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It is astounding how frequently poor communication is the cause of relationship problems. This is something I have encountered often as a Divorce Coach. I have found that unhappy couples are often couples who don’t talk, or if they do talk they don’t really listen to each other.

How can your partner know that you are unhappy if you don’t tell them? How can they stop doing something that annoys you if they don’t know that it annoys you?

How often do you sit down and really talk? By talk I mean really listen to what your partner is saying with your complete attention on them. All couples should make time to talk regularly with no distractions. How much do you know about what your partner does all day?

Be interested; understand what their life is like when they are away from you. Let them have a good moan about their daily problems, people need to get this stuff off their chests and who else should they turn to. In return they should listen to your bugbears. Nip relationship problems in the bud by discussing things that are on your mind at an early stage. How is she to know that it drives you mad when she uses your razor? How is he to know that you find it really annoying that he doesn’t rinse the washbasin out after shaving? Little things like this can build up until you explode.

It is not just the little things that people don’t discuss. I was astonished when John* told me that the reason for the breakdown of his marriage was that his wife did not want children. This was not something new, she had never wanted children but he had assumed that she would. They had not discussed it before getting married and so it came as a surprise when, 3 years after they got married, he asked when they would start a family and she said that she did not want children. You would think that this was a fairly basic thing to have discussed before getting married but amazingly people neglect to discuss such life-changing things before settling down.

When Sue* and Peter* got married, Sue assumed that because Peter had been living in England for ten years he was happy here but two years into their marriage he announced that he wanted to return to his native South Africa and she had to choose between him and her family.

Denise* told her husband that he didn’t pay her enough attention so he started to lavish attention on her – phoning her at least once a day and making a point of asking about her day when he got home from work. But this was not what she had wanted, in fact his phone calls were an interruption to her busy schedule and he was talking to her while she was trying to watch her favourite soap. What she had actually wanted an indication that he still found her attractive but she hadn’t communicated this to her husband. Eventually Denise* told her husband this and found that actually he was relieved. The phone calls had also been an interruption to his day and he was too tired to really talk when he got home from work. They agreed to switch the TV off half an hour early at least three times a week and take the time to talk properly and to set aside ‘quality’ time every weekend to do something together. This has made her feel far more valued and attractive and their relationship has found a new lease of life.

The key to a continuing good relationship is good communication. Top tips for a lasting relationship:

  • Make sure you schedule time to talk regularly, switch the TV off and the answer phone on.Make sure you are not interrupted.

  • Make a point of eating together, preferably sitting at the table and having a conversation.

  • Never bear a grudge – talk about what is bugging you.

  • Make sure that your partner has understood what you are trying to say. Don’t get annoyed if they don’t appear to have ‘got it’. Remember that ‘the meaning of your communication is the response you get’.

  • Arrange ‘dates’ once a month. Go out for dinner or a walk in the country.

  • Be friends. The strongest relationships are those where the couple are friends as well as lovers.

  • Remember what attracted you to your partner in the first place and remind them what it was.

  • When your partner does something that you like – tell them.

  • When your partner does something that you don’t like – tell them.

*Not real names

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