How to Surprise Him on His Birthday

How to Surprise Him on His Birthday
by Katarina Kovacevic

If you’ve been with your man for a couple of years now and are struggling for birthday gift ideas, you’ll want to listen up. We’ve come up with a few suggestions that go beyond the typical CD or power tool. He’ll he so pleasantly surprised that he may even give you something in return!

Tell him to go home
When’s the last time he hopped a flight and went home to visit his family and friends? If you really want to get to his heart buy him a plane ticket home. Better yet, get him a gift card or ticket voucher for an airline so he can make the trip work around his own schedule. Put it into a birthday card and tuck it into his underwear drawer for an extra little surprise.

Step outside of your comfort zone
Sometimes we have to do things we’re less than thrilled about for the people we love. Has he been bugging you to attend WrestleMania with him? Does he constantly drop hints about how “awesome” it would be to go rock climbing? To make his special day extra special, tear down one of your personal barriers and take on an activity he’s always wanted to try. It shows him that you really care about his interests.

An honest cliche
The quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach — it’s no lie. If he’s working on his birthday, try whipping up his favorite lunchtime snack (for two) and bring a pseudo picnic to his office. It’ll be a nice break in his busy work day and some extra one-on-one time for the two of you.

Nurture his nerdy side
If he’s been obsessed with Star Wars since he would talk, buy him the collector’s edition box set. Or if he’s into bird watching, take him on an expert-led hike. No matter what his quirky hobby is, do something to show that you appreciate every side of him. It’ll remind him that you really do know him better than most people — assuming he doesn’t share his obsession with Harry Potter with the world.

Get naughty
Doing something sweet and sentimental is very romantic but there’s nothing like getting kinky to celebrate a special day. Turn your bedroom into a personal spa, complete with a hot bubble bath and scented oil. After a dip in the tub, take turns giving each other a long, intimate massage and see where the evening leads…

Take on his chores
Give your sweetie the day off by taking on his to-do list. Get his car washed, trim the bushes (or try to, at least), mow the lawn or make dinner. No matter what he’s got going on, do your best to chip in and let him focus on a day for himself. After all, women aren’t the only ones who need a little personal time.

Throw a party — and leave
Invite all of his best guy friends over for a night of cards, beer and sports (or whatever they’re into). Set the poker table, whip up a night’s worth of snacks, and have them arrive 30 minutes before your guy is scheduled to get home. Once you’ve done the whole “surprise” thing, kiss him good-bye and head out for a night with the girls. He’ll appreciate the night with the guys and the fact that you are willing to give him his space.


The Art of Compromise Exploring the benefits of a give and take relationship

The Art of Compromise
Exploring the benefits of a give and take relationship...
by Jennifer Good

Many people mistake the act of compromise as selling-out or giving in. Compromise to them means giving up something. In actuality if you stay true to the real definition of compromise you will gain a relationship free of petty battles. You will learn how to co-exist in a loving and appreciative way.

So, what does compromise actually mean? According to Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary it means, "A mutual consent reached by concession on both sides..." The key words here are mutual consent. It can't be a true compromise if one partner doesn't feel it is mutual. The act of compromise by definition indicates that both partners take an active role in finding a solution. This cannot be done if one or both partners are angry. When beginning to address an issue with your partner you should adhere to the following steps:

Note: It may be a good idea to let your partner know ahead of time that you have some ideas about a certain situation, and you'd like their insight and help with it. This can help set the tone for positive, non-accusatory discussions. Agree beforehand that if at any time either partner feels angry or upset about the issue you can come back and talk about it at a later date.

1. Talk about the situation openly and calmly with each other. Explain what that situation is to you, and how they feel about it. Then, have your partner do the same.

2. Agree to take turns talking out the compromise. This will allow each partner to fully discuss his or her ideas. Do not interrupt your partner during this time.


3. Depending on who goes first, decide what possible outcomes or solutions would be acceptable to you. Take a look at it from your partner's viewpoints and decide if these solutions would be fair to them. What do you feel your partner wants from the situation? Revise your outcomes or solutions around what would still be acceptable to you, but also accounts for your partner's best interests.

4. The next partner should now follow Step 3.

Note: Solutions to your problems will vary. For example, if the issue is that you don't feel you are sharing the workload around the house, your compromise could be: "If you do the dishes, I'll cook dinner."

5. Agree on a "DOABLE" compromise. Don't take one step forward only to fall two steps behind. A compromise should be considered a promise. You don't want to have one partner following through with their promises, and the other lagging behind. That will only create a relationship filled with resentment.

6. Agree on a future time, right then and there, to talk about things that may come up. Ideally, you'll want to agree on a date a week in advance. It is crucial for any relationship to have "us" time to talk through issues or problems you may be having. You'll find a weekly check-in date will help dramatically decrease the amount of flair-ups in your relationship.

