Tag Archives: couples

Relationship Skills Round-Up, part 5: Expressing Needs


Many relationship conflicts arise because one or both of you is not getting something that you need. You can start feeling like opponents on opposite sides of an issue or like competitors for scarce resources. Here are some steps to start thinking like allies again, and being working things out.

  1. Identify what you need. Sometimes you need to figure it out yourself before you can tell your partner. Hint: if you often find yourself saying “You never do X” or “You always do Y” or “I never get to do Z,” there’s a hint in there somewhere.
  2. Communicate that need to your partner. Be clear, and specific. Use the “I” word – “I need this”, not the “You” word – “Here’s what you need to do.” Help them understand how you feel about this emotionally. “It makes me sad when…” “I feel overwhelmed when…”
  3. Ask for help meeting that need.
  4. Listen to your partner’s opinions and concerns. Avoid interrupting, criticizing, defensiveness, and contempt. (Expressed out loud or with body language.) Paraphrase – repeat back what your partner has said, and make sure you heard him/her right.
  5. Ask your partner what s/he needs and work together to get that need met.

Next time you find yourself in conflict, try these ideas. Even better, try working preventatively. When you’re not in the heat of the moment, explore one areas of conflict, and see what you learn together.

I have a one-page handout with more details on this conflict resolution skill. Also check out the Non-Violent Communication method by Rosenberg, one of the key inspirations for this technique.

To see all my posts on relationship skills, click here.

Relationship Skills Round-Up, part 4: Make Couple Time a Priority


After you have children, it becomes much more challenging to find couple time, but having that one-on-one connection time is so essential to keeping the love alive in a relationship. Without it, you may find that you and your partner end up in a place where you’re great housemates, co-parents, business partners, and so on, but no longer lovers. (In the physical way or the emotional way.)

Ideally, you will find a way to have a regular date night with your partner. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just a chance to be together, really listen to each other, really see the other person, and remember why you chose to spend your lives together. Celebrate being a couple!  (Here are more thoughts for why that’s important: www.families.com/blog/making-time-for-your-marriage-couple-time)

But beyond date night, think about ways that even a few minutes a day can make a big difference. In an article by Carolyn Pirak (www.parentmap.com/article/make-time-for-your-partner) she recommends making a commitment to 40 minutes a day to improve your relationship: When you separate each morning, spend at least two minutes saying goodbye. When you reunite, spend 20 minutes talking about your days. Take five minutes a day to express appreciation to each other. Devote at least 8 minutes a day to showing affection. Give at least five minutes a day to sharing dreams and planning ahead.

Make a plan for special time together this week. And each day, grab some sweet little moments together.

Here’s some solutions to some couple time challenges:

No time? Here’s some “8 minute date ideas”: https://bellevuetoddlers.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/timetogether.pdf

Can’t find a babysitter? Tips for a date night at home: www.romantic-tips.com/datenight.shtml  and http://familymatters.net/blog/2011/04/04/date-night-for-parents-kids/

Can’t afford a babysitter and an expensive date? Cheap date ideas: http://workingmoms.about.com/od/parenting/a/Cheapdate.htm and http://parentingfamilymoney.com/393/inexpensive-cheap-date-night-ideas-for-parents/

Please share comments on how  you make date nights work as a parent!

To see all my posts on relationship skills, click here.

photo credit: Rinoninha via photopin cc


Relationship Skills Round-Up, part 3: Love Languages


In Chapman’s Five Love Languages, he describes how different individuals have different “languages” they use to express love, and that we “hear” love best when it’s spoken in our language. Which one of these sounds most like how your partner hears love from you?

  • Physical Touch: Feels most loved when you touch him/her: stroke her hair, hold hands, massage, rub her feet, hugging, kissing, sex. Feels most rejected when touch is missing (or if touch is used in anger).
  • Words of Affirmation: Encouragement and praise are vital. Being acknowledged for work, appreciated for who s/he is, validated for concerns, cheered on for efforts. May be very sensitive to criticism.
  • Acts of Service: Wants active support with household tasks, like laundry, washing dishes, running errands, making a to-do list together and taking on jobs. Feels unsupported when you don’t pitch in.
  • Gifts: Loves any special little thing done just for him/her. Little notes left around the house, something special from the grocery store, pictures of the baby texted during the day. Will be especially upset if you forget a birthday, anniversary or other gift-giving occasion.
  • Quality Time: Wants your Presence: time together, spent talking and connecting, doing activities together. Feels unsupported if you’re off buying gifts or doing tasks instead of spending time with him/her.

Discuss this with your partner. Are you right about what his/her language is? What does s/he think is your language? Sometimes couples discover that if one is feeling unloved, it’s not that their partner wasn’t trying to communicate love, it’s just that s/he was shouting a lot in the wrong language.

(Note: I also wrote a 5 question love languages quiz you can take. Or you can take Chapman’s 30 question quiz here)

Read what other bloggers say about Love Languages:

One person’s experience with how the love languages work in reality on INFP blog

Applying love languages to relationship with your child on GoodTherapy.org

To see all my posts on relationship skills, click here.

Photo Credits:



Relationship Skills Round-Up, part 2: Appreciation


Life (especially life as a parent) can often leave us feeling undervalued or unappreciated. And when we’re feeling worn out, it may be hard for us to remember what we’re grateful for – what we appreciate about our life and the people we share it with.This drains our energy.  One of the best ways to re-fill our tanks is by creating a “culture of appreciation”.

  • Always thank your partner for the things s/he has done. Even if they’re part of his/her “job.” It’s still nice to know that they are noticed and appreciated.
  • When asking your partner to do something, make it a real question (i.e. something they could say no to), not an order disguised as a question. (And say please!) Then thank them if they say yes.
  • Five minute writing. Each of you takes a piece of paper and a pen. Spend five full minutes listing everything you love about your partner. Pour out all the appreciation you haven’t had time to share. Give your list to your partner to have and to hold.
  • Exchanging appreciations: Sit facing each other. One person begins with “Something I appreciate about you is…” The other partner listens to that, lets it sink in, says thank you, and then shares something that they appreciate about the other.
  • Post-its: leave notes around the house, listing what you love about each other or life in general.
  • Write a thank you note, letting him/her know why you’re glad s/he is a part of your life.

Some ideas inspired by Hendricks’ Conscious Loving and Louden’s Couples’ Comfort Book)

Get more appreciation ideas from my handout on appreciation here

To see all my posts on relationship skills, click here.


Read more about appreciation on other blogs:

The Effects of Gratitude in Relationships on Mindfulness Muse: “Begin to actively pay attention to and notice the positive things that your partner does.  Many of us have a natural tendency to only [notice] signs that our partners have done something wrong.  It is much more beneficial… to “catch your partner doing something positive.””

Creating a Culture of Appreciation on the Gottman Institute’s blog: “Building a culture of appreciation, fondness, and admiration involves using the things you know about your partner to show that you care and want them to be happy. Positive thoughts invoke positive feelings, and the goal is to turn both into positive actions that help to heal and bring companionship back in your relationship.”

The power of appreciation on Psychology Today: “My friend told me that she and her spouse were doing wonderfully. She attributed [this] to the consistent appreciation that she and her partner express to one another. She told me that they often say “thank you” to each other for daily tasks—laughing while revealing that her husband had recently thanked her for putting a frozen pizza in the oven.”

photo credit: Ilya Eric Lee via photopin cc