How many times has your partner asked you to take out the trash, fold the laundry, or do something for them this week, and you have failed to follow through? It happens. The problem is that after being asked five times, your partner may no longer remember that a lapse in memory is a normal thing. This has the potential to be a problem. So save yourself the punishment and read on.
One of the first things I ask my clients is how often do they take time to sit and talk about the events of the past and upcoming week. Most of the time I get a blank stare on their face, followed by a nervous chuckle. The reality is that most of you who are reading this probably could communicate more effectively. This is not to say you aren’t talking about the week with your partner, but let’s break it down a bit more.
I ask my clients to set a specific day and time during the week that is designated for them to talk about finances, kids, household responsibilities, work, schedules, emotions, sex, and etcetera. This meeting is not meant to give one partner the chance to simply complain, or load the other up with requests. It is meant to allow both partners a designated time to effectively communicate their needs, emotions, and frustrations.
The weekly meeting is an opportunity to open up to your partner. It allows you to talk about specific topics, and then let it settle until the following week. For example, how many times have you asked your partner or been asked to show more affection? (Uh…. what the hell does that really mean anyway?) The great thing about this meeting is that you can ask what more affection looks like in your partner’s head. This is a time for you and your partner to practice communication skills. Ask questions that give you information you can work with. Ask questions about the questions you ask. Set goals. Make plans. Settle issues. And, possibly the best part, talk about your sex life!!
The goal of all of this is to leave the table with an understanding of what behaviors need to be adjusted from the last week, and what the plan is for the next. This does not mean you cannot talk about any issues during the week; nor does it mean you can’t give your partner an occasional (gentle) prompt to follow through with what was committed to during the meeting. This is not just about communication. The idea is that you build a stronger bond between the two of you. It is about building trust, building a safer relationship, and allowing both partners the autonomy to manage their responsibilities without feeling additional pressure to get things done.
Lastly, take time to talk about you. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable demonstrates trust and safety within the relationship. Talk about your needs. Hear your partner’s needs. This is not a time to make judgements, but a time to observe and respond empathically. Validate each other. You do not have to agree with your partner to hear what they are saying. Sometimes you will not agree; you don’t have to. I think you will find that being understood may feel just as good as getting approval from your partner. So go out and apply the skill. Feel free to comment on the blog post, and come back next week for more!