By now you’ve probably seen Jason Headley’s parody on marital communication called, “It’s not about the nail.” [If not, let’s catch you up to speed…]
As comical as the sketch is, let’s be honest… there’s a lot of truth to it!
As a therapist who works with couples struggling to communicate, here are three recommendations for each partner in the relationship. For the speaker:
Request a specific time to talk
There’s nothing like trying to have a conversation when one or both parties are distracted by work, their phone, or a child. Instead, make important conversations a priority by intentionally setting aside time.
“Honey, do you have a minute later to talk about _____ after dinner? “
Explicitly ask for what you need
Sometimes part of the problem is that we don’t know what we need. Stating this at the beginning of a conversation, or providing our partner with suggestions sets them up to succeed at meeting our needs in the conversation. “Sweetheart, I’m really struggling with _____. Would you mind just listening for a minute.”
Say what you mean, and mean what you say
Your partner is not a mind-reader. “But wait. If he/she really loves me, shouldn’t they just know to ______?” Maybe, but if they aren’t getting it by now and it’s creating a problem for you, it’s in your best interest to bring it up.For the listener:
Be mindful of your body language. Do your best to help your partner know and feel that you are engaged in the conversation. As you listen, make sure your focus is on understanding your partners message, and not your response or rebuttal.
Reflect back what you heard
Often, the process of just listening to your partner’s message/issue can lead to a resolution quicker than providing a solution. Reflecting back their message not only helps make sure you understand it correctly, but it also helps them know you get it, and feel understood.
“So if I understand you correctly, you feel ______. Did I get that right?”
Empathize & Validate
This is crucial. The most effective communicators are able to empathize and validate their partner’s perspective, even when they disagree. Showing empathy and validating emotions is one of the quickest ways to diffuse an emotionally charged conversation.
“You know, I hate feeling criticized and attacked too. So when you tell me that that is how you feel, I can totally understand why you’re so upset.”In conclusion, it may or may not really be “about the nail,” but when it comes to relationships, there’s no question that improving your communication is the right choice, every time.
Anxiety actually works to suppress the spinal reflex that triggers arousal. So, if you want to have a hard time maintaining an erection or lubricating, get really worked up and anxious.
2) Don’t communicate with your partner about what you like sexually
If you want sex to be unpleasurable, do not tell your partner what kinds of touch you like and where. Keep those secrets locked in a vault and keep your partner guessing. Sex will become an experience you need to white-knuckle.
3) Obsess about the physical flaws you think you have.
A good way to make sex horrible is to get into your head, and out of your body. If you overthink how you look, it will go bad. Some research indicates that sex is more pleasurable when you view your own body as sexy. So whatever you do, don’t focus on your physical strengths.
4) Obsess about the physical flaws you think your partner has.
Make sure you focus on the parts of your partner’s body you wish were different. If you really want to go for the gold, consume a lot of media and pornography that has unreasonable expectations about body types of a sex partner that reflect a minute percentage of the population.
5) Say YES when you really mean NO
One of the best ways to make sex suck is to make it confusing. Have horrible boundaries and say yes when you really mean no, then you can make sure you are your partner are never on the same page.
6) Never or always initiate sex.
An important part of good sex is for both partners to feel wanted. In order to make it awful, make sure the patterns around initiation get super lopsided. You can make sure to increase feelings of insecurity and resentment.
7) Don’t brush your teeth.
You may not know, but smell, memory, and emotion are closely connected in the brain. Since sex is such an emotional experience and your partner is cued into their senses, you could try to make them feel icky by smelling Disgust is the exact feeling you want your partner to have during sex.
8) Have sex in an environment where your children and pets can interrupt at any moment.
If you want to make sex awful, certainly don’t focus on making it great. Don’t focus at all for that matter. Put yourself in a really distracting environment so you have a hard time focusing on the sensations and emotions you feel. Environments with many interruptions are ideal.
9) Try to read your partner’s mind during sex.
What ever you do, don’t ask your partner how they actually think and feel about your sex together. Make as many assumptions as you possibly can. This way, you can assure you have no idea how they experience you during sex, which means you will likely be missing the mark when it comes to meeting their sexual desires.
10) Don’t take care of your health
Try and be as unhealthy as possible. You don’t want to be in good physical shape in order to make a physical encounter like sex awful. You need to be in the worst shape possible. Make it really hard to maneuver and keep your stamina. An added bonus is that increased weight gain jeopardizes one’s ability to maintain an erection. In fact, most erectile dysfunction is due to weight gain limiting circulation, not mature age.
Based on both clinical wisdom from working with women and from her own experiences, Dr. de Azevedo Hanks invites women to embark on a journey to create a stronger sense of clarity, confidence, connection, and compassion by increasing their assertiveness in the areas of their lives that matter most. This book is useful to any woman who desires to increase her assertiveness and is a good tool for clinicians to use when addressing issues of connection, gender, attachment, and assertiveness. This wonderful guide is highly recommended for anyone who wants to be more assertive.
Reviewed by Beth Russell, Ph.D., LCSW, Clinical Associate Professor of Social Work, The College at Brockport for New Social Worker
Watch for my advice on getting better at saying “no” in Jan. 2017 Real Simple Magazine cover story!
This month’s Real Simple magazine cover story is about the power of saying NO. I chatted with article writer Jennifer King Lindley and shared tips for setting healthy boundaries.
We are socialized to feel responsible for the feelings and well-being of those around us,” says Julie de Azevedo Hanks, Ph.D. a licensed clinical social worker in Salt Lake City and author of The Assertiveness Guide for Women.
How to say no to a friend who constantly sends emails and invitations for product lines she sells from home?
Be supportive but direct. “I’m so glad you’ve found a passion you can use your great skills in!” suggests Hanks. “But I’m just not interested in buying any candles right now. Humor can help, maybe, “I have enough candles for the rest of my life even if the power was out forever.” End it there or, if you’re close, offer to support her in a way that doesn’t involve your credit card.
My sister is going through a divorce and asked to move in with us until she can get back on her feet. My own marriage is strained, and having her in the house would ratchet up the pressure even more.
Think of your priorities as concentric circles. In the center is you, then your spouse and kids, then your extended family, then friends, then acquaintances,” says Hanks. “Reframe how you think about the decision. You are saying no to save your marriage, not because you are a bad sister.”
There are many other great tips for saying no in the New Year. Pick up your copy at the grocery store, book store, or magazine rack.
Are there ways to approach difficult conversations that will make it more likely that we’ll be heard? Absolutely. I talked with Scabs, host of Love Rice podcast about communication strategies and tips form my newest book The Assertiveness Guide for Women. We share some personal stories about difficult conversations we’ve had recently. In this interview I come off more like a chatty girlfriend than a “professional.” It feels like listening in on two girlfriends talking.
If you’ve decided it’s time to do your own immediate family traditions for the holidays, how do you break it to your extended family that you won’t be joining them this year? I talk with Lindsay Aerts from KSL Radio’s The Mom Show about how to start the conversation and manage difficult feelings that might arise.
struggling to communicate authentically and assertively with loved ones about changes in your faith or religious participation you might enjoy this new Debrief Society podcast interview. Becca and I discuss my new book The Assertiveness Guide for Women and how questioning your faith or leaving the religious tradition of your family of origin can indicate movement toward a higher level differentiation of self (the ability to be an individual while staying connected to loved ones). We also cover cultural barriers to assertive communication (for LDS women in particular), how to deal with the silent treatment once you’ve talked to family members about your faith transition, how to “hold up the lantern” and invite others into the light of compassion and understanding.