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You’ve got skills, we know. You’re strong, competent, and communicative, to name a few. But, “while these are all important foundational skills for living a successful and happy life, they need to be built on in order to help an individual transition to a successful and happy partnership,” explains psychotherapist and marriage coach Toni Coleman.
Enter: Couple skills, next-level expertise we need for successful relationships. But don’t worry, they’re not too hard to grasp. Here, our experts give you five to start.
1. You’ve got to have empathy.
According to Lesli Doares, marriage coach and author of Blueprint For A Lasting Marriage, empathy is the ability to see things from your partner’s perspective, and it’s a huge plus in your relationship. “No two people experience life in the same way and this leads to viewing the same event differently,” she explains. “Being empathetic and understanding and seeing this as legitimate differences, not in terms of one of you being right and the other wrong, is key for success.”
2. You have to be able to think “we,” not “I.”
You know what you need, and how to get it. “But when someone is part of a couple, he or she needs to view each need as it impacts ‘us’ as a couple, and not just him or her as an individual,” says Coleman. “Keeping a ‘we’ perspective will help a couple to make sure both of their needs are priorities for them as a couple, which helps create a balance and maintain a sense of oneness.”
3. You have to be able to regulate your emotions.
That anger that bubbles up when you see your spouse left the house in disarray? You’ve got to be able to put it in check, Doares says. “Each of you is responsible for managing your own emotions and having a plan for what to do when things get hot to minimize damage to your relationship,” she says. “If one of you can remain calm and implement that plan, then there will be no escalation and no need for repair.”
4. You need to be able to communicate well.
Good communication skills include active listening, not interrupting, asking good follow-up questions, reflection, and avoiding jumping to conclusions, among other traits, says Coleman. “There are a number of skills for couples to learn in order to be good communicators, but these are not difficult and if used consistently, can make or break a relationship,” she says.
5. You’ve got to have good negotiation skills.
All communication skills are valuable in a relationship. “But the ability to negotiate a solution you both can support and implement is the key to being willing tackle the hard stuff that inevitably crops up,” says Doares. Plus, she adds, negotiation keeps resentment at bay. “When you can successfully negotiate, there is no manipulation or giving in and that keeps resentment from taking hold,” she explains.