What Are You Communicating Non-verbally?

What Are You Communicating Non-verbally?

The Power of Non-verbal Communication

Oftentimes we think that “communication” refers solely to the words being spoken in a conversation. We are taught from an early age how to communicate our needs, thoughts, and feelings verbally to others around us. In our society, there is a high level of importance placed on language that is used in conversation to convey your message in the most understandable way possible to the listener.

While the focus on verbal communication skills is highly important, it means we could be ignoring what we are communicating to others non-verbally. This article aims to shed light on the ways that non-verbal communication can impact conversation with those around you, as well as suggestions on how to reduce non-verbal communication that could be negatively impacting conversations.

As a coach and therapist with Growing Self, I spend time in sessions to help clients reflect on what their non-verbal communication might be conveying to their partner, friends, family, etc.

What Is Non-verbal Communication?

Before we can move into how to reflect on your communication, and ways to reduce negative non-verbal communication, we need to first explore what falls under the umbrella of “non-verbal communication.” Simply stated, non-verbal communication is what takes place outside of the actual words that are being used in conversation.

Non-verbal communication has been studied and said to make up around 90% of communication, leaving the remaining percentage to be associated with the words we are choosing to use in conversation. There are many different types of non-verbal communication that exist and have the ability to impact conversations we engage in.

Paralanguage: This refers to areas related to vocal qualities such as tone, volume, pitch, etc.

Facial Expressions: Facial reactions can convey feelings about a conversation through smiling, frowning, squinting, raising your eyebrows, etc.

Proxemics (Personal Space or Physical Closeness): We can also non-verbally communicate by how much space we allow between each other in conversation. The norms or expectations for physical space can vary with cultures and settings.

Kinesics (Body Movements): This type of non-verbal communication covers bodily actions that are used in conversation such as head movements (nodding), hand gestures, rolling your neck, etc.

Touch: In some conversations, we may choose to hug or use light touches to convey meaning or understanding to others.

Eye Contact: With the use of eye contact, we can show others our level of interest in a conversation. When we are continuing to break eye contact or look off in different areas, it could convey to the speaker that we are not fully invested in the conversation.

Posture: This area focuses on how sitting versus standing or closed versus open body posture can impact a conversation. This type of communication has the power to communicate emotions and overall attitude about a conversation.

Physiology: While this area is more challenging to control, this refers to noticeable changes with parts of our body such as blushing, sweating, or beginning to tear up.  

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Opportunities For Reflection

With non-verbal communication making up such a large part of conversation, there is seemingly no way to entirely eliminate non-verbal forms altogether. However, there are opportunities to reflect on how our non-verbal communication could be negatively impacting a conversation or conflict. 

Think about a time where your partner, friend, or loved one came to you and the conversation turned into a disagreement or conflict. I encourage you to reflect on ways that you used non-verbal communication to communicate your feelings of frustration, anxiety, hurt, or disappointment. In those moments, do you feel the conversation could have been impacted using non-verbal communication instead of conveying our feelings to the other person?

If there are people in your life who you trust to help you with this reflection, I encourage you to open up a dialogue about non-verbal communication that they have previously noticed you using. There is opportunity for this discussion to shed light on areas of non-verbal communication that you might not even realize that you use in conversation and/or conflict.

How To Reduce Negative Non-verbal Communication

Many clients I work with report having, as we call them, “default settings” with non-verbal communication. This may be rolling eyes, increased volume, head shaking while the other is speaking, and so on. I often see these “default settings” being used as a protective mechanism in communication. Frequently, when we are using negative forms of non-verbal communication, we are feeling hurt, disappointment, frustrated, or overwhelmed by the conversation or other person. 

Instead of naming our feelings, it can feel safer to communicate those things through non-verbal communication and hope that the other person picks up on our feelings. However, this can lead to a negative cycle where both parties are only utilizing non-verbal communication to communicate their feelings and can sometimes increase the level of conflict or disagreement that was already taking place.

Instead of falling back to our “default settings,” I encourage you to think about how the dynamic might change by being able to open up to the other person in the conversation about how we are feeling in that moment. I have seen drastic shifts in conversations when “I feel…” statements are used instead of letting non-verbal communication do the talking for us. 

