TWAP072: 3 Communication Skills That Will Make You A Better Partner

communication skills

Communication skills are vital to a healthy and satisfying relationship.

Here’s why according to research quotes at Every Day Life

Communication researcher Jonathan Pettigrew reported in a study published in 2009 in the journal “Marriage and Family Review” that couples who sent each other text messages experienced increased feelings of connecteness.

Researchers unanimously agree that couples who communicate effectively consistently report greater marital satisfaction, and satisfied couples who communicate effectively are healthier and so live longer.

On the other hand, couples caught in cycles of poor communication feel dissatisfied.  This dissatisfaction can take a toll on their relationship and overall health over time

As Malini Bhatia, founder and CEO of marriage.com writes,

Every couple and every person has problems. Facebook is not reality. People only post their best moments there, and we can get the false impression that everyone else is problem free and happy, and we are the only struggling ones.

BUT problems don’t solve themselves. You’ll have to make an effort to develop communication skills to help your marriage.

Aspergians may feel challenged by communicating in marriage.

Listen to  Will Anderson, an AS gentleman married for 10 years had to say about difficulties faced in marriage –

Asperger or on a wider scale ASD is a social development impairment. Dating, marriage and other relationships are social experiences, so depending on the individual’s level of development there are going to be various difficulties that arise with dating and marriage. Common issues are going to be communication and sensory issues. Talk and touch are a big part of bonding and without them it will be more difficult in dating and marriage.   Good news is that these things can be improved upon and overcome through various methods and practice.

3 Communication Skills You Can Practice To Enhance Your Marriage/Relationship 

1. Translating Nonverbal Communication

The first communication skill is for the non-Autism/Aspergers partner. 

Dr. Cindy Ariel, PhD, author of Loving Someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, explains that nonverbal langage is difficult for many Aspergians.

She told the story of calling an Aspergers man on his cell phone. He was eating breakfast in a restaurant with his partner. Even though they having dinner together, he insisted this was a good time to talk As they were talking, Dr. Ariel heard a lot of coughing in the background. She asked, “Is your partner coughing?”

He said, “Yes, she is. She’s choking, which happens a lot when she drinks too quickly, but she chooses to gulp her oranje juice anyway.”

Dr. Ariel was concerned for the partner, and kept asking this gentleman if his partner was okay. (He did not ask her).

Fortunately, the partner stopped choking. Dr. Ariel, a non AS, focused on being concerned about the partner’s choking.

The Aspergian had experienced his partner’s choking, and believed everything would work itself out and so he did not need to focus it.

As for the partner, Dr. Ariel did not know what the partner thought, but she wrote, “If she wants him to do anything differently during future choking episodes, she will have to spell it out clearly for him.”

Here’s an analogy.

Think about being the pilot of a plane flying at night, trying to land the plan on a runway that has no lights.

That’s what it can be like a lot of the time for your Aspergian partner trying to understand your non-verbal language.

It’s a lot easier to land the plane when there’s a traffic controller on the ground with bright flare lights, lighting the way to a safe landing.

In the same way, as the non-AS spouse, you can “light the way” by translating your nonverbal communication for your partner.

So here’s Dr. Ariel’s recommendation for you as a non-AS partner.

Translating Nonverbal Communication.

In this exercise, you translate your nonverbal communication so that your partner can undestand you.

For example, check out the table below

When I It Means I am
roll my eyes annoyed or bored
bang on the table or say mean things frustrated or angry
sit close to you on the sofa hoping you will stay next to me

1. Observe yourself and your partner. Write down the different things you try to say nonverbally and how you try to say them.
2. Translate your nonverbal language into words to tell your partner.
3. Make a chart of your nonverbal expressions and what they mean. This chart will help your AS partner better interpret your facial expressions.

It can help even more if you add a picture column that shows what you look like when you engage in these various nonverbal behaviors.

Remember this will take time, and it’s a process. Ideally, you will have patience and verbalize as much as possible until your partner becomes more and more familiar.

2. Listen, Validate, and Compliment

The second communication skill is for the AS partner.

This communication skill comes from Eva Mendes’ book, Marriage and Lasting Relationships with Aspergers Syndrome

General Guidelines:

a) Don’t say too much
b) Do speak up with no more than three to five sentences for each of these following points.

Listen

Listen to your partner and paraphrase what you think she said. It shows her that you are listening to her and that you care.

“I heard you say that you had a frustrating day at work. You said that you’ve been doing the work of two accountants for almost six months. Is that right?”

Validate

Validate your partner.

Validate, according to Dictionary.com, means “demonstrate or support the truth or value of something [or someone]”

So what you can say is something like,

“That sounds like an awful lot of extra work. That must be challenging.”

Compliment

Compliment your partner.  For example, you can say,

“It sounds like you are doing all you can to do the work of two people. You’re such a hard worker.”

It’s okay for the non AS partner to coach his or her AS partner on what s/he wants him to say.

If you’re the AS partner, don’t be offended by the coaching.

You may need your partner to teach you how to talk to her in a way that she’ll feel affirmed and heard.

3. The Simple Listen and Repeat

This communication skills is for both partners, whether AS or not.

Dr. Jennifer Ripley and Dr. Everett Worthington share this technique in their book, Couple Therapy.

It’s the most basic skill that you can learn and then build upon.

First, choose a topic that’s not too “hot”. In other words, don’t choose something that you usually fight about.

Try picking a topic about a stressor that is outside of your marriage, such as stress at work.

Speaker.

Choose one of you to be the speaker.
Talk about something that you want to share with your partner.
Set a timer for one or two minutes so you don’t go too long.

Here are some reminders/rules for the speaker. You may want to print these on a large piece of card stock to remind yourself of these rules

These are examples, you may come up with your own or add to these rules.

-Speak the truth in love.
-Whatever you say should be both true and loving.
-Do not criticize your partner, do not refuse to talk, do not blame, and do not put your partner down or yell at him or her.

Listener.

Here are some reminders/rules for the listener.

You may want to print these on a large piece of card stock to remind yourself of these rules

-Be slow to speak and quick to listen
-Don’t interrupt
-Don’t show non-verbal negativity (like scowling, rolling your eyes or shaking your head)
-Try to understand your partner’s way of seeing things.

Your job, as the listener, is to simply repeat back to the speaker what he just told you.

After a round of being the speaker, switch roles and be the listener.

Resources Mentioned 

Loving Someone With Aspergers Syndrome, by Dr. Cindy Ariel

Marriage and Lasting Relationships with Aspergers Syndrome, by Eva Mendes

Couple Therapy, by Dr. Jennifer Ripley and Dr. Everett Worthington.

TABLETOPICS Couples: Questions To Start Great Conversations

Spouse Spice – Daily Wholesome Love Reminders

 

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 I'm Steve Borgman.  I'm a licensed clinical professional counselor and blogger committed to bringing you hope, understanding, and solutions that you can apply to your life immediately.

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