Good communication between partners is a bedrock for both a healthy relationship and for overcoming a wide range of challenges. It’s also, often, one of the most difficult things to do well. Something as simple as listening, without interruption, can be incredibly difficult in the heat of an argument or emotionally-loaded discussion. Yet the more sensitive or emotional the subject, the more important it is to let your partner say what he or she wants to say no matter how “off-base,” “illogical” or “wrong” it may seem.
One thing men need to understand is that women don’t necessarily want their partner to solve their “problem” or suggest ways to fix things. Most of the time they just want their partner to listen to what they have to say, and try to understand without passing judgment. Men should resist the temptation to interrupt or debate. That doesn’t mean not talking at all … it just means giving a woman the time to finish her thoughts completely before responding.
Here are some suggestions to men for improving the level of communication in a relationship:
- Stick to “I” statements—statements that express how you feel or think.
- Use reflective listening techniques to clarify what is being said. You can say “I hear you saying…” and paraphrase what your partner just said. This can help you avoid misunderstandings and also demonstrates that you really are listening to what your partner is saying.
- Avoid talking about sensitive or difficult subjects when either of you is under the influence of alcohol or some other substance that makes it harder to control emotions.
- Don’t threaten a partner with divorce if he or she refuses to pursue a particular option.
- If you feel “stuck” in a disagreement, back off, cool down, remind each other of the core values you both cherish, and then, if needed, take the discussion to a therapist or counselor with experience dealing with infertility.