By replacing an eye roll with “I am feeling really disappointed right now” can be a powerful turn in a conversation where both participants can then talk about their emotions. 

This takes practice to be able to feel comfortable with and requires challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone of relying on your “default settings.” With time, people feel more comfortable naming their emotions in conversation rather than putting the other person in the position to make assumptions based on non-verbal communication.

Another way to challenge yourself to change negative non-verbal communication is by thinking about the response you are hoping to receive in conversation. If we use a harsh tone, increased volume, or roll our eyes, we cannot expect a positive and gentle response from the other person. 

I encourage my clients to think about setting the other person up for success in conversation to give us the response we are hopeful for. If we are aiming to receive a gentle and understanding response, we have to be mindful to use an approach that gives this response the opportunity to be present in the conversation.

With all things, practice makes perfect. If you have been stuck in “default settings” mode for a while, then it will take time for this new way of communicating to feel like your go-to. 

There will be times of success with challenging yourself, and then there may be setbacks along the way. My hope is that the setbacks do not cause you to be hard on yourself but encourage you to think about how you want to be successful next time the opportunity presents itself.

Warmly,
Kaily

Texas Marriage Counseling Online Therapist in Texas Kaily Moore M.S., LMFTA

Kaily M., M.S., LMFT-A, is a highly trained Marriage and Family Therapist. She has additional specialized training in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, addiction, and recovery as well as Gottman Method Couples Therapy levels one and two.

Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

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Long-Distance Relationship Breakup

Long-Distance Relationship Breakup

Should We Breakup?

As a couples therapist and relationship coach who provides services online, I frequently work with couples who find themselves in long-distance relationships. Long-distance relationships are more popular than ever these days, especially as more and more people are finding love through apps or websites that expand their pool of potential partners beyond their own towns and cities. 

Lots of great articles and podcasts exist for people in long-distance relationships about how to improve their relationships or maintain their connections. However, today, I want to talk about a side of long-distance relationships that usually gets less attention–how to know when it’s time to let go, and how to move on once you’ve made that decision.

What’s The Real Problem–the Relationship Or The Distance?

When working with couples or individuals who are going through a hard time in their long-distance relationship, one of the most common questions I receive is whether the problems they are experiencing are just being caused by the distance or whether it’s the relationship itself that isn’t working. 

In my experience, the answer to this question is most often that the challenges at hand are from a combination of the two. For example, I often meet with couples who experience some communication difficulties when they’re together that then are exacerbated into something larger when they are long distance. 

In these kinds of situations, I recommend that couples work with an experienced couples therapist or relationship coach who can help them determine the root cause of their challenges and give them tools to help address them.

Here are a few of the questions that I usually walkthrough as I help my clients determine an answer to whether their challenges are being caused by being long distance or by deeper issues within the relationship:

  • What is your relationship like when you are physically together?
  • Have you been physically together for extended periods of time before?
  • Have you been physically together when real-life stressors are present? (Or in other words, not just on vacation?)
  • In thinking about your relationship’s challenging areas, what are those areas like when you are physically together?

A final point about this common question: If your relationship is likely to remain long-distance for months or years to come, differentiating between problems caused by the distance and problems caused by the relationship may not matter all that much.

When clients ask me this question in our work together, they’re often assuming that if the relationship is all good when they’re together and it’s really just the distance that’s causing difficulties, they can discount the problems caused by physical separation as somehow less real. However, if being long-distance is a standard part of your relationship, the problems that come along deserve serious consideration as you decide whether to continue in the relationship.

What If You Can’t Make A Long-Distance Relationship Work? 

There are lots of valid reasons why partners might choose to end a relationship, and when it comes to couples who are long-distance, physical separation also often plays a role. While there are absolutely couples who are able to have healthy and happy long-distance relationships, not being able to consistently share physical space with your partner can be a legitimate challenge.

One reason for this is that being in a long-distance relationship requires more intentionality to help each partner feel loved and cherished. When you live with or in the same city as your significant other, it’s relatively easy to share little moments that build your connection, such as doing small acts of service for each other or holding hands as you talk about your day. In a long-distance relationship, it often takes more planning and forethought to show these small gestures of love, which means that it’s easier for them to fall to the wayside.