Compromise is a way of helping each other find a solution that benefits both people. When you start looking at solutions to your problems this way you can't help but gain a happier relationship, which in turn creates a happier you!


The Art of the Apology

The Art of the Apology
by Jennifer Good

The Art of the ApologyLet's face it, we all make mistakes. It's probably pretty fair to say that we don't like to admit it either. However, an apology is not just an admission of a wrong doing, it's an admission that we understand that we unintentionally caused an upset in our partner's life. It's about communicating that you're not so caught up in yourself that you don't realize the effect you have on your partner.

When the time comes for you to make an apology, use these simple principles to make your amends.

1. Make the apology about them, not you.
How often have you heard an apology start off with an excuse? When you are giving reasons for your behavior you're not showing your partner that you care about their feelings. You're actually communicating that you are worried about yours. Make sure your intent isn't to get the focus off of you.

2. Listen to what your partner is upset about, and then acknowledge it.
It's difficult to listen to negative things being said about ourselves. However, if we hope to bridge the gap, we need to listen in order to understand our partner's point-of-view. Once you know what has caused the upset, be sure to acknowledge that you understand. For example, "I can see how being late made you feel like you're not a priority to me. I'm sorry that it made you upset. I should have called to let you know what was going on."

Readers say…
"We cuddle up and quietly discuss what we were fighting about, then we end up kissing and forgiving each other and we spend the rest of the day like normal." -Steve

3. Make amends.
When you've hurt someone's feelings it's important to give a little something extra back. Imagine it's like putting your apology into action. If you've caused an upset, make an effort to do something a little out of the ordinary to make up for it. Cook their favorite dinner, let them pick out what to watch on TV, or share some extra intimate time.

Readers say…
"I make up by not being so stubborn and apologizing for not compromising. Then we hug so tightly, you couldn't even fit a piece of paper between us." -Debbi

4. Handle the original problem.
If you find you are causing the same upsets with your partner it might be time for an internal look at why you are repeating actions that you know upsets them. Talk it over with your partner and try to come to some sort of compromise or solution to the situation.


How To Handle Your Next Conflict

How To Handle Your Next Conflict
Learning how to handle things through experience...
written by Jennifer Good

No couple can keep away from some type of conflict. Misunderstandings can easily happen. Instead of trying to avoid the conflict, or letting your tempers flair, use these guidelines to help you both maturely discuss the situation with each other.

1. Don't make your partner feel insignificant because they may have been in the wrong. (LYC) user, Melia suggests, "The way I handle conflicts with my partner is by communicating on an equal level. Allowing my partner to speak and express their side and after they are finished, express mine. Then come to a mutual agreement and move on. You can't change what has happened. All you can do is talk about how it makes you feel, and then move on from there."

2. Take time to really think things through before speaking. "I take a deep breath and take my time to think before I speak because I know how bad it feels to say things, then regret saying them after," says LYC user, Korin.

3. Don't talk about it in the heat of the moment. Don't talk about it in the heat of the moment. LYC user, Ren, suggests, "By going out to a restaurant for coffee or dinner you can talk about the problem where you know tempers can not flair." "We wait until we are not angry at each other anymore, then send an e-mail or leave a note where we both can see each it, with a date, time or place for a discussion, usaully away from home. Sometimes we meet at a hotel room, restaurant, park or the beach," offers LYC user, Denise.

4. Write your feelings out on paper. Sometimes it is easier to collect your thoughts and feelings through the written word as LYC user, Rachel, has found. "Sometimes we e-mail each other letters that we have written. It seems that we can get everything more out in the open when we take time to write it all down."

5. Take the time to really understand what your partner is upset about. Suggested by one LYC user, "Once I find out what the general complaint is, I listen for what her concerns are on the topic. If the response is not clear enough, I will probe for more details. I try to identify the source - whether internal or external - and ask for some time to rationalize whether blame should be placed inside/outside of the relationship." When you take the time to truly understand your partner's perspective, you are showing them that you respect their opinions.

6. Seek out love first. Putting your love for each other first is an ideal solution we all strive for. LYC user, Dee, offers this suggestion for attaining this, "We both made an agreement that when an issue gets out of hand, one of us draws a hot bubble bath and waits for the other one to join. It always takes us back to what is really important, our love for one another."


Argument Guidelines

Argument Guidelines
Learning the rules of engagement...
by Jennifer Good

Anyone trying to attain a disagreement free relationship is looking for a Utopian ideal they'll never find. No matter how hard your efforts, you're going to disagree about something your partner says or does at least a few times. The attention you give to avoiding arguments would be more wisely spent learning how to make the most of a disagreement.

Many people compare life to a game that we play. If life is a game, then arguing is one tactic of playing that game. Since you know at some point you're going to be involved in a disagreement with your partner, it makes sense for you both to learn the rules of this particular area of the game. Let's face it; no one truly enjoys being upset. If you're arguing you can't be loving. These argument guidelines were created to help you discover what the disagreement is really about, handle the problem and get back to loving each other.

