Couples frequently come to my office with a variety of problems. Those problems can range from one partner being upset about clothes left on the floor, dishes in the sink, or something more heavy such as a drug problem, or infidelity. Granted the latter issues just listed have many other facets to them compared to dishes left in the sink, but one thing that I have noticed over the years is that there is one common problem to nearly every couple’s issues: Communication.
I’m going to take a bit of a departure from my usual ramblings and writings, and simply post a list of 5 activities that you and your partner can engage in regularly that are designed to help facilitate better, open, and more intimate communication. In the end, I have noted, it is a lack of communication, which leads to a lack of information, that contributes to a large amount of problems with couples. Initially the communication breakdowns can lead to simple confusion, but if that confusion continues, frustration, and often times, anger, will result. Try what is listed below, and see what happens. Take the one down approach as well. Be inquisitive. Humans tend to fear what they don’t know and understand. When we fear, we don’t love. When we don’t love, well, gosh, I think we know what happens there. Enjoy. David.
Marriage Maintenance Activity #1: Regular Dialogue
Set aside ten minutes a day, allowing five minutes for each to express feelings. When one partner talks, the other listens and no comments are permitted. You both share what is on your mind, in your heart, and what you are experiencing: hopes, fears, apprehensions, joys and sorrows, feelings of anger and enthusiasm.
Regular dialogue allows couples to share the important things that are rarely shared but are essential for people who love one another. Recognize that the dialogue is not an opportunity for you to ventilate or attempt to manipulate by making your partner responsible for your emotions, nor is it a time to make demands or requests.
Marriage Maintenance Activity #2: Encouragement Meeting
Encouragement meetings provide a regular systematic way to strengthen your marriage. The purpose of the encouragement meeting is to allow each person to share the positive things they are seeing in each other and in the relationship. Schedule an encouragement meeting regularly. Meet at a place and time that is quiet and free of interruption. Sit facing one another, close enough to hold hands comfortably. Each partner will complete the following three sentences:
- The most positive thing that happened to me today was…
- Something I appreciated about you today was…
- The most positive thing I value about you is…
The encouragement meeting nourishes a marriage by focusing on what is positive. Carry this activity on into the day and observe the positive in your partner and recognize it spontaneously and regularly.
List ten small pleasant behaviors your partner can do that will please you. Behaviors should be specific, positive, and unrelated to past conflicts between you. Choose behaviors that are possible for your partner to do on a daily basis. Examples:
- Call me and tell me you love me
- Take a ten minute walk with me
Exchange lists with your partner the next day. Each partner should strive to do two encouraging behaviors each day. Notice what your partner does for you and let your partner know of your appreciation. Each week add one or two items to the list.
Marriage Maintenance Activity #4: Learn to Become a Regular Encourager
- Develop a positive focus on your partner’s behavior and comment on anything that is potentially positive or a move in the positive direction.
- Identify where you can recognize and affirm your partner’s positive thoughts, actions, or intentions.
- Recognize and informally encourage anything you like about your partner or what is happening in the relationship.
- Keep a log of the daily encouragements that you give.
Marriage Maintenance Activity #5: Learn to Affirm Yourself
- Sit in a comfortable position: close your eyes.
- Do some relaxed deep breathing for at least thirty seconds. Smile inwardly and give yourself a simple positive suggestion such as “I am positive and I feel relaxed.” Inhale easily with a deep breath. While exhaling, let your body go totally limp. When relaxed, you will experience a heaviness and warmth in your body.