Four steps to relationship bliss. Part 2

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A couple reading togetherEver since I started out as a counselor, my primary area of interest has been couples. Today, I am able to define a four step process to help people work on their relationship issues. In part one of the series we discussed the first two steps of the process: resolving resentment and bringing warmth back into the relationship. Once you and your partner have dealt with any lingering anger, and have rediscovered the beauty of your relationship, steps 3 and 4 are good cooperation and communication.

STEP 3: Cooperate

Cooperation will ensure that together you are an effective team that can make important decisions together with respect and compromise. The good news is that if you have made it this far, the odds are that your communication skills have improved along the way, and you are more open to compromise and discussion than you previously would have been. Of all four parts of this process, cooperation may actually be one of the easiest but also one of the most important. It is easiest because the completion of the other steps all but guarantee that you are already prepared to work as a team now. This is important because if in testing these waters you discover major disagreements and problems, then these issues are pulled into the light and can be dealt with in the same manner as any other.

STEP 4: Communicate

Communication skills will be put to use and will be scrutinized during this whole process. Therefore, communication is not a fourth step, but rather is a skill that is developed throughout the process.

Here are some skills to help you better communicate:

  • Use “I” statements to help work on how to speak and be assertive with your needs. We tend not to realize that much of our communication in everyday discussions is naturally very accusatory. We use a lot of “you did this”, “your fault”, “you make me” etc…. “I” Statements ask us to challenge ourselves to replace those “you’s” with “I”s. Rather than saying “You didn’t clean up the kitchen!? You are so irresponsible! I can’t trust you for anything!”, try instead to communicate: “When I ask you to do something and it isn’t done, I feel as though what I want doesn’t matter and it keeps me from trusting you. I would like to figure out a way to fix this.”
  •  The second communication skill is actually a grouping of skills. I refer to these as “how to communicate like a counselor” and they are all about listening:
    •  Rewording is when you repeat back to the person speaking to you what they just said almost word for word.
    • Rephrasing is when you paraphrase large pieces of what they have said, especially when it is too long for rewording to make sense.

 The purpose of both of these is to let the other person know that you are listening to them, respecting them, and keeping up. It seems simple but we often spend too much time thinking of what we want to say next instead of really LISTENING to what we are being told.

  • Checking in is the final and in my opinion the most important skill. It means you are going to check in with the other person to make sure you understood everything properly. It means everyone is going to stay on the same page, whether it involves making sure that they are talking about what makes them sad or happy, or to explore actual words that they communicated. After all, if my version of ” angry” means writing a stern letter, and your version of “angry” means punching a hole in the wall, then we need some clarification to achieve better understanding.

If the will and desire are present for both you and your partner, you should succeed in getting your relationship back on track. But if it feels like it’s just too much or that you need help, then book yourself a couples counselling appointment and gain one more ally along the way. It may be difficult, but I was always taught that the hard path and the right path are usually the same path. If it’s worth it, then grab your boots and hit the trail hand-in-hand!

By Anthony Campigotto M.Ed., C.C.C.


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