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How To Create A Better Sex Life

​​​​​​How To Create A Better Sex Life

sex life

​​It is ​the ​part ​of relationships that causes perhaps the most conflict between couples, but also one that perhaps leads to the greatest connection and satisfaction between couples.

​This area is: How to create a better sex life!

​​​​​It is ​the ​part ​of relationships that ​perhaps leads to the greatest connection and satisfaction between couples.

​​​Before I jump into this important and sensitive (no pun intended) topic however, I want to acknowledge that ​for some couples, even talking about sex can be problematic. So, if your sex life with your partner is not where you want it to be, often the best step you can take is to book a relationship counselling session with myself to talk about it.

With a counsellor such as myself present, most couples are able to openly express their true feelings about sex, without fear of their partner reacting defensively or aggressively. This is key to a productive discussion!

Having said that, let's talk about common factors that help couples create a better sex life!

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​According to sexuality researchers Chrisanna Northrup, Pepper Schwartz and James Witte (authors of the great book "The normal bar : the surprising secrets of happy couples and what they reveal about creating a new normal in your relationship"), as well as relationship researcher John Gottman, couples around the world who have a great sex life do 13 things that couples who have poor sex lives do not do.

These 13 things are all simple. They are:

  1. 1
    ​They say “I love you” every day and mean it
  2. 2
    ​They kiss one another passionately for no reason
  3. 3
    ​They give surprise romantic gifts
  4. 4
    ​They know what turns their partners on and off erotically
  5. 5
    ​They are physically affectionate, even in public
  6. 6
    ​They keep playing and having fun together
  7. 7
    ​They cuddle
  8. 8
    ​They make sex a priority, not the last item of a long to-do list
  9. 9
    ​They stay good friends
  10. 10
    ​They can talk comfortably about their sex life
  11. 11
    ​They have weekly dates
  12. 12
    ​They take romantic vacations
  13. 13
    ​They are mindful about turning toward each other (ie they share their lives with each other)

​​​Couples around the world who have a great sex life do 13 things that couples who have poor sex lives do not do.

​​​Sound easy?

It probably is. Great sex is not rocket science, but too many people neglect the basic relationship skills that put couples in a position (again, pun not really intended) to have great sex together.

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​​OK, for "homework" I suggest that you sit down with your partner and go over the 13 items above together. Tick the ones you already do, and mark the items you need to "work-on" with a cross.

Once you have done this make a plan together for how you can increase the frequency of the "work-ons". For couples with many work-ons it is probably best to choose just one or two items to start to "work-on". Once you make progress in those areas, move onto other areas until you score well in every area.

I hope this is useful!

​Remember: If you and your partner need help talking about sex (or any other) issue, book a relationship counselling session with me now.

​​​​​​​​Great sex is not rocket science, but too many people neglect the basic relationship skills that put couples in a position (again, pun not really intended) to have great sex together.

Listening Skills In Relationships: Do You Talk Or Listen?

​​​​​Listening Skills In Relationships: Do You Talk Or Listen?

​One big complaint in many relationships is that one person does more talking than the other.

​(Note: If you recognize this, and think that it's the woman who usually does most of the talking, then read on!).

If this dynamic is present, no matter who does most of the talking, ​it can ​be annoying. Over time a significant imbalance in the talking and listening dynamic can (and often does) kill a relationship.​

​​​Over time a significant imbalance in the talking and listening dynamic can (and often does) kill a relationship.​

​​All of us ​regardless of gender, wants to ​feel heard and understood. ​This simply cannot happen if one person ​is doing all the talking and ​very little of the listening.

A simple mistake many people make is ​mistaking
hearing for listening. This is where good listening skills in a relationship come into play.

Hearing is the ​act of ​allowing the sound waves from your partner's mouth to enter into your ears. It is a physical act. Ideally once this happens these sound waves will also be transferred into information in your head.

In contrast to hearing, listening is the mental act of ​hearing, understanding and processed the information you receive in a conversation.

An example of this is if your partner ​says that he or she hates cheese and you suggest Mexican food for dinner, ​then either: ​

  • you aren't familiar with Mexican ​food, or more likely
  • you didn't listen to what ​your partner was saying.

​​​Listening Skill #1: Give Your Partner Time To Speak

​One important and very simple listening skill is giving ​your partner time to speak. 

Many ​men and women, ​even with good intentions, interrupt their partners or talk over the top over the top of ​them. This is always a negative experience for the person talking!