Listed below are guidelines you should both agree to follow. Consider them your rules of engagement.

1. Don't talk if you're too emotional about the situation.
Things you say in the heat of the moment have a way of leaving a damaging mark on your relationship. Instead of lashing out while you're still emotional, go out and take a 10 to 20 minute walk. Getting away from the situation will help you cool off and gain a much-needed new perspective.

2. Leave the past where it the past.
It is a natural tendency to want to compare current situations to other situations that may have occurred in the past. It gives us our sense of security and pattern in life. Unfortunately, no one wants to continually be reminded of their past wrong-doings. By bringing up everything you don't like about them or what they've done, it can emotionally push your partner away from you. Who wants to be around, or open up to, someone who only makes them feel bad about themselves? Keep your disagreements about the problem you are actually dealing with at this time.

3. Take turns relaying your viewpoints.
Let one person say what is bothering them first. Then, let the other person rebuttal or give their viewpoint. Continue until you both feel like the other person has understood what you're saying. Remember though, just because your partner may not agree with you does not mean they didn't hear or understand what you're saying. The goal of a disagreement is not to bend the other person to your thoughts or side of the story. It is to come to an agreement, mutually, that benefits all people involved.

4. Try to really understand your partner's viewpoint.
It is so easy to get caught up in how we have felt wronged, that many times we forget to truly take a look at the other person's viewpoint on the situation. Really put yourself in their shoes, and see how you would have acted differently in the same situation. More often that not, you'll find after an honest look, you would have done the same thing.

5. Find a solution to the problem together.
Once you've both identified that there is a problem, and what the exact problem is, you need to come to a solution that benefits each other. To do this, each person should be responsible for coming up with a solution they feel will end the problem. Share your ideas and agree to a compromise, if needed, to the situation.


7 Ways To Fight Fair

7 Ways To Fight Fair
by Jennifer Good

"Seek first to understand, then to be understood." -Source Unknown

Don't hold back communication. You should always feel free to express an upset or talk about something you feel is wrong. Remember, it isn't WHAT you say… it's HOW you say it!

Make sure you have enough time to actually hash out your differences. If you try to stop your partner on his way to work, or you call her on your lunch break, chances are you're going to be left feeling dissatisfied and unacknowledged due to a lack of time. If necessary, agree upon a future time to discuss the matter at hand. Being considerate of your partner's time contributes to the amount of courtesy your partner will show when faced with your discussion.

Don't assume anything! It is not possible to know exactly what is going on, unless you actually hear it from your partner's perspective. Don't try to figure out what they're thinking, just ask. It can save you a lot of grief and avoid HUGE misconceptions by taking the time to just talk it over.

Don't bring the past into a current discussion. If you actually want a problem resolved you have to make your partner feel like they can actually resolve it. When you bring up the past you are communicating to them, that no matter what changes or efforts they given to improve the condition, you will still hold them accountable for past actions. Where's the motivation for improvement there?

If something is your fault, say you're sorry! Don't hold out and try to redirect the blame to something or someone else. If you broke a promise, said something you wished you didn't or did something you'd rather not confess to, it's up to you to make amends. Not only will YOU feel better about your ability to come clean, but your partner will learn to trust you more knowing you're willing to accept responsibility.

Take a timeout before things get too heated. If you feel your anger level rising, take a 15 minute timeout to gain a new perspective. Take a walk, listen to some music or do some housecleaning to help dissipate your ire.

Don't fight in front of friends or family. You automatically put the other person on guard when you enter into a major disagreement in front of others. In addition, instead of the disagreement staying a personal matter, which it should be, it now becomes open to other input. Trust me; you do not want anyone else adding in their two cents, even if it's in support of your feelings. Think about it from your partner's shoes. Would you actually give an open and honest discussion if you felt you were up against an army? Agree that you will both talk about what happened away from prying eyes and ears.


8 Ways To Handle An Argument

8 Ways To Handle An Argument
by Jennifer Good

Let's face it, no one is perfect. No matter how hard you try, or how loving and respectful of a couple you are, you are bound to get into a disagreement once in a while. With a few tips though, it doesn't have to be something that can harm your relationship. The next time you feel an argument starting to form keep in mind these 8 ways to handle an argument!

1. Give your partner enough space to voice his or her concerns.
I'm sure you hate it when people interrupt you; give your partner the same respect -- even if you don't agree with what they are saying.

2. Make an extra effort to really understand what you partner is trying to say.
It is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking you know what they are saying, when in fact you may not have a clue. If your partner feels like you understand what they are saying, you'll find a way to end the argument far more quickly.

3. Don't say something you'll regret later.
Always consider your relationship like a glass. It is sturdy, tough, beautiful and clear when taken care of, but if it is mistreated or mishandled it can end up scratched, cracked or even broken. Take care in choosing the words you say when you are in the heat of the moment.

