comforting. You should be your partner’s safe zone, and not their enemy. Teach your partner that you are safe and that you won’t hurt them by either throwing bombs or abandoning them. If you are upset, regulate your emotions and remain calm. Be there to listen to your partner, and slow down your reactions. Teach your partner that you are available, dependable, and reliable.

3.Stop Pointing your Finger: Not only should couples stop pointing with their finger while you are in a heated discussion, but they should also stop pointing with the words. Pointing at what the partner should or shouldn’t have done, or what they are or aren’t doing just isn’t going to help the situation. Stop the pointing and start working as a team.

4.The three main ingredients: Communication has 3 main ingredients: a sender, receiver, and a message. The message can get misunderstood in either the way it is sent or in the way it is received. The sender usually has good intentions to the message, yet it comes out the wrong way. At the same time, the receiver may only hear what they want to hear or misconstrue the message. Either way, your job as a partner is to send and receive the message as clear as possible. Check in with each other before reacting and make sure you’re on the same page.

5.Avoid the word “You:” If you like challenges….try to address conflict without saying the word “you.” Most couples get caught in the nasty and endless fighting of pointing out each other’s mistakes and faults, and don’t accomplish much. The word “you” will automatically get your partner to become defensive and no longer hear what you are trying to say. Try addressing an issue without using the word “you”….I dare you!

6.Be Aware of Your Body Language: Majority of communication is based off of non-verbal communication. Keep track of your body language and the nonverbal message you want to send to your partner. Try to send the message of love, compassion, and understanding, while discussing your concerns and conflict.

7.Work as a team: Instead of playing on opposing teams, work together. Stop treating and talking to your partner as if they are an enemy, and start working as a team.

To learn more about the author Jennine Estes, San Diego’s Marriage and Family Therapist, visit her relationship column Relationships in the Raw or her San Diego Couples Therapy website.