​Avoiding talking over your partner allows him or her to get out what they are truly thinking or feeling. Even if ​your partner is taking longer to say something than you think that he or she should, good listening skills dictate that you should let him or her finish. Often they will not get to the point until right at the end of the conversation-and you need to wait to that point!

Giving your partner time to speak also applies ​even if you think that what your ​partner is ​saying is just totally wrong. It is worth remembering that in relationships there is no absolute right or wrong-both people will have valid perspectives on the issue that you are discussing.

​If you respect ​your partner and care about him or her, you will always give ​them the time ​they need to say what they need to say.

​​​In relationships there is no absolute right or wrong-both people will have valid perspectives on the issue that you are discussing.

All men aren't the same and all women aren't the same

​​As individuals, we are all different. All men aren't the same and all women aren't the same.

Some men for example, ​process ​information or thoughts faster than other men. The same applies to women. There is no gender ​specificity in this. ​

​Interestingly, ​even though most people​ think that women talk more than men, ​recent research ​conducted by Dr. Matthias Mehl, an Associate Professor ​from the University of Arizona, found that ​regardless of gender, we all speak about the same number of words per day.

​While this conclusion may be surprising to some, the ​summary statement of the ​researchers ​is very interesting:

​"On average, women speak 16,215 words per day and men speak 15,669 words per day" according to Dr. Mehl. However, Dr. Mehl ​adds that the mean number of words does not describe this distribution well.

"In fact" he says, ​"the distribution for this study was huge. One person used an estimated 795 words on average per day, while another used almost 47,000 words" (both the least and the most talkative participant were men).

However, according to Dr. Mehl, the distributions were normal for both sexes and averaged out to have no statistical difference.

​​​​​​​On average, women speak 16,215 words per day and men speak 15,669 words per day.

​​​​​Good Communication Skills

​​No matter how difficult the ​problem seems, good communication skills ​can resolve or eliminate most problems in a relationship​.

​Despite how many people act however, good communication skills don't start with knowing what to say. Instead good listening skills are always the key to good communication skills.

As many people observe, our bodies we have two eyes, two nostrils, two ears and one mouth. Good communicators listen twice as much as they speak and speak only after they've considered what they are going to say.

As you practice good communication with your partner, it is ​good to think about your level of honesty with your partner. It is easy to leave little details out of stories you are telling your partner, or to omit anything that reflects poorly on yourself.

​​​As many people observe, our bodies we have two eyes, two nostrils, two ears and one mouth. Good communicators listen twice as much as they speak and speak only after they've considered what they are going to say.

​Unfortunately, little lies in a relationship often turn into bigger lies. When those lies are exposed your partner begins to wonder how he or she can trust anything that you have ever said.

It might be frightening, but it is bonding to practice openness, vulnerability and honesty with your partner, always.

When you do this, more often than not your partner will be honoured that your trusted him or her with your secrets, and the levels of trust, intimacy and connection will build in your relationship.

Listening Skill #2: ​Practice ​Open Body Language

​​A second and important listening skill is to be ​aware of your ​non-verbal communication and body language. A large percentage of what ​you are thinking and feeling will be communicated through your body language, including the way t​hat you stand, sit and look as you listen to your partner.

For example, ​are ​your arms crossed, eyes averted or ​your body turned away from your partner as he or she is speaking to you? If any of this is true it is likely that your partner will perceive that you are not truly interested in what he or she is saying.

​​While you are paying attention to your body language, also pay attention to the amount that you are talking (rather than listening).

​​​​​Good listeners ​ask questions rather than challenging your partner about what they are saying. These questions include asking your partner what they are thinking or feeling.

Good listeners ​ask questions rather than challenging your partner about what they are saying. These questions include asking your partner what they are thinking or feeling.

For example, instead of telling your partner that he or she looks ​​angry (for example), ask him or her about ​their thoughts. ​Once you have done this ​wait for their answer. Don't jump in. ​It is OK (and even good!) to allow silence until ​they answer.

Good listening skills ​are crucial to any relationship. Listening is ​usually far more important than talking. Practice listening to your partner and ​being totally ​present in ​the conversation. 

You can't always ​do this, ​but, if you are never present ​for your partner, ​then your relationship is likely to struggle.

The Number One Thing That Couples Argue About

number 1 thing couples argue about

​The Number One Thing That Couples Argue About (Hint: It’s Probably Not What You Are Thinking!)

number 1 thing couples argue about

As a relationship counsellor many people ask me the following question:

What is the number one thing that couples argue about?