4. Don't bring in past woes.
The past is the past... let it stay there. If you dwell on past occurrences, you'll never find a solution for the future your partner will feel less loved and respected, and you will always feel negatively towards your partner. People make mistakes. Give your partner the chance to recover from them, and encourage and support them when they make the right choices.

5. Learn to compromise.
If you can learn to compromise, you'll find yourself in fewer disagreements. If you don't like something, then agree with your partner to find some middle ground. This also applies the other way. Be willing to come up with alternative solutions for things your partner doesn't like as well!

6. Realize that no matter what you say, you both may not agree on the issue at hand.
An argument is typically started because you want someone to agree with you about something. You think that the other person must not know all the facts, so you begin to explain it to them. The more your partner still disagrees with you, the more upset you usually get. But, if you realize that sometimes it is best to just let yourselves agree to disagree -- you'll show your partner that you not only respect their opinion, but respect their individuality as well. You never know, maybe later on they (or even you!) might change their mind.

7. Make a commitment to talk about the situation until it is handled.
It's far too easy to run off and avoid your partner, or give them the silent treatment. Instead, make a commitment right now to each other to respect each other enough to work it out -- even if it takes all night. Nothing is unsolvable when you are working together to truly find a peaceful resolution.

8. Make your relationship with your partner your first concern when you are in the middle of a disagreement.
This does not mean bend over backwards for them or compromise your integrity. Just keep in mind that the person you are arguing with is your best friend, lover and soul mate. If you both keep that at the forefront of your mind in an argument, it will keep what matters most away from cruel words or intent -- your heart!

Finally, I leave you with one thought on preventing arguments. Let your partner know exactly when something upsets you. I've found that many people tend to not speak up when something bothers them, thinking that it is trivial to mention it. Unfortunately, what happens is after repeated times of not speaking up, some small occurrence happens and it ends up being the straw that broke the camel's back. The other partner, more often than not, has no clue what they are upset about and therefore thinks they are over-reacting. If you find yourself in this situation, deal with each thing as it happens. Don't let things build up until you explode.

Assignment: Get a journal. Every time you see something you don't agree with or don't like, write down everything about the incident or situation. Include when, where, exactly how you feel, etcetera. Then write down at least three solutions to the problem. If you find a way for you to fix the situation on your own, do it. When you need your partner's help, find a time to sit and talk about it with them. By writing in your journal, you'll have released many of the emotional feelings surrounding the situation or incident. This will allow you to have a calm discussion with your partner.


Has Your Partner Changed

Has Your Partner Changed? 
by Jennifer Good

Has Your Partner Changed?It's an unfortunate event when we realize our partner may not be the same person they used to be. For whatever reason, something has caused them to look at life or your relationship differently. Is it a reason to look at ending the relationship? Or is the change something you should ignore and hope goes away? The answer really lies somewhere in between.

There are many factors that can make a person seem different than who they were. Just the process of aging can cause major shifts in attitude and viewpoints. Some people believe that once they get married or have a baby they should act in a certain way. Stress, employment changes or health problems can also cause temporary attitude adjustments.

So how do you begin to broach this subject with your partner?

First, you need to determine the cause.

Is It You or Them?
When you feel your partner has changed in some significant way, the first thing you need to do is make sure the change is actually from them. Don't make the common mistake of thinking your partner is being different when in actuality you are the one who's made the change.

Has There Really Been a Change?
Then make sure the change you perceive is actually accurate. Are you sure they weren't always that way, but now the behavior just rubs you the wrong way? Or, is their lack of attention now something you can't deal with? If you went into a relationship knowing a person was a certain way, but you internally expected that to change, you can't really expect your partner to understand why you're upset.

How's Your Life?
Life has a way of throwing things at us that we aren't always prepared for. You might have physically prepared for some event, but emotions are a little trickier to anticipate. Also, some events could trigger past emotions that were thought to be long gone. If either of you are going through a rough patch or an emotional time, give your partner a little adjustment space. In addition, do things to keep you both physically and mentally attached, such as date nights or unexpected romantic encounters.

Next, you need to discuss the problem.

This step can feel difficult for some people because by the time they realize they need to address the issue, there can be a lot of resentment or pent up emotion involved. In order to get through this, you'll need to find a way to remain objective and calm when communicating with your partner. If the change stemmed from a specific event, it would be a good starting point to deal with the unresolved issues that must still exist. If the cause was something less obvious, it probably developed as a habit.

A habit, thankfully, can be broken with a little conscience effort. When you are both able to have an uninterrupted open and frank discussion about the matter, let your partner know the about the changes you've noticed and how they are making you feel. Let them have their equal time to speak about the issue as well. It's quite possible they made their change based on a change they perceived from you. Make it clear your intention is to find an agreeable resolution not to place blame.