If you come to the conclusion that a long-distance relationship and the intentionality necessary to maintain it is not right for you, but still want to maintain your relationship with your partner, it may be worth exploring if you or your partner relocating to either live together or in the same city is a feasible option.

What Are Some Of The Signs That It’s Time To Let Go Of A Long Distance Relationship?

How to know when it’s time to let go of a relationship, regardless of whether it’s long-distance or not, is one of the most common questions that I get asked by my clients. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that no one knows your relationship like you do, and only you and your partner can make the final decision of when to end things. With that in mind, here are some of the signs specific to long-distance couples that I often discuss with my clients about when it may be time to consider letting go of your relationship:

  • You realize that you or your partner has needs that are too difficult to meet when you are long-distance, and these unmet needs are leading to resentment.
  • You or your partner don’t have the energy or time to exercise the intentionality that’s necessary to have a healthy and thriving long-distance relationship.
  • You don’t want to be long-distance anymore, but there is no feasible way for you and your partner to live together or in the same city in the near future.

Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

What Is The Best Way To Initiate A Long-Distance Breakup?

Just like with all breakups, showing your partner respect is a key part of ending your long-distance relationship. Here are a few things that are helpful to consider when trying to figure out the best way to break up with your long-distance partner: 

The Medium. A good rule of thumb when breaking up with your partner is to choose a medium as close as possible to speaking in person, like a video chat or a phone call. Because long-distance relationships often rely a lot on text messaging or email as a means of communication, it can be tempting to break up through these means of communication as well, especially if you’re a person who hates conflict. Resist that urge! 

Unless there were extenuating circumstances in the relationship that could endanger your emotional safety during a phone or video conversation (like emotional abuse or gaslighting), it’s always better to go with a phone or video call if possible. 

The Timing. Another important factor to consider when initiating a breakup with your long-distance partner is timing. Ideally, try to choose a time when you know they won’t be busy, like in the middle of their workday, or preoccupied, like right before an interview or large presentation.

A Head’s Up. It can be helpful to your partner (and help get the ball rolling in the actual breakup conversation) if you give them a head’s up about having something important to talk about with them when you schedule a time for your phone or video conversation. 

There’s no need to go into too much detail (after all, you don’t want to do the actual breaking up here), but simply letting them know that when you have this conversation, there’s something important you need to talk with them about regarding the relationship will give them some time to mentally prepare for what’s to come.

How Can I Begin To Heal From The End Of My Long-Distance Relationship?

In my work as a breakup recovery therapist and coach, one of the ways that I have seen a long-distance breakup be different from typical breakups is that, at first, your life may not seem to change all that much. 

In a typical relationship, a breakup often involves moving out from the living space you share with your partner or finding new things to do during your evenings and weekends. However, when your long-distance relationship ends, your living space will usually not change, and your day-to-day life will likely remain largely the same, minus some messages and calls from your ex.

Because long-distance breakups tend to change people’s daily lives less dramatically, it may take longer for the reality of your breakup and the typical grieving process to set in. Once it does, however, healing from the end of your relationship is much like healing from the end of any relationship. Grieving your relationship, experiencing a range of emotions, and eventually, growth, are all normal and to be expected. To learn about the stages of a breakup in more detail, I recommend checking out Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby’s podcast episode specifically on this topic: Long Distance Relationship Questions.

As you heal from the end of your relationship, should you feel that additional support beyond what your friends and family can provide would be helpful, I would also recommend meeting with a therapist or coach who specializes in breakup recovery for private meetings or group sessions (like my online Breakup Support Group). 

Gaining professional guidance can help you make sure that you are on the right path to healing, and, if you decide to attend a group, hearing from others in similar situations can help you to know that you’re not alone.

If you find yourself in a long-distance relationship that doesn’t seem to be working, I hope that some of the perspectives I’ve shared here can be helpful to you.

Warmly,
Kensington

Utah online marriage counseling Denver online breakup recovery group

With compassionate understanding and unique insights, Kensington O., M.S., LAMFT, MFTC helps you improve the most meaningful parts of your life, from your emotional well-being to your relationships.

Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

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Meditation for Anger

Meditation for Anger

Meditation: An Anger Management Skill

We have all experienced those moments when we lean into anger and snap quickly! It initially is relieving but often following an anger outburst we feel frustrated, unresolved, and sometimes even shame. Today I want to share with you a recommendation that can lead to decreased anger and improved coping: meditation for anger.

Mindfulness Meditation for Anger

Anger is a secondary emotion that is signaling us something is wrong. It is often masking a deeper negative emotion such as fear, loneliness, and hurt. However, when we are clouded by anger it is difficult to address the deep-seated emotion to heal and solve the issue. Furthermore, anger can often cause us to react in negative ways that might lead to something we regret or damage important relationships.

When we get angry it is easy to notice our body physically respond, we enter in “fight or flight” mode, and adrenaline is released. When this response is experienced too frequently it can lead to negative health consequences such as increased risk of stroke and heart attacks.

Often in my individual therapy sessions with clients, when working with those who find themselves struggling with anger, I recommend meditation for anger called mindfulness meditation. The reason I strongly encourage my clients to utilize meditation for anger is because mindfulness mediation a great way to counteract both the emotional and physical responses from anger. Mindfulness meditation is a process of focusing attention and awareness on thoughts, feelings, and sensations in a nonjudgmental way.

Becoming Aware of Your Anger

In order to utilize mediation for anger, it is important to become aware of key signs you are angry. Does your heart rate increase? Do your muscles tighten? Do you turn red and notice your body temperature rise? Often these physical experiences can be used as warning signs that anger might be taking over. 

Anger can lead to negative behaviors like yelling at your romantic partner because they did not do their dishes or breaking your game controller when things don’t go your way. Rather than allowing anger to cause an outburst, slow down and take a step back from the situation. 

If you are in an interaction with someone when you start to feel angry, say something like, “I am noticing myself beginning to get angry, so I am going to take a step back into the other room to calm down. That way I can be in a better frame of mind to communicate.” It can be hard to vocalize this, so try rehearsing it to help it become more instinctual. Changing the environment can be beneficial for refocusing emotions and getting into the right frame of mind for mindful meditate.

Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

Meditation for Anger: Does it Actually Work?

Initially, meditation for anger is found to help remove our bodies from the harmful physical distress caused by anger. It adds a coping skill to refocus our body and mind to something pleasant and calming. Mindfulness mediation is also suggested through research that those who turn meditation into a common practice experience less reactivity and can respond to the underlying emotions they experience rather than react in anger. So, if you choose to practice meditation for anger regularly, you might find yourself controlling and limiting your anger.

Meditation for Anger Exercises to Try Today!

Breathing Calm: Take a few moments to focus on your breathing. As you breathe in, imagine gathering all the tense or angry thoughts, as you breathe out, let those thoughts move away from your mind and body. Then as you breathe in, drawdown calm and tranquil thoughts from your mind. As you breathe out, spread these thoughts through your body. The body relaxes, and your mind becomes calm.

Rising Above: Imagine stepping into a hot air balloon. The balloon slowly lifting up into the blue sky, looking down, you see the picture of your life. Any problems seem so small. You take this moment to enjoy silence, peace, and rest your mind. As the balloon gently descends, you return to your day with a quiet and peaceful mind.

Letting Go: This exercise utilizes both breath and mantra. Inhale and slowly say out loud “Let”, then exhale and say “Go,” focusing on relaxing muscles as you breathe.

Tips for Mindfulness Meditation Beginners

Have a difficult time keeping attentive? Utilize a meditation app or YouTube to have guided meditation. The voice of someone walking you through meditation can be helpful in slowing down your process. An added bonus is these apps often have meditations specifically for anger available and even some related to specific triggers.

Finding yourself getting angry during the meditation? Be patient with yourself in the process, it can take time to build the skills for regulating anger and focusing awareness elsewhere. Try to ground yourself with a pleasant stimulus such as comforting food, essential oils, a warm bubble bath, or calming music. 

If you find yourself struggling to get started, reaching out to a therapist or life coach who is trained in anger management tools such as mindfulness meditation can help provide support during this learning period.

Wishing you all the best,
Natalie Krenz

Maryland online marriage counseling, couples therapy online

Natalie Krenz, M.S., LCMFT is a thoughtful and enthusiastic marriage counselor, premarital counselor, parenting coach, life coach, and therapist who creates an empathetic environment that supports your growth and goals as an individual, couple, or family.

Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

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How to Avoid Ghosting in a Relationship

How to Avoid Ghosting in a Relationship

Relationship Ghosting

If you’ve dated for an extended period of time, especially online, you’re probably familiar with ghosting. Ghosting is when either you or the person you are talking to discontinues contact without providing explanation. This is usually a confusing experience but for some, this might actually feel relieving! 

Today we are going to dive into ghosting: Why it happens, why you might want to ghost someone, and how to handle both situations. Because the truth is, there is a better way!

As a dating coach, ghosting is the number one topic that comes up. Whether it’s left you wondering “What the heck went wrong?!” or “I just don’t know how to tell them I’m not interested,” this topic gets brought up often in my dating coaching sessions. I want to demystify the act of ghosting for you today, so you know what to do if you think you might be getting ghosted and how to avoid ghosting others.

Why is this Happening to Me??

So, you’ve been chatting with someone for a while, things seem to be going great, maybe you even meet up for a date or two then…nothing. No follow up text, no plans made, no response when you check in to see if everything is okay. Being in this position is hurtful and confusing and it’s hard not to feel like something went wrong. 

If you’ve been ghosted, you may be wondering “Why did this happen to me??” And understandably so! It’s difficult to know what truly went wrong if you’re left with little to no feedback. 

However, instead of allowing yourself to get stuck in the muck of “Is this my fault? What could I have done differently?” I encourage you to take a step back from the situation and find gratitude in knowing that you didn’t continue down a path with someone who wasn’t the right person for you. 

Just because you’ve experienced ghosting first hand, doesn’t mean that you’re unloveable or that something is inevitably wrong with you. It really has more to do with the other person than it has to do with you. 

Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

Being ghosted is confusing so I wanted to outline some tips to utilize if the person you’ve been talking to suddenly becomes MIA:

4 Ways to Move On When You’ve Been Ghosted

#1 Wait to See if They Respond

How long should you wait before calling it? Typically around 5-7 days is a good time frame to see if this person will respond. Unless something emergent arises or they explicitly tell you they aren’t able to respond, if you haven’t heard from them in more than a week, it’s safe to say that they have discontinued contact.

# 2 Try Not to Take it Personally

This is important. When you get ghosted, it’s normal to reflect on your conversations and dates to analyze every little thing trying to figure out what happened. I want you to stop, take a breath, and let yourself be okay with not knowing. Whatever happened, it was on their end. In the end, you’ll be happier dating someone who likes you exactly the way you are and who can effectively communicate their thoughts and feelings!

# 3 Send a Closing Message (optional)

For some people, once they get ghosted, that’s the final straw. If you are feeling like you need that closure, create a message to provide that closure for yourself. You don’t even need to send it, just writing down your feelings can help provide that closure. Being able to state something like “I haven’t heard from you since our last date. It was really nice getting to know you and good luck in the future!” can be relieving and a symbolic way to move forward. Remember to be kind and courteous, we’re all going through our own journey.

#4 Get Back Out There

Don’t let this experience discourage you from moving forward. This might even be a great talking point in future dates because chances are, they’ve been ghosted too!

Why Do People Ghost?

There are many reasons why someone might ghost a new relationship. However, the most frequent reason I see with my dating coaching clients is usually because they don’t know how to communicate their needs or express that they just aren’t interested. 

Instead of having the sometimes tough and honest conversation, they just disappear. *POOF* Ghosters aren’t typically bad people, but they aren’t great communicators. If you’re finding yourself in this position, I know it feels like the easy way out is by ghosting the other person, but I have some tips for you today so that you can provide closure moving forward instead of confusion. 

How to Avoid Ghosting Others

Being on the other end, it’s easier to understand that sometimes, ghosting happens! Some of the more common reasons I hear, as a dating coach, are: I’m not interested, I don’t want to hurt their feelings, I’m too busy, etc. Whatever your reasoning is, more often than not, ghosting feels worse than directness.

# 1 Be Explicit About Your Expectations

Before going on a date, let the other person know and understand what your expectations are. Talking about your expectations of the date and future relationship BEFORE beginning a relationship can help you sort through whether you even want to continue forward with this person. It’s easier to end a dating conversation than it is to end a relationship several months later. 

