Couples Communication – Going Slow

couples communication
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Dr. Chris Tickner

Communicating With Your Partner

In relationships, communication is key, but in our fast-paced world, we often rush our conversations. For couples, taking time to communicate thoughtfully, especially during disagreements, is crucial. In my experience as a therapist, I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of slowing down during communication in relationships.

Understanding Nervous System Responses

When conversations escalate, our nervous systems can become overwhelmed, quickly activating a fight-or-flight response. To counter this, slowing down is essential. This stimulates the vagus nerve, activating our parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us calm down and think clearly.

The Role of the Vagus Nerve in Relationships

The vagus nerve is critical in regulating stress responses and can be activated through specific techniques like deep breathing and mindfulness. This not only helps individuals in a relationship feel more relaxed but also more connected and emotionally available to each other.

Engaging the Parasympathetic Nervous System

Activating the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the “rest and digest” system, helps mitigate the “fight or flight” response common during heated discussions. This shift is crucial for maintaining calm during conversations and can lead to more effective and loving communication.

Real-life Benefits

  • Case Example 1: A couple found that implementing slower, more deliberate communication reduced their weekly arguments significantly, leading to a more satisfying and stable relationship.
  • Case Example 2: Another couple reported improved intimacy and trust after practicing mindful listening and slow responses, proving that the pace of communication can deeply affect relationship dynamics.

Why Slowing Down Matters for Couples

  1. Enhanced Understanding: Taking time helps each partner fully process what the other is saying, leading to deeper understanding.
  2. Improved Conflict Resolution: Slower communication reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings and hasty reactions that can exacerbate conflicts.
  3. Healthier Emotional Responses: By engaging the parasympathetic nervous system, couples can maintain a calmer state, which supports more compassionate and constructive interactions.

How Couples Can Practice Slowing Down

  • Deep Breathing Together: Start conversations with a few deep breaths to activate the parasympathetic response.
  • Pause Before Reacting: Give yourselves a moment to reflect before responding to ensure thoughts and feelings are expressed thoughtfully.
  • Active Listening: Focus fully on your partner without distractions or preparing your next point while they speak.
  • Control the Pace: Speak deliberately and pause regularly to ensure both partners have time to understand and be understood.
  • Acknowledge Non-Verbal Cues: Be mindful of body language, as it can convey more than words at times.
  • Express Empathy: Validate each other’s feelings to foster a supportive environment, which can facilitate more meaningful exchanges.

The Takeaway

Taking the time to slow down in communication is not just about speaking slowly but ensuring that both partners are emotionally and mentally present. This practice can transform relationship dynamics, leading to deeper connection, improved conflict resolution, and a greater sense of mutual understanding and respect.

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