â€śI really wanted to work in a seminar or some counseling before our
wedding,â€ť said Diana. â€śWe could use some help with our communication, like
learning to fight fair and dealing with those issues we tiptoe around. The
closer it gets to our wedding, the more I wish we had made this a priority.
Wedding planning has put more of a strain on our relationship than I expected.
But our wedding is only a month away. Is there anything we can do now?â€ť
Diana is not alone. I routinely get calls like hers, especially at this time
of year. Yes, ideally, you would get started earlier. But there is still time
to pick up some essential tools. When time is tight and the pressure is
rising, here are the three keys to improving your relationship immediately.
1) Start with a Loving Attitude.
Your attitude is more important than the words you use. When tensions start to
rise, take a moment to go inward and do an attitude check. Are you rehearsing
your grievances? Are you throwing up a wall with your body language? You may
find you are looking away, tensing up, and closing yourself up.
Instead, relax your body, look your partner in the eye, and approach him with
an open heart. Prepare to discover him at his best, make it safe for him to be
who he really is, and offer unconditional support. Remember that youâ€™re
talking to someone you love!
2) Try 110% Listening
This means that when your fiancĂ© speaks, you are focused on understanding him
and nothing else. You may interrupt, in fact, you should interrupt if you lose
track of what heâ€™s saying or get confused. Otherwise, no interruptions
allowed! When he finishes a sentence, donâ€™t start to speak immediately. Allow
a pause. The pause gives room for him to allow vague thoughts to crystallize.
When words come easily, heâ€™s telling you something heâ€™s already sure of. When
words donâ€™t come so easily, heâ€™s describing insights that are emerging. In
other words, heâ€™s growing. This is where intimacy deepens and without the
pause, the opportunity may be lost.
When heâ€™s really finished, show him you understand what he said, both his
words and his feelings. If you havenâ€™t quite understood, let him correct you
and keep trying until you get it right.
3) Speak in I-Messages
When itâ€™s your turn to speak, use I-Messages. This simply means that you make
your point by describing your own experience. Yes, you may have to talk about
other people to tell the whole story. If youâ€™re upset with your partner, you
will have to describe what he did in order to make yourself understood. But as
much as possible, focus on the â€śIâ€™sâ€ť and avoid the â€śYouâ€™s.â€ť When we hear a
â€śYouâ€ť coming at us, we tend to feel attacked. When someone is describing their
own experience, we tend to empathize with them, especially if itâ€™s someone we
Do: When I found out you hadnâ€™t made your guest list, I felt frustrated and
like the whole thing is falling on my shoulders.
Donâ€™t: You didnâ€™t even make your guest list? What were you thinking?
Can you feel the difference? An I-Message greatly increases your odds of
getting a positive response.
You may be asking yourself: But how can this work if my fiancĂ© isnâ€™t following
the same rules? Well, you could show him this article and then you would both
have the same information! It certainly does help if both people are working
with the same guidelines.
However, even if youâ€™re trying these tips on your own, you will see your
interaction improve. People have a tendency to mirror each other. If you raise
your voice, the other person will get louder. If you interrupt, he or she will
feel like they have to interrupt you to be heard. If you approach your fiancĂ©
with a loving attitude, give him 110% listening, and speak in I-messages, he
will naturally tend to follow your lead.
You may also be wondering why Iâ€™m not talking about problem-solving or coming
up with a compromise. The reason is that trying to come up with a solution too
soon has a boomerang effect. The harder you drive toward a solution, the less
you feel understood. However, if you really feel understood, youâ€™ll both feel
more flexible and creative and then solutions appear much more easily. What it
comes down to is this: More than a beautiful wedding or making sure the work
is shared 50/50, what we all need most is someone to understood us. After all,
isnâ€™t that why youâ€™re getting married in the first place?
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