If you Google this question, the most common answer that comes up is:

Sex, money and kids. Usually in that order!

However, is this right?

Before I answer this question let me what American couples counselling guru John Gottman would say about this question.

(Note: For those who haven’t heard me talking about him, John Gottman is an American relationship researcher. He has spent over forty years researching what makes relationships work and has many extremely useful recommendations on how to create happy, successful and long-lasting relationships. Many of these insights can be found in what I think is his best book, The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work).

Anyway, according to John Gottman, the number one thing that makes couples argue about is:

Nothing!

​A​ccording to John Gottman, the number one thing that makes couples argue about is:

​Nothing!

​Yes, according to the guru, most couples argue about nothing!

Let’s try to understand this a bit more. 

Common Arguments: A Typical Example:

​Many couples come to see me after arguments about big issues, such as when an affair has been discovered or differences in parenting styles.

However, it is even more common for couples to argue about small issues.

As example of this might be when Julie and John are watching television at home after work, relaxing. Julie arrived home first, made dinner and put the children to bed.

They are now watching a programme that Julie likes. John however is getting restless. He has the remote control and is starting to play with it a little bit.

After a little time, an ad break happens and John says to Julie, “Let me just see if the replay of the rugby is on.”

In response to this comment, Julie feels hurt. She has had a busy day and often feels that John chooses what channel to watch on television. So Julie says to John, “No, leave it on this channel!”.

John is surprised by this. He doesn’t understand why he can’t check the rugby briefly. So he stands up, slightly upset and says to Julie bluntly “Fine. I’m going to check my email.”

Julie is now starting to get more upset, so she says to John “What do you mean by fine? I never get to watch this programme because I’m always putting the kids to bed.”

John is now frustrated. Raising his voice, he says loudly “Thats not true, and besides you always get your way. And I put the kids to bed more than you do.”

It is easy to see how this argument could escalate quickly.

But what is this argument really about?

According to John Gottman, this argument is about nothing.

Or more precisely, this argument is about nothing specific. In other words, the content of this argument is not important, but what lies underneath this content (such as how each person is feeling) is more important.

​How Couples Argue Matter

John Gottman would also say that while it does not matter so much what couples argue about, it does matter how they argue. Healthy couples adopt certain communication styles in a relationship-whereas unhealthy couples argue in different ways.

As an example of this, John Gottman talks about what he calls the “four horsemen of the apocalypse”. These are certain communication styles what many couples adopt-especially during arguments. 

The presence of any one of these horseman, or even worse, more than one of these horsemen, is a strong predictor of divorce in married relationships.

So, what are these horsemen?

According to Gottman, the four horsemen of the apocalypse (which indicate poor communication styles) are:

1.

Criticism

​2.

C​ontempt

​3.

​Defensiveness, and

​4.

​Stonewalling

I will talk more about these four horsemen in future blogs.

For the moment however, it is worth noting that if you catch yourself using any of these four horsemen in an argument, you need to change what you are saying very quickly!

For those who want to do further reading, each of these horsemen has an “antidote”. These antidotes are (in order):

1.

Gentle start-up

​2.

Appreciation

​3.

Taking Responsibility, and

​4.

​​Self-Soothing

​You can read more about these “antidotes” here.

​Learning Better Communication Skills

I see couples such as Julie and John almost every day in my counselling practice.

I agree with John Gottman that at the surface level, the most common thing that all couples argue about is basically nothing.

 However, at a deeper level there are always hidden thoughts and feelings beneath these surface issues that drive what seem to be pointless and meaningless arguments.

Uncovering these hidden thoughts and feelings is often the only way to remedy the surface arguments.

Perhaps the best way to undercover these hidden thoughts and feelings is for the couple to adopt more effective communication skills. For most couples this means really improving their listening skills-and particularly their ability to get “underneath the surface” of whatever an argument is about.

Effective ways for couples to improve their listening skills include:

  • making a time and place to talk together without distractions
  • ​asking open questions
  • not giving your perspective on issues until your partner has completely explained his or her perspective, and
  • giving your partner time to speak without interruption.

If you would like to improve your communication skills, I have an ebook called  “How To Listen To Your Partner So That He Or She Feels Fully Understood” that gives many practical strategies for listening to your partner more effectively.

Check Out My Ebook: How To Listen To Your Partner So That He Or She Feels Fully Understood

​In my next few blogs I will summarise some of the key communication skills that all couples need to know, including how to listen better to your partner. However, if you would like to know how to practice these skills now without delay, make sure you check out my ebook.

