Are you in a nasty doom loop with your partner? You know the kind where you ask for something, he says he’ll do it, he doesn’t do it right away, and then you keep asking, he calls you a nag, you yell at him, he eventually does it, and you both feel like crap? That one? Or do you really want to ask your partner for something or to have a serious talk yet you find yourself too nervous to do so, so you never do and then you get more and more resentful because you aren’t getting your needs met, and he’s completely not understanding what’s going on, and then one day you just scream at him about something else, he’s pissed off, and you both walk away feeling like crap?
You aren’t alone. I hear it all the time from my clients, friends, family, and my own head. Are you ready to change this miserable pattern of communicating? To officially feel calm and confident about what you have to say and say it in a way that feels good to you and also doesn’t rip out the heart of the person you are talking to? I have three really easy ways to end the communication doom loop that I see with many couples. Once you learn how to do these three things, you will notice a dramatic improvement in your relationship and you can use these same skills with kids, coworkers, and even your parents. So here they are:
1) Know exactly what you want. I mean EXACTLY what you want. If you say, “I want you to turn off the television” but don’t say why, your partner will see it as a controlling move and then his tendency might be to fight it. If you say, “I’d love for us to spend an hour together most nights after dinner without the TV on.” You are asking for something completely different. I hear women tell me that they want their partners to help more around the house, to pay attention to them, to listen better, and to respect them. These are fine ideas but they are vague and may be confusing to your partner. Get specific, get clear, and know exactly what you want from them. Don’t make a list of twenty things, pick one at a time and be as specific as possible about what you want and why you want it. You won’t always get it but at least you can be confident in knowing that you were clear about your desires.
So why is this so hard for many of us to do? The most common reason seems to be that we have come to the conclusion that it’s selfish to ask for things from others. Actually, based on evidence from the doom loop, it’s the exact opposite. Knowing what we want is neither selfish nor spoiled but rather confident and extremely healthy in relationships. When I talk to men about what bothers them most regarding communication with their partner, the majority of them tell me that they don’t really understand what their partner wants from them. This leads to excessive frustration and ultimately, distance in the relationship. If you want to be closer, get clear.