When you are both in agreement that a problem exists, each of you should write down or voice your ideas for solving the issue. If for example the issue is you believe you should be more intimate, maybe an agreement to set aside one night a week as "your" intimate time would be a workable solution. Take turns planning the night. If one partner has ceased being romantic, you can make an agreement to do five random "little" things each week for each other. At the end of the week, see if you can guess what each thing was.

If the changes in your partner are something dramatic such as substance abuse, gambling or other negative behaviors, schedule some time to go talk to a counselor.

Remember, everyone changes, in order to keep the relationship going, you just have to make sure you're changing in the same direction.


On The Same Page

On The Same Page
An exercise for a loving relationship…
by Jennifer Good!

When you start a new job, or even take over a new position, it is customary that you find out everything that is expected of you. You quite possibly take the time to find out what your employers consider to be good work, and what they would rather not see from you. Then based on these defined guidelines you carry out your work. You can feel confident about your ability to the job because you know what is, and what is not, expected of you.

This same philosophy, to a great extent, can be applied to a relationship. If you've never taken the time to define certain beliefs and considerations in your relationship, you may be experiencing needless setbacks. The following exercises were created to help bridge this gap of communication. Please do them WITH your partner so you can openly talk about your answers and expectations together. If you find your viewpoints differ greatly, talk with each other about why that may be, and if needed, any compromises you'd both be willing to make. After doing these exercises, you'll find you can truly say you and your partner are on the same page!

What do you think love means?

What do you think romance means?

What do you think the difference between love and romance is?

Do you feel romance is important to the survival of a relationship? Why or why not?

What do you think having sex means?

What do you think making love means?

What do you think the difference between having sex and making love is?

Do you feel sex is important to the survival of a relationship? Why or why not?

What do you feel communicating means?

What do you feel arguing means?

What do you feel the difference between communicating and arguing is?

How important do you feel communicating is to a relationship?


Communication: The Art Of Listening

Communication: The Art Of Listening
by Bob Narindra

When a relationship goes sour, one of the first things to suffer is communication. If you can't communicate with each other, then there is no possible way to salvage the relationship. The thing to do is to prevent communication from ever being a problem. One of the most important aspects of this is to learn how to be a good listener. Listed below are a few guidelines to help you achieve this.

* Give Them Your Undivided Attention
When your lover wants to talk, put everything else out of your mind and actually be there with them while they are talking. You cannot possibly listen to them if you are thinking about other things you would rather be doing, or have to do.

* Listen To What Is Actually Being Said
This is especially true if you are in a disagreement. It is very easy to pick out the things in what your partner is saying that you want to hear and can throw back at them. This is not some high school debate class where you score points for winning an argument, this is your sweetheart and your actions here and now will dictate the course of the rest of your life together!

* Look At Them When They Are Talking To You
Have you ever tried to talk to someone that refused to make eye contact with you? It is very disheartening, especially when you have something important to say. When talking with your sweetie, actually look at them and not around the room.

* Notice The Hidden Emotional Tone Of Your Partner
Very often, your partner won't say exactly what is on their mind straight away and it is up to you to draw them out. By looking for their emotional tone, through their body language, voice inflections etc., you will get a very good indicator of what is actually bothering them and also how it is affecting them.

* Acknowledge Your Partner
A correct acknowledgement can very often completely resolve a dispute in one go. It has a two-fold effect: 1. It tells your partner that you have heard and understand what they are saying and 2. It makes them feel better by releasing some of the emotional baggage that may have built up on the subject. A good rule of thumb when there is a lot of emotional baggage attached to a situation, is to acknowledge them by repeating in your own words what they have just said to you.

* Remain Calm
If your sweetheart is angry, very often they will lash out at you because you are there and are someone they can take their frustration out on. While this may not be pleasant and the most ideal way to handle a situation, I'm afraid it is part of the job description of being a sweetheart. Realize that it is just a way for your sweetie to vent and resist the urge to get angry back, it will only make things worse.


Three Negative Communication Patterns YOU May Be Using

Three Negative Communication Patterns YOU May Be Using!
A mini-course on communication for couples...

by Jennifer Good

It's amazing, but if you really look closely you'll discover that people are extremely private creatures. For all that we seem to want to boast and have ourselves become acclaimed, we still tend to bottle our truest and deepest feelings inside. And, for what? Most often to protect our helpless hearts from heaps of pain, anger, ridicule, despair or ultimately heartbreak. But, what if keeping our inner selves hidden is what causes the pain to appear in the first place? Have you ever considered that preventing the people close to us from really getting to know us is what's keeping them from giving their all as well?

Every person has an inner need to be heard and understood. The people who understand us best are the ones we consider our closest friends, and the type of people we tend to gravitate towards. So, it would make sense that if we took the time to understand our partners and visa versa we could create a relationship of true closeness and intimacy. We wouldn't feel the need to hide our real feelings, or keep our deepest dreams and desires hidden because we would feel safe in the knowledge that our partner would understand.

