Ask Amy: Tips to stop fighting and start communicating

May 31, 2014 

Dear Amy: My boyfriend and I seem to fight every time we are together (daily). We have boiled it down to the fact that we are both insecure and do not yet fully trust each other. On top of that, it seems that we cannot communicate and hear each other well.

Each of our arguments ends in a relatively loving and hopeful way, but the fights continue.

I know that I want to be with him, but I don't know how to properly communicate. We have even tried writing to each other.

What are good ways to communicate feelings during moments of high stress or tension?

— Dukes up

Dear Dukes: Partner counseling would help both of you to create different communication patterns, but you two have some core problems — your mutual insecurity and combativeness.

There are some very commonplace tools to help people communicate more effectively.

Don't communicate during a time of very high stress. Wait until your heart rate goes down.

Be an active listener. This means that you concentrate on what is being said instead of forming your comeback while your partner is speaking. Wait until the other finishes talking — and then breathe before you speak so you can formulate your response. If your partner interrupts, stop speaking and wait.

Mediators sometimes use an object to assist in this regard. The person must be holding the object in order to speak. For instance, pass a salt shaker back and forth — the person holding it may speak. When the person is done, he "passes the salt" (hint: no sharp objects, please).

Concentrate on using neutral language. Repeat your partner's main point before rebutting: "I hear you saying that this bothers you." Speak only to your own feelings, not your partner's actions: "I feel disrespected when I have to wait a long time for you" instead of, "You're always late."

Accept responsibility for your own negative actions and ask for forgiveness: "You're right. I was late and I'm sorry. Can you forgive me?"

You both should read, "Communication Miracles for Couples: Easy and Effective Tools to Create More Love and Less Conflict" by Jonathan Robinson (2009, Conari Press).

You can contact Amy Dickinson via email at askamy@tribune.com, follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.

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