By Dr Karen Phillip"Everyone fights" are the words too many couples say when they attend relationship counselling.
I tell couples that is untrue, in fact we can live happily with someone and never argue. Sure, we can disagree or have a different opinion, however, when we fight or argue, things are often said that are unable to be unsaid and hurt often occurs.
It's best to learn how to avoid all conflict and arguments, the tips below will help.
1. Accept that your opinion may not always be the only correct opinion to have.
Listening to our partner so we can discover the reason they may feel the way they do is important. It demonstrates a willingness to be open and not shut off or narrow-minded.
2. Provide a safe environment
It is imperative for each person to feel they have a safe place to explore their vulnerability when they express their emotions. A safe environment includes focusing on the person speaking and not being diverted by other activities, chores, phone or social media. They must have your undivided attention.
When we hear one person complaining their partner does not open up or share with them, this is usually a symptom of them not feeling safe to share their emotions.
3. Be curious and listen to what they say
We often speak in snippets and do not paint the full picture of what it is we feel. When your partner is telling you something important or profound, be curious about what it is they are saying and never assume to know.
You want to hear not only their words but also the way they say it and the emotion they attach to their words. It is important to be curious and clarify the meaning of what your partner is saying.
4. Choose your words wisely
The old saying 'sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me' is completely untrue. The fact is, words can cut very deeply. We cannot take back harsh words and they should never be used on the person you claim to love. Saying 'sorry' does not erase harsh or demeaning words.
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5. Never dismiss their feelings or tell them they are wrong
We should never tell our partner that their feelings are wrong. In fact, our feelings and emotions are always right – for us. While we may have some difficulty understanding their feelings, this is again where curiosity re-emerges. It is vital we do our best to understand what it is our partner feels.
Our feelings and emotions are so personal and important to us. If we are dismissed it cuts very deep. We all need to be heard and hopefully understood by the one person we have chosen to share our life and dreams with.
6. Listen to what your partner is saying
It is essential we listen to each other. This cannot be stressed enough. How are couples supposed to fulfil each other's needs if there is no mutual listening? This type of listening is not simply hearing words; rather it involves empathy, sensitivity and understanding of the message that your partner is trying to convey.
To confirm we are sure of the exact message, be curious. Paraphrase the words you heard back to your partner and define any meaning you have placed upon those words. It is only by doing this we are assured of really hearing and understanding what our partner has expressed. This can remove considerable confusion and misunderstandings.
Paraphrasing back the words our partner uses is one of the fastest and best ways to ensure we have understood them correctly. When we do this our partner then feels they have not only been heard but also listened to. A win win.
7. Take action on what you've heard
Once you have heard and understand what your partner is saying to you, act on it. If it's something that involves a change in your relationship, or in a behaviour you have that is bothering your partner, there is no better way to show that you care for their feelings than by working on adjusting that behaviour.
I am not suggesting changing anything huge, I am suggesting adjusting those annoyances you may have that bother your partner.
8. Appreciate your partner
Whenever you see your partner making an effort to listen to you, act on what you have communicated or even communicate well with you, don't forget to say, "Thank you." Showing appreciation for the effort your partner makes, for anything really, is respectful and very rewarding.
All of us like to be noticed for the things we do, and this is especially important for the person you live and share your life with.
9. Accept your differences
We do not want to live with a mini-me. It may feel like we do, wanting them to be more like us, however, this would never work. We need a difference to be a balanced couple. As long as we have similar values, work ethic, integrity and standards, the rest is often superficial.
10. Accept, or tolerate, their family
Your partner is a reflection of their family. While opinions and behaviour may be challenging, they remain their family. Unless they do something vial or harmful, they are who they are and will be around forever. Accepting the things we cannot change is essential.