For a lot of couples this may seem like an impossible task. If you've been together for any number of years, and communication is still your number one problem, it is definitely worth the risk to try and create a better verbal environment.

To begin on the road to verbal bliss you'll need to check all emotional baggage at the door. It can't be allowed on this trip. What kind of emotional baggage? Well, first you need to strip away any "shoulds or should nots," or other beliefs. These are the statements that you hear cycling in your head when you're partner is doing or saying something such as: "He should know what I mean," "If he really loves me he should understand," or "She should know better than to do that." There aren't any prerequisite behaviors that you or your partner should have, other than a willingness to understand and listen. Everything else is just a made up excuse to get away with not using real communication.

Next, you need to reenter the relationship with an open and trusting heart. You need to be able to begin these tasks without harboring negative or hurtful feelings. What has been done is in the past, and this is a step towards creating a new future. If you let the past in, you're only crippling your future.

The first step towards improvement is to examine your current communication patterns. Below are a few questions to ask, and share your thoughts with, each other. This should be done without ANY accusations. It is a time for revelation and pattern changes. In fact, you may not want to do all the questions at one time. The best way to complete this "mini-course" is to handle one pattern each week. Below are the first three weeks of this mini-course to get you started. We will be including the next three patterns next week, so be sure to bookmark this page!

Remember, this is an exercise for a couple to complete. You can gain benefit doing it on your own, but you won't experience the ultimate reward of true intimacy in the same way as doing this together.

Negative Pattern #1: Are you belittling your partner's communication? Check the tone of voice you are using. This is the most common area of misunderstanding and invalidation. The surprising fact is that most of the time you won't even realize you are doing it. Sugar goes down a lot easier than spice. Make it a special point to practice kindness in the way you say things, even if you don't agree. To put this into practice take notice of how you react when you disagree with something your partner says or does. Does your vocal tone change dramatically? Do you act incredulous or as if your partner has grown horns and sprouted whiskers? Do you frequently find yourself saying no or other negative comments? These are not actions that promote a willingness to talk and grow together. It just makes your partner feel stupid and as if you feel you are better then them. If you do nothing else to improve your love life, just make sure to take care in the way you speak to each other.

Talking It Over: How has this pattern made it more difficult to talk to your partner? Give each other three different examples of ways they could say things better towards you.

Assignment: Get caught using the examples your partner has given at least 5 times this week. When you notice your partner making an effort to improve their communication tactics, reward them with an "I love you," a kiss, or other small acknowledgment.

Practical Usage: When in a disagreement, use phrases such as: "I understand what you're trying to say, but I disagree because…," "Your viewpoint is important, but I still find that I like it better like this because…" Try to make sure your partner knows you do not desire to invalidate what they are saying; you just disagree.

Negative Pattern #2: Are you always trying to prove a point in a discussion? Do your conversations seem to always have an ulterior motive? You aren't in this relationship to prove how worthy you are, or to see how well you can outwit your partner. An open debate is healthy, but not if every conversation seems to be about you becoming the winner. When you spend all your energy seeing what statements your partner makes that you can shoot down, or devising ways to get your point across, you miss the entire point of communication. It not only makes your partner want to withdraw from talking with you in the future, you also ruin the chance of really getting to know your partner's internal feelings about an issue and why they believe what they believe. You may feel like you're the winner of a conversation, but it's only a false victory. In the end, you become the loser because you'll have lost that someone who was willing to help you find your real victories.

Talking It Over: Have you ever felt your partner had a hidden agenda when talking with you? Give two examples of this negative pattern and two different suggestions for ways you would have liked them to handle it better.

Assignment: Instead of looking for ways to debate with your partner, search for the real meaning of what your partner is trying to say. Let your partner talk to you about an important issue or problem they are having for 15 minutes without you interrupting or saying anything in return. When they are done, see if you can reinterpret their root feelings about the problem, find any viewpoints your partner may have missed and help give some solutions. Then switch and let your partner do the same for you. Practice this at least twice a week.

Practical Usage: Your partner comes home from work a little irritable. Make the time to give them a supportive hug and invite them to sit and talk about their day. Do not try to steer the conversation in any direction. They may not feel like talking about why they are irritable. That is okay! All you need to do is show that you care and understand that they aren't feeling up to par, and that you are there if they should need you.

Negative Pattern #3: Do you maintain eye contact with each other when you talk? Eye contact lets the other person know that you value and respect what they are saying, EVEN if you disagree. Looking away, or even walking away, while your partner is talking is non-verbally communicating your lack of concern about their viewpoint in a situation. This trait is often used as a control mechanism. If you avoid the conversation or give the "silent treatment" then your partner may feel sorry for you or even just give in. Take an honest, inward look and see if this is your intent when using this technique. If you are, you're not reaping the real rewards true communication can bring. All you are doing is getting your own way. In the end your partner will just end up resenting you for not allowing them a chance to express their feelings

Talking It Over: Do you feel your partner practices good eye contact and body language with you? Why or why not? Is the silent treatment a communication technique you use? Give each other two examples of disagreements that could have been handled better. Offer your own solutions for ways you can both handle these types of disagreements better in the future.

