How to be Effective in Your Relationship

Since my gym is closed, my kids don’t go to school and it was my turn to teach 2nd grade and preschool, I went for an early morning run before my husband hunkered down to work—a typical morning in #quarantinelife. On my run, I listened to a great interview on the podcast, Armchair Expert with Dax Shephard. He interviewed Glennon Doyle, author of Untamed and Love Warrior. It wasn’t even 7am when Dax and Glennon said something, in only a few sentences, that could drastically change many struggling marriages. When I heard these words, my little marriage counselor heart did a leap as I thought “Gosh, I wish everyone knew this . . . how much better their relationships would be.”

In the interview, Glennon talked about her difficulties with control in her marriage—how she struggles with trying to control her partner to do things “her way.”  She explained, one day, in response to her attempt to control a situation, her partner said to her, “It makes me so sad when you do that. When you try to control what I’m doing, it makes me feel like you don’t trust me and that makes me really sad because I really trust you.”

Dax said the exact thing I was thinking: “Wow, what a great way to communicate—an effective way to get through to you.”

Yes, Dax, yes!! It was effective. In one sentence, she said the most effective thing you can say to a partner when trying to express a need for change.  

In other words, she said: “This is the way your specific behavior makes me feel—here is the meaning it holds for me—and it hurts me so much, because of the value you hold in my life.” 


What is your responsibility and what is your partner’s? 

It is your responsibility to learn how to effectively communicate your feelings to your spouse.  And it is so doable! It is not your responsibility to control how your spouse responds to your effective communication. But we may never know what the possibilities are . . . how much your spouse may be willing to modify, alter, or change their behaviors, unless it is communicated in an effective way. We can wait for them to have an epiphany or reach a spontaneous level of self-awareness. And those things may happen—however, I wouldn’t recommend you hold your breath while you are waiting. When someone you love and trust speaks truth to you in a vulnerable and loving way, it can be a huge motivator for change. It may not actually result in changed behavior, but it is by far the best tool in your relational toolbox. 

How to be effective

The best way to learn how to be effective is to know what you are already doing that is ineffective.

Here is a short list of ineffective communication:

  • Criticism (You don’t do it right.)
  • Judgment (I can’t believe you are doing it that way.)
  • Comparison (Other people do it this way, which is better than how you do it.)
  • Self-righteous (I do it this way and it is better than your way.)
  • Building your case (Other people also see how bad your way is and agree with me: our children, our friends, your brother, my mom, everyone.)

Here is a short list of effective communication:

  • Here is how your behaviors make me feel (not how they make me feel about you, but the feelings inside of me that they evoke:  not important, lonely, sad, inadequate).
  • Here is the meaning your behaviors hold for me (what I tell myself about me/our relationship as a result of your behaviors).
  • And it makes me feel that way because you are important to me/I love you/I value you.

Now is a great time to learn some new relationship skills. And, as far as I can tell, we all need a little extra help right now in our quarantine relationships. This is one of the most effective relationship tools . . . hands down. 


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