Studies of the ways couples communicate in healthy relationships show, on average, that it takes seven positive interactions for every one negative to keep a relationship thriving. That’s seven compliments to one criticism. Seven gratitudes to one “How could you?”
So why isn’t everyone out there busily creating those seven positive interactions?
Studies about how most couples communicate show that by the time they arrive at therapy (or the lawyer’s office), they are living with a deeply entrenched pattern of critical communication; more like seven negative interactions to one positive.
Angry, disappointed, and sad about yet another failure to get their needs met, these couples have settled instead for a familiar dynamic: they have become experts at identifying their partner’s limitations and weaknesses. The unique strengths and abilities each person brings to the relationship are lost in the mix.
Things we have all been told about positive couple communications:
- Listen to what your partner is saying.
- Do not interrupt or defend.
- If you are confused by what your partner is saying, ask for it to be restated.
- Don’t make assumptions.
- Even if you don’t necessarily agree, let your partner know that you understand where he or she is coming from.
- Allow space for differences; not everything can be resolved.
- Monitor your own reactions, not your partner’s.
- Practice kindness and generosity.
- Remember the hurt and traumatized child in your partner who is doing her/his best to get his needs met.
If you are like many couples, you will have had limited success with these directives. What you are missing is the map to show you how to keep your heart open when you are angry, disappointed and sad – how to change the dynamic and remain allies even when you are in pain.