By Jenna DeRosa, LPCC
Oftentimes people will come in for individual counseling and want to prioritize and work on their relational issues as well. Working with one person on relational issues calls for a deeper look at yourself, your reactions, your emotional regulation and your own processing. When working with individuals, I find that people try to force conversations with their partner before they even understand how they’re feeling themselves.
How can you ask your partner how they feel if you can’t understand how YOU are feeling? Understanding the relationship you have with yourself can better help you to have a relationship with your partner. What are things that you can do to better effectively communicate with your partner?
Body & Somatic Awareness
The first step in being able to understand how you’re feeling is to increase the mindfulness of your body sensations. Being able to understand how you’re feeling and where in your body you’re feeling it can help to connect the brain and the body. Understanding somatic sensations first can help you to understand how you’re feeling. When you think of an issue that is upsetting to you, where in your body does it sit?
Allow Yourself Time
It’s extremely difficult to process your own emotions and your partner’s all at the same time. So, make sure you are not forcing conversations if you are not feeling ready. Ask for some space, go into another room and process through how you’re feeling. Journal or meditate and understand yourself, your reactions, your feelings so that your partner can understand that and you can better vocalize it. This also prevents the probability of you reacting off of your partner’s emotions as well.
Listen and Hearing your Partner
Understanding your own emotions and being able to regulate that will allow you the opportunity to listen and hear your partner and where they are coming from. It will prevent you from bringing in and projecting your own emotions into the conversation. It allows you the opportunity to hold that space for yourself and your partner and be able to come to a resolution in a more calm way.
Use ‘I’ Statements
‘You’ statements can be considered to be very ‘attacking’ by the other person. It can start an entirely new disagreement with your partner while the initial point is completely missed. A great example of how to turn ‘you’ statements into ‘i’ statements are: https://www.tonyrobbins.com/love-relationships/words-matter-you-vs-i/
To use ‘I’ statements and provide healthier communication, it’s important to follow the steps I’ve listed above. Make it a priority to understand and regulate your own emotions. Process your own thoughts and feelings to be able to approach your partner in a way where they can hear what you’re saying to them. Allow yourself to be able to step away if you need to in the heat of the moment. Make sure you’re paying attention to your physical reactions and vocalizing when you need space and how long you’ll need space for.
This will be most effective if both partners work on this process, but all you can control is you and how you choose to communicate. It starts with YOU.