# 2 If You’re Feeling it On the Date, Address It

If you’re on a date with someone and begin to feel uninterested, bring it up! Being able to be vulnerable and say “I’m not feeling like we are connecting the same way we used to. Do you also feel that?” gives the other person the opportunity to voice their feelings and thoughts. This is a good chance to see if it was situational or if you really aren’t feeling it. If you’re feeling it, chances are the other person is too.

# 3 Communicate

After you’ve done some thinking, perhaps you’re feeling like this isn’t going to work out. Send the other person a text or call them to let them know that you’re not interested in continuing to pursue this relationship at this time. Here are some examples:

  • “Hey! I had a lot of fun last night- thank you for inviting me. I didn’t feel a romantic connection and I am not interested in going on a future date. Good luck!”
  • “After talking to you, I realized we don’t have the same desires for a future relationship. I think it’d be best for us to both continue seeing other people. Thanks again.”
  • “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you recently- thank you for sharing about yourself. Because I respect you and your time, I wanted to let you know that I am not interested in pursuing a relationship.”

# 4 Anticipate a Reaction

Being able to communicate and be vulnerable about how you're feeling, leaves you open for hurt. I believe this is part of the reason so many people ghost because you don’t have to see or hear the reaction that the silence has caused. In most cases, people appreciate the open communication and might be disappointed but understanding. Other people might show their hurt differently. Try to remember during these times that you are making the best decision for you and that you are being respectful of the other person’s feelings.

Dating is a tricky world to navigate and it’s become even more complex with the integration of dating apps and social media. Because there are so many ways to hide and avoid through the use of technology, it’s even more important that we show up fully and sometimes that means recognizing your feelings of discomfort, sadness, or loneliness. I want to encourage you to continue to push through, listen to yourself (not your inner-critic), and not feel discouraged with your dating experiences. 

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Love is Respect

Love is Respect

HOW TO SHOW YOUR PARTNER RESPECT

Love is Respect: The happiest and most stable relationships are those in which respect is present. As a marriage counselor, I have found this to be true time and time again. 

Respect is a word that most of us hear from the time we’re very young. We are taught to respect our elders, to respect people in positions of authority, to respect people that have taught us valuable lessons, to respect our mentors. Why isn’t our partner on this list? When we respect our partner we tell them and show them that they matter to us, that we see them, that we hear them, that we value them not only as our partner but as a human being.

Love is Respect: What Does It Mean to Respect Someone?

The word respect can feel very non-romantic, especially when it’s paired with authoritative relationship dynamics. Not only that, but it can mean something a little different to each person and depending on the situation that it’s present in. 

Respect is built over time; It develops and diminishes based on the interactions or experiences that you have with another person. What makes respect special is that if lost, it can be rebuilt and repaired. It’s ever-changing and growing with the relationship. 

I think if I were to ask you if respect matters in your relationship, most would say that it does. Over my years of working with couples, I have come to notice 2 trends that may arise in regards to respect and love:

  1. Couples will express to me how much they love their partner, but how they lack respect. 
  2. Other couples will talk about the immense respect they feel for their partner, but also share that they have lost the love they once felt. 

There seems to be a disconnect in these relationships between love and respect. If couples are able to bridge the gap between respect and love, respect can be a powerful tool to enhance love within a relationship. So how can we use respect to enhance love? How can we work to increase the respect we show to our partner?

Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

How to Increase Respect in Your Relationship

It is not easy to identify a universal formula for respect that applies to all couples. Sometimes, the longing for respect can feel one-sided, or perhaps each partner may have a different and individualized answer of how respect in the relationship should look. 

While we are all entitled to our definition of respect, there are seven things that every couple can practice to build and encourage respect in their relationship. I’d like to share these seven things we can all do to start increasing the level of respect we show to our partner:

1. Ask for Your Partner’s Opinion

When you ask for your partner’s opinion on any given issue or event that you are dealing with, you are essentially showing your partner that you value their advice. By asking your partner for their opinion and opening up dialogue on something that you’re internally wrestling with, you are actively and intentionally asking for your partner’s help. 

