With Valentine’s Day a heartbeat away, candy and flowers are no match for good communication with your mate. When done right, it improves and restores family life and intimate relationships, says licensed clinical social worker Renee Rokero.
Rokero teaches “assertive communication” — a way to be open and honest, and also respectful. “This sounds like a no-brainer, but we either communicate passive aggressively or aggressively.
“Sometimes we associate our love partner with discomfort or stress and it gets into a cycle of not talking about uncomfortable things or emotional things because it causes us stress,” she says. “When there are challenges, many of us don’t know how to communicate or can’t even identify the emotion, so all we’re communicating to the other person is frustration.”
To break that pattern, assertive communication suggests mirroring, validating and providing empathy. That creates a place safe from anger or upset, so partners can talk productively about even difficult subjects, Rokero says.
“It doesn’t mean we have to agree. But to have another human being understand our opinions, ideas or emotions, that leaves us feeling very good.”
This often does not come naturally but must be learned. “If you get angry, take a timeout,” says Rokero. “It requires discipline to stop yourself when you feel the negative emotions.”
The next step is taking time to communicate so your marriage stays healthy, despite life’s stress. “When couples start to take time for each other, some of the responses I hear are, ‘Wow, I didn’t know my husband felt that,’ or ‘I didn’t know my wife needed that,’ or ‘I didn’t know she liked that or disliked that.’ ” says Rokero. “… You’re rediscovering each other.”