This guest article from YourTango was written by Dana Kinnard.
How we act in our relationships is just as important as the things we say.
Besides, love is an action word; that means that we’d better walk the walk in addition to talking the talk!
Here are some key behaviors and tips for healthy, loving partnerships from a relationship expert — things that you can pursue every day with your partner. Put a little effort into cultivating your connection, and watch it transform into a strong bond.
Understand Your Different Communication Styles
Picture this scenario: you and your partner are discussing a problem between the two of you. At first, you both try to talk nicely and listen to each other, but soon you notice your partner starting to shut down. You feel ignored or think he doesn’t care, so you become agitated. It shows in your tone of voice and body language. He becomes frustrated, clams up and tries to walk away. You get angry, start yelling, follow after him and before you know it, a fight ensues … sound familiar?
It is very likely the issue here is not an inability to resolve a problem, but rather the difference in how you prefer to communicate.
Maybe you’re the kind of person who wants to talk it out. You’re prepared to stick with it, get everything said and out in the open, and want to come to some type of resolution. He, however, is the type of person who likes to hear what you have to say before offering a few counter points and going away to mull things over. Maybe he needs time to decide what he thinks and feels, coming back later to continue the discussion or resolve the problem.
Only once you understand your individual communication styles can you develop a plan for how you will approach problems in the future. Perhaps you agree you will spend five minutes getting your point across and your partner agrees to come back in fifteen minutes to talk about it further. If you’re noticing constant conflict between the two of you, work toward identifying how you communicate and attempt to compromise between your methods.
Know Your Love Languages
Here’s another scenario: you and a friend decide to see a movie. On your way out, you ask your partner to please clean up the kitchen. However, when you arrive home later you notice that there are still dirty dishes in the sink. You immediately feel disappointed. Your partner comes over to welcome you home with a hug and kiss, but you put up your hand to stop him. He immediately feels rejected. The outcome includes hurt feelings all around, with each person becoming emotionally distant — and it is a good bet a fight will take place soon. What happened?
In his book The 5 Love Languages the Secret to Love that Lasts, Gary Chapman proposes five different styles people use to express and receive love: acts of service, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, physical touch and quality time. Although we each use all five, we will typically identify with one or two as our main love languages.
In the scenario described above, when you asked for help with cleaning up in the kitchen, you were demonstrating that “acts of service” are your love language. When your partner approached with a hug and kiss, he was stating this his preferred love language was “physical touch.” Understanding our primary love languages can easily change outcomes because when we know what we desire from our partners, we are able to better communicate our needs.
Let’s revisit our scenario: you leave and ask that he clean up the kitchen. He recognizes that acts of service make you feel loved and important. When you get home you find the kitchen is clean, and dinner is even cooking on the stove. Knowing that your partner feels most connected through physical affection, you walk right over, give him a big hug and kiss, and thank him. This time, the outcome is positive: you have both received love in your preferred languages, and what you gain is a deeper connection to each other.
Couples who can master these two relationship components are well on their way to a long and happy life together.
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