No one teaches us about marriage or relationships.
No one shows us what good communication looks like or gives us the recipe for successful couples.
We stumble down this path of relationships in the dark.
I found myself without role models and with a dysfunctional past. People showed me love in hurtful ways and I did not know what a healthy relationship looks like.
On the way up the graduate school and professional ladders, we don’t learn the skills we need for the most important things in our lives. No one teaches us how to speak, listen, request, forgive or let go.
How do you become a good doctor? You go to school for it.
How do you become a good cyclist? You ride a lot.
How do you become a better lover in relationship?s Trial and error. Lots of experiences in the name of failure. Breakups. Divorce.
What a way to learn, huh !?!
To improve our relationships, we first have to realize that we don’t know anything about them. IF you grew up in dysfunctional ones, you have to admit that you know only what a dysfunctional relationship looks like.
There is no shame in learning. We learn in every other area of our lives, so why not sit down and study relationships? Why not figure out how to communicate and love another person?
There is a better way to communicate than through complaints, put-downs and negativity.
In this excellent book, The New Rules of Marriage, author Terrence Real outlines 5 ways to improve your communication. I wrote about this book last week and here’s part 2 of what I learned from this book.
Here are 5 winning strategies to become a better lover.
1. Shift from complaint to request.
Complaining rarely or never gets you what you want. Don’t criticize your partner for something they did in the past; instead, ask them for what you want in the future. It takes more courage, and we’re not used to asking for what we want in relationships because complaining is easier and asking poses the threat of rejection. Yet Real tells us that asking is a more empowered way of being. For women particularly, “self-assertion can trigger feelings of shame and guilt. They must learn that pleasure and honest connection are gifts and birthrights.” Real writes that asking for what you want is the only way your partner will be able to meet your needs.
2. Speaking out with love and savvy.
Always remember that the underlying goal of communication is to speak and be effective with the person you love. The goal is to strengthen your bond and relationship. “He is someone you love. Someone you’ve pledged your life to. At the very least, recall that he’s the person you have to live with.” Keep this goal in mind and ask yourself what your communication will do. Think about what you’re going to say – will it bring you closer together or take you further apart? Help your partner feel empowered, not helpless. Talk about what happened during a particular event, then talk about what you have decided about it, how you feel about it and what you would like to happen in the future. Speak to solve the problem and avoid it in the future, not to hurt and embarrass your partner.
3. Respond with generosity.
Before responding, you have to master the art of listening to your partner and understanding where they are coming from. Don’t argue or go for being right – go for harmony and repairing the conflict you’re both experiencing. After listening, you have to understand where your partner is coming from. The rule that Real describes is “understanding builds empathy, empathy builds compassion, and compassion ends combat.” Once you hear your partner out and understand what they are saying, acknowledge what they are saying as much as you can and show accountability. The final part of responding is to respond generously to as many of your partner’s requests. Find something to give to your partner and agree on sincere actions you will take in the future.
4. Empowering each other.
How can I help you give me what I want? Treat your partner as your teammate. “Repair demands that both partners ask: What can we do to work as a team? How can we face challenges life throws at us and the challenges we present to each other in a practical way?” How can you help each other? How are you going to help each other feel loved and fulfilled? Work together on a plan to help each other get what you want.
Cherishing is what you do after you’ve agreed on what you’re going to do to resolve the conflicts between both of you. You have to cultivate your capacity to appreciate and enjoy the pleasure of your relationship. To cherish, you have to acknowledge your partner’s progress and demonstrate, through your actions, a desire to return the favor and be pleasing to them. Let them know that you appreciate them, encourage them for improvements and thank them for doing those things you asked for.
Ready to become a better lover? Or to learn the new rules of marriage so you can transform your relationship? Pick up The New Rules of Marriage today.