Assignment: Practice talking while looking at each other. Make it a point to keep eye contact for as long as possible. When you notice your partner doing this with you, make sure to thank them for taking your communication seriously.

Practical Usage: When your partner comes to you to talk about their day or other news they'd like to share, be an active listener. Don't do chores around the house, handle the kid's homework, or take phone calls. Actually sit for the few minutes your partner needs, and listen to what they are saying intently, paying close attention to your eye contact and body language.


Use the power of communication for you

A Better Relationship Through Communication SkillsUse the power of communication for you!
by Jennifer Good

Ask a couple what's the one thing they'd like to improve in their relationship and more often than not their answer will be communication. It seems the thing we take most for granted, our speech, is the one thing that has the power to build or destroy a relationship. If you find communication is an area you'd like to improve in your relationship, take a few moments and read over the following tips and ideas for a better relationship through communication.

1. Communication is a power - don't abuse it.
As with any condition of power, the quickest way to ruin is by abusing it. Remember that your words have long lasting effects, even more so than you may realize. In the future, the reason why you were arguing or having difficulties may not be remembered, but the feelings and words you conveyed will be. If you feel yourself about to say something demeaning or unneccesary, stop yourself and don't say anything at all. Try other tactics like going out for a walk, writing in a journal, cleaning or doing something creative instead.

2. Communication is a power - use it!

If you have a tool that will make you the wealthest person in the world, not using it would seem to be the most absurd thing possible. The same applies to communication. By taking the time to let the person in your life know how you feel and how much you love and cherish them, you'll be taking your relationship to a new level. Both sexes love to hear how wonderful they are, and how much they are appreciated. If you're not taking the time out to tell your partner these things, then you're wasting the best tool for your relationship that you have.

3. Unspoken communication.
Have you ever watched a movie where the most powerful and moving scene was the one where no one spoke at all? Let this work for you the next time you want to truly convey your love. Spend some time everyday just looking at each other, not speaking at all. Use your other senses to express what you're trying to communicate. You might just be surprised at how much you enjoy this time together.

4. Communicating without realizing it!
Sometimes I find the moments that ended up being the most important and special to me happened when I wasn't even aware of it at the time. Create these moments for yourselves by keeping engaged in activity. Don't just sit in front of the TV and watch show after show. Play board games, listen to music, give each other back rubs, talk about your dreams, play on the computer together, go for a walk, paint a room, wrestle... your options are endless. If you haven't guessed, the point is to do something that is fun for both of you! You'll find that the more time you spend together in activites, the less time or desire you'll have for communication problems.


10 Communication Blocks

10 Communication Blocks
Finding out where the breaks are...
by Jennifer Good!

10 Communication BlocksCommunication is often cited as the number one problem area in a relationship. If two people understand this, and are working towards having great communication, then how can they still run into problems? The reason is there may be many unknown factors contributing to the demise of a couple's communication. In this article we'll take a look at ten possible communication blocks that may be happening in your relationship.

If you or your partner speaks a different first language, there can be a lot of semantic misunderstandings that may or may not be obvious. If you feel you're not being understood, really take the time to explain what you are trying to communicate.

With the Internet helping bridge gaps across territorial boundaries that once existed, this block is more important than ever. Just because you grew up with a certain philosophy about something, does not guarantee your partner did the same. Don't assume you know what your partner is thinking of or feeling about a certain issue. If you find yourselves on different sides of a disagreement, take the time to find out why they view it so differently. It could very well be they were brought up to believe things differently. Respect their choices and try and find some common ground you can both work from.

Truth, Or The Lack Of
One of the main culprits of blocking communication is the lack of truth and honesty. This is true even if you tell yourself that it isn't dishonest if you withhold a truth. For proper communication to be established, both parties involved need to be aware of everything relevant. Otherwise, one partner is always going to be hindered.

False Pretenses
This block is pretty self-explanatory. If someone tells you they are something they are not, chances are you're going to find out about it sooner or later, and not be too happy about it.

What are your expectations of each other? How many times have you had disagreements about what you each expect from the other? If you don't clearly lay down what you both expect from each other in the roles you play (father, mother, lover, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc.) you will run into this disagreement fairly often.

The bulk of disagreements come down to one single thing, misunderstandings. One person interpreted something differently; the other assumed they understood what they were saying. If you are in a disagreement find out as soon as possible what the misunderstanding is. You'll save yourself some very unhappy moments!

History (Past Experiences)
Most people apply the philosophy of let the past be my guide. Well this is great unless your past is riddled with mistrust, abuse or any other negative experiences. Remember your partner is someone new; don't compare him or her to a past experience.