​So, What Is The Number 1 Thing That Couples Argue About?

Coming back to the question that started this article, what is the number 1 thing that couples argue about?

Well, perhaps predictably, I agree with John Gottman. On a surface level, the name one thing that couples argue about is nothing!

On a deeper level, these arguments are often driven by deeper thoughts and feelings. The thoughts and feeling can usually only be uncovered by practicing good listening skills or coming to relationship counselling!

If you and your partner are caught in a cycle of pointless arguments that seem to go around and around, make sure that:

  • you avoid the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” during the arguments (namely criticism, content, defensiveness and stonewalling), and
  • in some cases, seek professional help as soon as possible.

These patterns of arguments can be changed and a more useful communication plan established!

I hope this short article is useful. In the comments section I’d love you to share any thoughts or comments about it, and answer what the most common thing that you and your partner argue about!

Thanks!

7 Effective Ways to Improve Communication In Your Relationship

communication

Every relationship has its tough moments. These moments don’t necessarily mean you no longer love each other. Many times common issues in relationships (such as what to spend money on, how to parent the children effectively, whose turn it is to do the housework, and so on) aren’t to blame either. Many couples struggle simply because they have not learned effective ways to communicate with each other.

Consider John and Tracey. Married for 7 years and with 3 children under 5, John and Tracey find that they fight just about all of the time-mostly over even little things. “It’s been almost a year” Tracey told me, “since we really sat down and talked. All John does now when he gets home is go to the couch and watch TV. He says it’s because he’s exhausted from work and that I nag him all the time, but I don’t know what else to do. When he get’s home I’m exhausted too from looking after our children-I need rest too. I guess sometimes I do nag him about some of the smaller issues, but we shouldn’t have to fight about everything. It’s not why we got married in the first place.”

John and Tracey are typical of many couples. Over time it is easy for communication levels to drop in a relationship. Tensions can build up. Arguments, and especially uncontrolled anger, abuse or violence stifle good communication. Some couples may not even start with good communication skills. Some people are brought up in homes where their parents did not have talk about their problems, or if they did, they did not do so in front of their children. Some people’s parents model arguing all the time. Other people’s parents may not have argued at all.

For all of these reasons it is not realistic to expect couples to naturally have good communication skills. The good news is that these skills can be learned. Almost anyone can improve their communication skills in a relationship-and this can help couples such as John and Tracey navigate the toughest or relationship times.

Effective communication can:

  • Build higher levels of trust
  • Develop deeper understanding between both partners
  • Help partners connect with each other
  • Enable couples to work out solutions to common relationship problems
  • Avoid problems being too large in the first place
  • Help you develop knowledge, love and trust in your partner

With a solid foundation of good communication, relationship obstacles usually don’t appear so discouraging. When you feel confident in your ability to talk effectively with your partner, you become a better problem-solver. Think about the couples you know who regularly work together on improving communication. They also usually work on improving their relationship (such as by spending time together, thinking about each other’s hopes, wishes and desires, doing daily acts of consideration for each other, and so on). There is so much to communicate about communication. Let’s begin this important, ongoing conversation:

7 Effective Ways to Improve the Communication In Your Relationship

1. Enhance Your Listening Skills

Of all the communication skills that I teach to couples, good listening is perhaps the most important. Unfortunately it is also a difficult skill to master, especially in the heat of an argument. However good listening skills can help couples avoid arguments in the first place.

There are many good articles on effective listening skills (also called “active listening). For examples of two such articles, click here or here.  While active listening is a skill that is more complex than many people think, some basic elements of active listening include:

  • Maintain eye contact with your partner
  • Don’t interrupt!
  • Avoid distractions
  • Be aware of body language and gestures
  • Listen to the emotional content of what your partner is saying, not just the information he or she is conveying
  • Ask your partner “open” questions (questions that require longer answers, such as “What did you do today?”)
  • Avoid “closed” questions (questions that have a “yes” or a “no” answer)
  • Summarise or reflect back to your partner what you have heard them say
  • Avoid taking over the conversation (when you are listening, you are not talking!)
  • Don’t argue!

2. Understand Power Dynamics

Your personal interactions don’t exist in a vacuum. The society that shaped us plays a role in everything we do. Therefore, we must take this reality into account. For example, using the couple already discussed, John works as a foreman on a construction site-sometimes overseeing up to 20 men who are working for him. He is used to giving orders and getting things done as fast as possible. He also works mostly with men who are like him.

