During your marriage, you had a unique verbal shorthand with your former spouse: words, tones, and inflections that kept things on an even keel. Well, it kept things from erupting into knock-down/drag-out fights — for a while, anyway.
If you’re getting into a new relationship, you’ve got to be doubly careful not to step on a “communication landmine.” One such relationship-killer is assuming that your new partner has the same issues as your former spouse. Another is believing that he or she will respond in the same manner to those old verbal cues, because they won’t. Why? Your new partner doesn’t speak that language — and he or she shouldn’t be required to learn it, either. In fact, it’s very important that you establish your own mutually-exclusive language, and the sooner, the better.
Future relationships call for new and improved communication skills. Granted, your next partner may not have the same hang-ups as your ex, but he or she will have particular fears and issues of his/her own. In this time of mutual discovery, you want to do what you can to let your partner know that you’re very much interested in knowing his/her dreams and desires, and that you’re most certainly sensitive to his/her concerns. By doing so, you give the best message you can: that you’re willing to relearn the language of love.
It won’t be easy, and you’ll make some mistakes along the way. To get you started, remember these five tips:
Tip #1: Keep away from accusatory terms. “You don’t care about me.” “You don’t understand.” “I can’t believe you think it’s okay to talk to me like that.” When our own doubts and fears arise, we sometimes tend to “lash out” with blame. If you put your partner on the defensive, he/she may also fight back with words that hurt, so stay away from accusations.
Tip #2: Give your partner’s suggestion the benefit of the doubt. Before immediately shooting down your partner’s suggestions, say something that indicates you’ll at least give his/her concern some consideration. You can do this by saying: “That sounds interesting. Give me some time to think about it.” Or, “I understand where you’re coming from. I’d like to think it through.”
Tip #3. Sound off to show interest and approval. Sometimes, words aren’t necessary at all, but a thoughtful “hmmmmm” or “oh” or “mmmmm” gives the message that you’re listening and considering what your partner has to say.
Tip #4. Don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong. The best way to say, “I love and respect you” is by saying, “Hey — I was wrong, and you were right,” or “I’m sorry.”
Tip #5. Find a positive way to move your partner toward a different point of view. A negative message leaves no room for compromise and certainly begs to be defended. Instead, try using a soft, positive statement to leave the door open while communicating. For instance: “Great, that’s one consideration. Here’s another…” or “I haven’t really thought about this, but at this moment, I feel like…”