By Danny Greeves, coach and author of Six Steps to Self Confidence
A meaningful relationship provides a place where you are both supported and challenged, where you can be heard, validated and have a safe space to share the workings of your heart and mind. It can provide a sanctuary from outside influences and help you stay grounded and centred. But there seems to be an ongoing challenge that threatens this harmonious connection – it’s called life.
Life is busy. Life is challenging. Life is fast. With so many balls to juggle, trying to keep them all up in the air can cause communication in a relationship to suffer. Problems at work, financial stresses, family dramas, and a whole host of other things can cause relationship intimacy to be sacrificed in the name of keeping things afloat. This often means trivial issues take centre stage and that deep connection can get lost.
Then we enter the world of feelings – emotions aren’t always easy to talk about. Everyone has a different upbringing, where we all learned different rules about how to talk about our thoughts and feelings. We learned different strategies; some push their feelings down and carry on regardless, whereas for others being open and honest about their feelings is normal. Both men and women alike can struggle to share what’s really going on, and it’s the relationship that suffers. But the good news is that it doesn’t need to be this way.
Adopting this five step process for just a few minutes a day creates a safe, structured way to connect with each other on a daily basis. For those that find emotions difficult to talk about, having a simple process creates boundaries where everyone knows how it’s going to work, removing the fear of getting lost in all those uncomfortable feelings. For those who find sharing their feelings easier, it creates a routine where both parties can feel heard and validated.
Step 1 – Appreciations
Begin by sharing something that you have appreciated in the last 24 hours. Something you can be thankful for, something you would like to acknowledge and share. There are no rules about what you appreciate, and nor does it have to be grandiose or fantastical. Sometimes sharing an appreciation for a warm cup of tea, a moment where someone held a door for you, or a compliment you received can be enough to make a difference in your day. The beauty of this exercise is that it begins to train your mind to think about things you are grateful for. The more you do this, the more you’ll find there are many things to be grateful for.
After sharing something about your day, share something you appreciate about your partner. This could be something they’ve done, something you admire about them, or even an appreciation about their physical appearance. The idea is to simply share.
Step 2 – New information
Take a moment to reflect on the last 24 hours, and share a new piece of information you have learned. It could be educational, humorous, or even some news that you came across that day. The idea here is to share something that you found meaningful, and something that your partner would not know. The hidden skill in this exercise is that it includes a balance between sharing information that you value, and sharing information that you think your partner will find interesting. This creates connection and brings you closer.
Step 3 – Worry or concern
This is your chance to share something that has been on your mind. It’s a moment where you can get something off your chest and out into the open. All too often we keep our worries private which leads to isolation and stress. Giving yourself permission to share a concern helps you both keep in the loop about what each other is experiencing. There is to be no judgement about the concern, the role of the listener is just to provide an empathetic ear. This helps foster an atmosphere of support and safety.
Step 4 – Possible solutions
This is where you take the worry and concern from step 3 and discuss different ways to overcome it. The purpose here is to move you into solution-based thinking and it encourages you to expand your options and make plans to deal with the challenges you are facing. This step can be collaborative too. You can turn this into a discussion where you are working on a problem together. Overcoming shared problems creates a strong bond and higher levels of fulfilment.
Step 5 – Hopes and dreams
To complete the exercise you have the opportunity to share a hope or a dream about the future. This could be as simple as hoping to have a relaxing evening and a good night’s sleep, or it could be as big as sharing an insight about your family or career dream for 20 years’ time. When completed on a regular basis these hopes and dreams will oscillate between the big and the small and you’ll find a balance that works for you.
Investing as little as five minutes a day going through this process together allows you to put the outside world on pause, as you reconnect with one another and build a foundation of strong, meaningful communication.