THIS is what you must repair FIRST to heal your relationship.
Have you ever felt like you’re walking on egg shells around your partner? Do she (or he) become defensive no matter what you say? Despite what you might think, this issue is actually not a ‘communication problem.’ It’s something bigger.
So, if you’re both “working on better communication” as a couple to resolve your issues, I hate to break it to you — you’re just addressing the symptoms. It’s the actual illness in the relationship that you need to identify and address, otherwise disconnect and conflict will continue.
So, what’s really going on here?
We all know that often, with time, intimacy fades between a couple. Passion begins to disappear. Eventually feelings of togetherness and genuine affection can morph into bitterness and resentment. Obviously, you don’t want any of this to happen in your relationship.
To resolve these issues, couples usually talk to each other about their disagreements, conflicts and misunderstandings, each sharing her or his point of view. But, instead of connection, these conversations often lead to increased feelings of contempt (which is the number one predictor of divorce, according to 40 years of research by Dr. John Gottman).
The truth is, talking about disconnect in the relationship doesn’t create or sustain feelings of affection. This is why so many couples who go through traditional couples counseling only feel MORE distant from each other afterward.
Why? Because “lack of communication” is not your problem. The REAL issue is a lack of…connection! And that magical connection between a couple is the glue that holds everything else together. Lose that connection and:
- Intimacy and passion fade
- Fights and conflicts increase
- Feelings of separateness take over
Basically, you can work on your ‘communication skills’ all you want, but until you actively repair connection, your relationship problems will likely get worse.
So, how do you increase that feeling of connection between you and your partner, and make sustaining it a priority? First, forget fixing any specific aspect of the relationship for now. That can wait. For now, only do what increases and reinforces a sense of connection between you and your partner.
Here are seven powerful ways to get started:
1. Say ‘Thank You’ for Something Every Single Day
Show your partner how much you appreciate and value her. There are countless little ways to do this. It could start with something as simple and sincere as: “I really appreciate you making the coffee. Thank you.”
2. Give Your Partner Your Full Attention at Least Once Per Day
Do this without looking at your Facebook feed, messing around with your smart phone or side-glancing at the TV. Drop what you’re doing when your partner wants to talk with you and focus all of your attention (and interest) on him by making full eye contact.
3. Be the First to Apologize for Your Role in Any Disconnect
Saying “I’m sorry” is not easy if you feel wronged, but you can say, “I want you to know, I’m sorry for my part last night and I love you.” No reason to defend yourself. You have said enough.
4. Ask for a Hug
Tell your partner you want to hold her for just a minute, knowing she might refuse, hug you back half-heartedly, or say something dumb. Ask for the hug anyway because it might create a moment of reconnection.
5. Tether Back to Your True Feelings of Love
Why are you with your partner in the first place? Why do you love this person? What do you want your life together to be like? Share this with him, speaking from your heart, without asking your partner to do or say anything in response.
6. Show More Compassion and Consideration for What Your Partner is Going Through
A little kindness really does go a long way. You have no idea about the stress that replays itself in your partner’s mind. So, try to understand what’s going on for her and show a little warmth.
7. Lighten Up and Be More Playful
Most disagreements and misunderstandings are little things that get blown out of proportion. Keep matters in perspective, find something to laugh about together and let a little fun cut the tension. There is no value in holding grudges.
When you focus on affection, togetherness, genuine feelings of caring, physical touch, and heart-felt appreciation towards your partner, almost any relationship repair is possible. Strong communication skills are valuable, but only once healthy connection is in place.
This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: Why ‘Improving Communication’ Often Makes Couples Fight Even MORE.