When John comes home and Tracey starts to talk with him about a problem or issue-John will often just try to solve her problem-like he would at work. He doesn’t understand why Tracey doesn’t find this useful-in fact she says to him all the time that he just needs to listen to her-she can solve her own problems once she has got everything out that she needs to talk about.

This is one example where men and women are socialised differently in society. Men tend to be socialised as problem solvers and women as nurturers-aware of their own and other people’s feelings. So when men and women talk there are often problems. This isn’t the fault of either party-just an unfortunate aspect of the culture we have grown up in!

3. Respect Boundaries

Here’s a basic example. Let’s say that when John comes home one day he clearly states a need for alone time. Tracey should respect that boundary-just as John should respect a boundary Tracey may state, such as when she on days when she is exhausted and she really needs him to help with the children.

In a healthy relationship, both people must be able to declare their needs-and have that need respected. This especially applies to when good communication is being lost and an argument is starting to develop. Either party should be able to say that they don’t want this argument to continue. Often taking a quick “Time-Out” in these situations can allow emotions to calm down and for more rational and useful conversation to take place.

7-Effective-Ways-to-Improve-Communication-In-Your-Relationship4. Learn How to Apologize

We all mess up at times. You may have hurt your partner’s feelings. His or her expectations weren’t met. Perhaps you broke a promise or forgot something important to your partner. Rather than hope that your partner forgets about this event or trying to explain your reasons for what you did, a much more powerful step is to take full responsibility for your behavior.

This often begins with an authentic, sincere apology. This can be particularly difficult for men who are socialised to believe that admitting responsibility for something or apologising for something is a sign of weakness. But in almost all cases it is exactly the opposite-a sign of maturity and strength.

As with active listening, learning to apologise for mistakes we have made is a skill that can be learned. There are many articles on how to apologize effectively-such as this article or this. However, a productive apology requires you to:

  • Express regret
  • Hold yourself responsible (dont blame anyone else!)
  • Avoid justifying your actions
  • Offer to make amends (such as make up for the event or do something special for your partner)
  • Promise to make up for it and not let it happen again (this often requires taking action-not just saying words).

5. Avoid Passive Aggression

Passive aggressive behaviour is common in relationships where one or both members of the couple may be avoiding saying what they really think. People who engage in passive aggressive behaviour tend to express negative thoughts in indirect ways, rather than stating them directly to the person concerned.

Signs of passive-aggressive behaviour include:

  • Saying one thing, but knowing you won’t do it
  • Hostile humour, such as criticism, sarcasm or put-downs
  • Sulking or withholding affection
  • Saying things like “Fine, whatever”, or trying to brush people off
  • Making the other person feel guilty about things you have done
  • Pretending to be helpless in a situation
  • Gossiping about people behind their back
  • Blaming others for things that are your fault

If you find yourself engaging in any of this behaviour, it’s time to check yourself. Commit to more honest and straightforward interaction with your partner. You may need to make a specific time to talk with him or her about the issue that is bothering you.

6. Practice Radical Honesty

Sometimes the most basic step (such as talking to your partner about something that is on your mind) can be the most challenging. Saying what you really think or feel can be scary. You may be afraid that simply saying what is on your mind may lead to an argument with your partner. It often feels simpler to push down thoughts or emotions rather than risk a fight. Letting things simmer, however, can lead to distance in a relationship or to the passive aggression we have just discussed.

This is where the concept of “radical honesty” can come into play. You and your partner can choose to commit to being more open. Honesty in a relationship-provided it is not designed to hurt the other person is almost always beneficial. Remembering this and choosing to tell your partner what is on your mind is often exactly what your relationship needs at the time.

One step to make this process of “radical honesty” easier for people is to agree on a warning. Before stating a tough opinion, tell your partner you’re about to engage in radical honesty. This prepares them and can make it easier for them to hear what you are saying without them getting angry or defensive. It also provides a chance for them to set a boundary. They can declare then that they’re not ready for it. In this case you both should remain committed to the process of radical honesty and choose a better time for you both to talk.

7. Commit to the Process

Communication is not a destination. Instead it is a process of constant improvement. What may work for you and your partner to communicate better now may not work as well in a week or a year time. Instead good communication is a relationship is a journey. Commit to the journey. You get to improve yourself, of course. But you also get to strengthen your relationship. No one ever said it’d be easy but the rewards are so worth it!

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