Connection. Alignment. Being in tune with one another. Feeling the love. Stars aligning. Flow. Jeehawing (as my grandmother puts it).
Whatever you call it, it can sometimes be hard to get on the same page with your partner. It’s one of the top goals of most couples who come into therapy.
To help your marriage grow in connection, here are five of my go-to strategies for helping a couple align:
1. Talk about the upcoming week.
How often do you talk logistics with your spouse? How often do you feel like ships passing in the night? Avoid this by taking some time to talk with your partner about the upcoming week. It only takes a few minutes (you can even set a timer!). Pull out your calendars and share what your week looks like.
It’s a great time to share “I’ve got a huge presentation on Wednesday”, “I’m really nervous about this meeting at work” “Who is going to pick up the kids on Friday?” Not only are you sharing your life with your partner, you’re also giving your partner opportunities to show up and care for you…and finding out ways that you can show up and care for them. Win, Win.
2. Own your stuff.
Knowing yourself and where you stand on a particular issue is incredibly important in order to effectively communicate with your partner. Take some time to figure out how you feel and what you think about important issues. At Chenal Family Therapy, I encourage spouses to ask themselves the following questions:
- How do I find myself in this situation?
- How do I feel about this situation?
- How does my partner feel about it?
- In what ways am I contributing to this situation?
- What do I need to take responsibility for?
- What’s the best way to communicate how I’m taking responsibility for my actions?
- What thoughts, feelings, and actions are not mine?
- How can I best support my partner without taking ownership of their thoughts, feelings, and actions?
Also, it’s important to remember that we are only responsible for ourselves. We are not responsible for our partner’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
3. Slow Down!
Over time, every couple develops patterns of communicating. This is especially noticeable in arguments. We both know the other person’s moves. We can predict what the other person will say. We even prepare what we’re going to say before the other person has finished speaking. When you find yourself doing this, SLOW DOWN! Things are getting out of hand, and you need to take a breath.
How can you align with your partner when you aren’t listening to what they’re saying? How can you effectively communicate your thoughts and feelings when you already know what they’re going to say back to you? Slow it down. Take a breath – or even a walk. Hit the pause button. And sometimes, when you really need to, it’s important to take a break and do number 4 on the list.
4. Schedule important conversations.
When you and your partner are going in circles – stuck and spiraling – this is a good time to stop and schedule a time to come back to the conversation. Scheduling a time will allow both of you to cool off and cool down. Sometimes it’s important to step away from an issue and figure out where you stand on it. (Hint – go back to questions from number 2).
5. Ask for help.
Sometimes, it’s important to ask for help. When you are consistently out of alignment with your partner, it may be a sign that you need some additional help. Reach out to a friend or a trusted advisor, talk with another couple that you both admire, or schedule a couple therapy session.
If you’d like to schedule an appointment at Chenal Family Therapy, you can email email@example.com or call 479.595.0333.
-Gail Lane, PhD, LPC, LMFT
Clinical Director, NWA
Chenal Family Therapy, PLC