This is not to say that you couldn’t figure it out on your own, but that you truly value what they have to say and what they offer the relationship – especially in times of need. 

2. Accept Your Partner’s Influence in Your Relationship

Accepting influence is about sharing power in the relationship. This can be for decisions and beliefs that impact your relationship as well as individual decisions and beliefs. When we accept influence we take our partner’s opinions and feelings into account. Accepting influence doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything your partner says or feels. By accepting influence we show that we believe our partner adds value to our life.

3. Seek to Understand Your Partner

As a marriage counselor, couples who struggle to show respect will enter our beginning sessions expressing that their partner “doesn’t understand me” or “doesn’t understand why/how this affects me” or even “doesn’t understand what I put up with.” It can be easy, especially in long-term relationships, to think that we know everything that’s going on with our partner but to never actually ASK the other person “how are feeling about this” or “what does this mean to you?” or “can you help me understand?”

As we seek to understand our partner better, there are 2 main things we can do. First, we can ask questions to better understand what it is that our partner is feeling or experiencing. 

Secondly, we can rephrase what we are understanding (“what I hear you saying is…”) rather than using the phrase, “I understand.” 

I often see couples skip the step of understanding their partner and jump to finding a solution or critiquing. I like to encourage my couples clients to take the time to slow a conversation down and work to understand what their partner thinks, feels, believes, values, etc.. In doing this, we show our partner that they’re important to us – We show them that they’re worth our time, and isn’t that the most powerful form of respect and love?

[Here's more on: Communication that Connects]

4. Express Gratitude Towards Your Partner

A powerful tool that is on the tip of your tongue is gratitude. By expressing gratitude you are acknowledging that the efforts your partner puts into the relationship has a positive impact on you and that you notice them. Expressing gratitude shows that you value their efforts. 

Instead of “Happy to see you finally took the trash out” try, “I appreciate you taking the trash out.” It doesn’t have to be a grand expression, it can be as simple as, “I appreciate you…” When your partner feels appreciated, they feel seen. Is gratitude the fix all for marital strife? Absolutely not, but it does make a lasting impression and provides encouragement through the growth process. 

5. Show Your Partner Love that is Meaningful to Them

Be intentional about how you show your partner love. When your efforts match what your partner perceives as love it will be more meaningful to them. This often requires practice because how your partner accepts love may not be what comes most naturally to you. We naturally like to give love the same way that we like to receive love, but we all receive love differently. If you are unsure of how your partner feels most loved, ask them. 

Intentionally loving your partner shows them that they matter to you, that you’re willing to think about and act in ways that are most meaningful to them. It shows that you’re willing to put in extra effort that they find meaningful.

6. Use Care and Consideration When Providing Feedback

Every relationship requires feedback from time to time. A romantic partnership though requires a level of care and consideration when providing feedback. I like to remind couples that this is the most precious relationship that they have, and it should encourage vulnerability and openness. However, when feedback is expressed in a negative, angry, or disrespectful way – that vulnerable and open relationship reacts by throwing up walls and reflecting that negative, angry, and disrespectful behavior back. This cycle can be damaging to the relationship beyond repair if not kept in check.

By expressing feedback in a caring and considerate way you’re showing that you are aware of the impact you have on your partner and your relationship and that this impact matters to you. 

When you are kind and considerate in the way you provide feedback to your partner, you are showing that you believe you are equals. When we don’t use care and consideration we create an unhealthy power dynamic in which we send the message that we believe we’re superior to our partner. Whether or not you actually believe you are, that precedent can then greatly impact your connection down the road. 

7. Tell Your Partner That You Love Them and Why

Not only is it important to tell your partner how you feel about them and your relationship, but also it’s helpful to tell them why. I often hear couples say, “Well, it goes without saying.” More often than not, a partner’s response to that statement is something along the lines of, “I had no idea!” If you ever feel that something positive about your partner goes without saying, say it anyway – they would love to hear it (as I’m sure you would too!). 

As we do these seven things we will begin to not only show more respect but also have the ability to deepen the level of love we actually feel towards our partner. Respect is something we can always work towards deepening to enhance our relationship. As we show more respect we will have happier and more stable relationships.

Warmly, 

Hunter Tolman

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn “rough-patches” into “growth moments” can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

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