“It is a luxury to be understood.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Building a relationship and being married is a team sport; you either win together or lose together.
One of the keys to developing intimacy is communication. Two-way communication that is based on respect, honor, and grace is essential for two people sharing a life together.
Drs. David Olson and Peter Larson have invested their careers studying relationships. They have identified 10 Communication Skills that will enhance your intimacy.
1. Give full attention to your partner when talking. My wife gets very annoyed when I think I am listening, but am distracted. My suggestion turns off the phone, Ipad™, computer, or television and turn towards your partner.
2. Focus on the good qualities and be intentional about catching them doing good. People tend to rise or fall to our expectations, when you are intentional about finding the good in someone they rarely disappoint.
3. Be assertive, not aggressive or passive. Share your thoughts, feeling, and needs. One way to do this is to the old therapist standby of using “I” statements versus “you” statements. (e.g. “I worry when you do not let me know you’ll be late” rather than “You are always late.”)
4. Avoid criticism. It is a relationship killer. I think William Arthur Ward hit the nail on the head when he said, “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I may not forget you.” You can never share too much encouragement.
5. If you must criticize, sandwich it with a least two positive comments. (e.g. “I appreciate it when you help out with cooking, the food is great. It would mean a lot to me if you could straighten up a little after you are done. Thanks again for dinner.)
6. Listen to understand, not to judge. Two eyes, two ears, one mouth. Listening is all about trying to understand.
7. Use active listening. Summarize your partner’s comments before sharing your reactions or feelings.
8. Avoid blaming each other at all costs. Instead, work together for a solution. There is energy when we accept responsibility and decide to work towards a mutually beneficial solution.
9. Manage your conflict. (I will give you ten steps for resolving conflict in a few weeks.)
10. Seek counseling. If you are not able to have better results with your communication as a couple. Then take action. Enroll in marriage/relationship class, read a book together, see your pastor, priest, or get counseling if you need to.
One of the best ways to increase the frequency of physical intimacy is through reliable communication. When men and women feel heard they usually are open to more intimacy.
My next article will be about the five levels of intimacy.