On A Pedestal
If you find yourself thinking you are better (overall) than your partner, you're setting your relationship up for failure. How is it possible to accept any communication from someone you don't have respect for?

How do you kill a conversation in two seconds or less? Talk to someone too aloof to reciprocate any comments. Aloofness can indicate the person has shut down on some level. If you notice your partner doing this, try asking them more self-opinionated questions such as: how do you want to handle this, or what do you really think about this? Obviously this won't work if you ask them with an obvious attitude attached.

Third Party
How can you effectively communicate with someone if you have to, in effect, talk to two or possibly more people? This is the case of someone who's been third partied. Not only do you have to allay your partner's fears or concerns, but that of someone else's--usually without even talking to them. The most successful of relationships happen when the couple makes a strong commitment to never let anyone else contribute negativity to the relationship.

Rules of Confrontation

Rules of Confrontation
by Brettani Shannon

Rules of Confrontation
Point deductions for shots below the belt, ten seconds to get up after a blow, and knock-out wins may pass for rules in the boxing ring, but they won't work at home, and certainly not in a fight with someone you love. The ground rules of love and confrontation are simple. In short, you've got to remember who you are talking to and what they mean to you if you want a chance at improving your relationship by the end of the match. Here are some rules to implement during conflicts. They will help you keep the argument in perspective and resolve issues without unneeded problems.

Remember that you’re fighting with the love of your life
Sometimes, we get so consumed with winning an argument that we forget who we are fighting with. The person standing in front of you, pushing all the wrong buttons, is in fact your favorite person in the world. You’ve got to find a way to remind yourself of that when things get rough. Just when you feel like punching them in the nose, think of how much it will hurt the one you love, and choose your words accordingly.

Keep the main thing the main thing
“Keep the main thing the main thing. If you are supposed to be talking about how you felt when you were left alone at the party, keep the conversation focused on that. Do not bring up last year’s Christmas gift or the fact that the dog was left outside last night. Focus on the main thing and see it through to a resolution. As you keep the main thing, also remain in the present situation. Maybe this has happened before, maybe many times before. Resist the urge to bring up all the times in the past when the same situation has occurred. Even in a court of law, only certain references to past behavior are allowed. Stay focused and stay in the present.”
- From "Marriage: Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Happiness"

Recognize the little things
Once in a while, you’ve got to give yourself a reality check. If you lost your partner, would the little things that get you so riled up matter to you at all? Would you be able to sleep at night without his obnoxious snoring? Could you enjoy a movie without his incessant couch commentary? Would you miss wiping up his coffee mess every morning? Don’t allow yourself to get too preoccupied with the morbid side of this, it’s just a check-up for your jadedness to help you get in touch with what really matters.

Focus on the future
"My husband refuses to assist me with putting the kids to sleep," a woman complained at one of our workshops. To which her husband replied: "That's not true. I have never refused to help you!" "I don't know what's wrong with my wife," he continued. "She's starting to hallucinate and make up things that never happened!"
…To the couple with argument described above I put it this way: "Focusing a discussion on what happened is focusing on the past; focusing on what is the meaning for my partner of what happened is focusing on the future." This change of strategy will not only help resolve a current conflict, but is also sure to bring about a better communication between the two partners and a more positive and harmonious future."
- From "How to Agree to Disagree" by Yaakov Lieder

It is not about winning or losing
"It is our anger that gets us into a fight and it is our ego that keeps us there." People tend to go on fighting about issues even when they are no longer relevant or when their original importance has diminished. They do this for the sake of proving a point and to demonstrate that they are the winners and, more importantly, that the other person is the loser. But often the one who loses the most in the long run is the "victor" himself."
- From "How to Agree to Disagree" by Yaakov Lieder

Be present in the situation
Being present means that you make the conscious effort to tune everything else out. Turn the TV off, shake off the stresses of your work day, and most of all, forget the past. No matter how validated you feel in bringing up the last 100 times your partner did what he did, you will only be forcing a wedge of judgment between you. Your partner won’t feel loved, appreciated or respected; they will feel attacked. The only thing that comes from an attack is submission or counter-attack, neither of which help to strengthen a relationship. Try with all your might to take the current situation as a single occurrence without tying it to a string of offenses.

Those little marital irritations mean less than nothing
“Newspaper advice columns often print letters complaining about a spouse’s snoring or some other small irritation. But whenever those letters appear, they are soon followed up with letters from widows and widowers with statements like these: ‘I used to hate my husband’s snoring, but now that he’s gone, I will give anything to have him lying beside me during the night—snoring and all.” OR they write, “My wife used to nag me about my appearance. But since she died, I can see that no one cares about me the way she did.’ These people have learned that in the end, those little marital irritations mean less than nothing…”
- From "Don’t get mad over little things—they’ll soon pass" by Gerald & Helen Brown

What have we learned? That treating your partner with love and respect will pay off now and later; there is no question about it. Don't let simple confrontations over trivial issues get in the way of the big picture.