Creating positive change in relationship
A) Communicate Your Needs Clearly and Assertively
1. Identify the Problem (or an Unmet Need/Expectation)
“When _______ happens (name the situation/your spouse’s behavior that is connected to a negative emotion in you), I feel _______ (name your emotional response).”
Example: “When you don’t help me with any of the household chores (situation), I feel angry (emotion).”
2. Explain How That Problem Makes You Feel
“When I feel _________ (emotion), I tend to __________ (identify the behavior that follows your emotion).”
Example: “When I feel angry, I tend to pick fights with you.”
3. Try To Identify an Underlying Hurtful Feeling and Thought
“When I express ______ (a stronger feeling), I am also feeling ______ (your hurt feeling) because I think _______ (your associated thought).”
Example: “When I express my anger, I am also feeling disappointed because I think you don’t seem to care about me.”
4. State Your Need
“What I would appreciate is ______ (state what you want to see).”
Example: “What I would appreciate is your helping hand.”
5. State a Clear Request or Invite Your Spouse to Problem-solve Together
“Can you _______ (state a request)?” Or, “What do you think you can do to ________ (meet my need/expectation)?
Example: “Can you try helping me out once in a while?” Or, “What do you think you can do to help me out?”
B) Use the Imago Dialogue To Improve Understanding and Connection
The Imago Dialogue is a great tool for turning negative communicative patterns into positive ones for couples. It ensures that partners are heard and feel understood and validated.
Here is a quick guide to the steps:
- Before the dialogue, make an appointment: One partner, Sender, makes a request to the other partner, the Receiver, for a dialogue appointment. Receiver makes a sincere effort to grant that appointment within 24 hours.
- Sender prepares for the appointment by thinking about what frustrates him/her. Identify his/her feeling as a reaction to the Receiver’s behavior. Use statements such as “I feel _____ when you do ______.”
- Receiver repeats Sender’s messages. “What I am hearing you say is that ______.”
- Sender’s responsibility is to provide feedback as to whether Receiver has accurately grasped Sender’s message. “Yes, that’s what I said.” Or “No, what I mean is ______.” Repeat until Receiver has gotten it right.
- After Receiver has gotten the message down correctly, Receiver adds “Is there more about that?”
***It is not unusual for partners to get upset during this process. When you notice negative emotions rising up in you, take a deep breath and make a conscious effort to stay with the structure of the process. Remind yourself the goal of going through this is to turn over a new leaf for your relationship.***
- After Receiver has gotten down all of Sender’s messages, provide a summary of the messages. Stay with the gist and avoid interpretation.
- After Sender confirms that Receiver has provided an accurate summary, Receiver can move on to showing understanding. “What you are saying makes sense to me because ____________.”
- When partners feel heard and understood, they can then move towards tackling problems together more easily.
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