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8. Give understanding. Just as you deserve understanding and support, your partner does, too, and it does help to feel understood. Try to see situation from her/his perspective, especially when you are in conflict.
9. Acknowledge your partner's feelings. You don't have to agree with someone to acknowledge and understand how they feel.
10. Give your partner lots of appreciation. Let your partner know how much you love her/him and why.
11. Accept your partner way she/he is. This doesn't mean that you don't ask her/him for behavioural changes, or that you accept, for example, being yelled at. It just means that you accept your partner as a person, and believe in her/his good intentions. Contrary to popular belief, really accepting someone brings out best in them.
12. Don't make sweeping generalizations. No matter how tempting, try not to make sweeping generalizations like "You never...," "You are always...," "You are such a...." Besides fact that they are not true (no one does same thing all time, in every situation), they are hurtful statements that leave people feeling bad about themselves, and can feed into a lack of motivation for change. "If I never do anything right, why bother?"
13. Have complaint sessions. Sometimes couples build up resentments that need airing. It can help to have a "complaint session." One person starts by saying all things that are bothering her/him, while their partner listens and encourages them to continue by saying, "what else?" Sometimes by delving deeper, one who is complaining realizes that there's more to complaints than what s/he originally thought. The one complaining may start out angry but often will soften, and become more aware of what is really bothering her/him, and what s/he needs. The listener's job is to listen, without comment, and to try not to take it personally. What you are hearing is an indication of how frustrated or angry your partner is right now. Keep in mind that it's not all about you, even if most of anger is being directed at you. You can switch roles when first person is done, or at a later time.
14. Take time out. When a conflict is not going anywhere, it can help to take some time away from your partner. Couples usually make up rules about time out, such as don't leave house, and having a set amount of time for time out, like 30 minutes, before checking back in with each other about whether or not they can continue discussion. In cars, time out can just mean that no one talks for a set amount of time. Either partner can call time out, and it should mean immediate silence for an agreed-upon time. It is always better to have amount of time set prior to an argument, or you will argue about that! Some couples don't set a specific amount of time, but remain silent for a while, and when they have calmed down enough to feel compassion, they check in with each other about their mutual readiness to continue conversation or to let it go for now.
15. Listen carefully. If your partner is trying to tell you something and you don't understand, listen carefully, ask clarifying questions, check out what you think they are saying, and keep trying to understand. Many arguments arise from our not really listening to each other, or assuming that we know what other person is saying without checking it out first. It is always best to check that you understood other person correctly.
Of course, you won't be able to follow these guidelines one hundred percent of time, and that's okay; no one can. But if you want your relationship to be based on respect, compassion, and clear communication, it's a good idea to try to follow these guidelines or others that work for you, as much as possible.
© Kali Munro, 2000. http://www.KaliMunro.com
Kali Munro, M.Ed., is a psychotherapist in private practice with twenty years experience. She offers free healing resources at her web site, http://www.KaliMunro.com