Make Improving Your Relationship Your New Year's Resolution

Posted On: Friday, January 2, 2015

It's January 1st again ... What will your New Year's Resolutions be this year? How about tuning up your marriage or relationship? Becoming a more empathetic and compassionate listener can do wonders in making you feel closer and more emotionally attuned.

In a relationship, any bid for attention, request for some action or the desire to be supported is a request for closeness and connection. With each bid, your response to your partner either signals that you are there, that you are emotionally connected, and that you care; or that you are not there, not emotionally connected and that you don't care. When you are on the receiving end of any conversation, your job is to listen, hear and be in the moment, at exactly the place where your partner is. It's not about right or wrong -- it's about making a safe, secure connection.

A surefire way to turn a discussion into an argument is to attempt to defend, fix, or rationalize your position. Relationship expert John Gottman suggests that there are four elements that will predict divorce -- criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Criticism and defensiveness will lead to contempt and stonewalling (you either withdraw; or you fight in a disrespectful way). All your partner wants to know is that you hear them, you can feel their concern or pain and that you will work together to resolve the issue. Susan Johnson, the creator of Emotionally Focused Therapy, refers to this as emotional responsiveness. It is one of the most important elements of a healthy relationship.

Listening involves going deeper than just observing overt behaviors. It means being able to consider the feelings that lie beneath rather than reacting to what's on the surface. When you are able to recognize that there may be other emotions that are driving your loved one, defensiveness dissolves and a much different dynamic occurs.

For example, if your partner attacks you for having your head buried in your laptop or for being preoccupied with things other than being in the moment with him or her, what they are really saying is, "I love you ... I'm afraid I'm losing you ... please, when I reach out to you, reach back, or I will be devastated."

Being able to see beyond the anger and criticism will make you a more empathetic and compassionate listener and a better partner. For more information on becoming an empathetic, compassionate listener, please call or text 561 715-6404 or email

Happy New Year! Make this a great year and your relationship a better one!

Dr. Laura Richter is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist who works with individuals, couples, and families. Her specialties include: surviving infidelity, improving communication, beginning again after divorce and effective co-parenting after divorce. She is also a trained mediator, qualified parenting coordinator and collaborative law mental health professional. For more information, please call or text us today at 561-715-6404 to schedule a consultation to see how we can help.