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Filed under: Communication

Are you friends with your significant other?

Couples who are also friends with one another are usually happier and healthier, making friendship with your significant other an important part of a Warfighter’s fitness.

Love may be the most important part of choosing a partner—but do you also think about friendship? Couples who both love AND cultivate a friendship with each other have happier and more stable relationships over the long run—and people in happier relationships tend to be healthier. That makes friendship with your significant other one more factor in a Warfighter’s total fitness package.

If you’re wondering how to cultivate a friendship with your partner, try starting up a conversation around topics like these that will bring you closer:

  • What is it about yourself that you’re most proud of?
  • What would you like to see happen for us in the next five years?
  • Who are your best friends at this point in your life?
  • What attracted you to me when we first met?

In other words, you can build a friendship together by talking about your experiences, wants, and dreams. For more tips on building or maintaining a strong relationship, check out HPRC's Answer on how to optimize your relationships.

Don’t just listen – show you are listening.

Some tips for "active" and "constructive" listening will improve your communication skills.

Being able to communicate effectively with those around us is a great way not only to enhance our relationships but also to ward off unnecessary stress. When having a conversation with a partner, friend, or coworker, most of us forget to communicate that we’re listening and that we understand what the other person is saying, which, can lead to arguments and/or misunderstandings. Show the other person that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say— asking questions and showing supportive reactions will help the other person feel understood. The Kansas National Guard has a video that demonstrates four ways of responding, including one that is both active and constructive (the best way!).

How are you at handling criticism?

Maybe you can dish it out, but can you take it?

You’ve heard the expression about being able to dish it out, but not being able to take it. Is there some truth to that? Being on the receiving end of criticism can be difficult, especially in a close relationship, and can provoke anger. If you think that avoiding, denying, making excuses, or fighting back are the best ways to handle criticism, take note of how many times those tactics have made it worse instead. The next time you feel criticized, try this: Listen to what is being said, ask for details, agree with your critic’s right to his or her opinion, and use the criticism as a learning opportunity. If you need time to think about what they are saying or to calm down, saying “Let me think about it” might be a good way to get some space.

HPRC’s new Performance Strategy on couples communication

HPRC offers a set of strategies you can put to work on improving communication with your “significant other.”

Have you ever wondered what a truly healthy relationship looks like? Did you know some arguments can be healthy? And are you curious as to what the difference is between a healthy argument and an unhealthy one? If you are, you’ll want to check out HPRC’s Performance Strategy on couples communication that highlights strategies you can instantly apply to your relationships.

Impact of sleep loss on relationships

Sleep loss impacts many areas of Total Force Fitness—relationships being one of them.

Although there are individual differences in sleep needs, most people need seven to eight hours of sleep at night to function optimally, and anyone who sleeps only four to five hours each night will experience some loss of performance. Sleep loss hinders your ability to accurately interpret the emotions of others and identify what they’re feeling. Specifically, sleep loss impacts your ability to interpret the emotions anger and happiness expressed in the faces of others, making it difficult to interact effectively and communicate clearly with the people around you, reducing one’s ability to maintain good relationships.

For tips on how to improve your sleep quality or length, check out HPRC’s Sleep Optimization section, and for tips on strengthening your relationships, check out HPRC’s Family & Relationships domain.

Make problem solving a family affair

Families are constantly confronted with problems and are constantly trying to find solutions to them. Two researchers suggest a structured process.

Families are constantly confronted with problems and the need to find solutions to them. In addition to all the challenges of everyday life that civilian families go through, military families also have to cope with additional stressors specific to the military, making the ability to solve problems a crucial skill.

Individuals tend to fare better in relationships when they discuss challenges with each other and then directly act on those problems. A book by two researchers suggests the following process for making decisions:

  1. Specifically state the issue
  2. State why the issue is important
  3. Brainstorm and discuss possible solutions to the issue
  4. Decide on a realistic solution
  5. Pick a specific amount of time to try the solution

Give this structured process a try and see how it works for you. For more ideas about family communication and problem solving, visit HPRC’s Family & Relationships section.

Tips for couples during deployment

Two studies provide tips for surviving separation by communicating with your loved one during deployment.

Family separations in the military have the added stress of uncertainty. For that reason, couples may need to make additional effort in order to communicate well while separated. Two studies offer tips for how to handle communication during deployment.

One recent study examined communication between military husbands and their wives during deployment. Interviews with wives of deployed Warfighters revealed that couples can deal better with the stress of being separated by balancing talk of everyday things with more meaningful conversations. Couples generally seemed to benefit from keeping deployment communication similar to non-deployment communication in both planned and spontaneous discussions.

Another study examined communication during deployment, as well as PTSD after deployment, and found that the positive impact of emails, care packages, and letters depended on how happy participants were with their relationships. More emails, packages, or letters during deployment sent between happier couples was associated with lower PTSD symptoms post-deployment.

Both of these findings suggest that strong, happy relationships play an important role before, during, and after deployment. For more ideas and tips for optimizing your communication and/or relationships, visit HPRC’s Family & Relationships domain.

Assess your relationship

Self-assessment questions can help you keep your relationship on the right track.

It’s normal for relationships to go through ups and downs, and at times it can be difficult to know whether to work through things alone or seek help from a professional. The Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center's website has a list of questions to help you assess your relationship. Given your responses, they suggest whether you should see a counselor or doctor or try self-help strategies. Common issues that couples face include communication difficulties, power struggles, money conflicts, and differences in parenting styles. You'll find self-help tips in the following areas:

  • Communication. Learn how to communicate more effectively with “I”-statements, perspective taking, timing, omitting distractions, and sharing issues.
  • Jealousy. Learn how to handle jealousy, with tips such as focusing on the importance of the relationship, expressing your emotions, communicating, being supportive, and helping to solve problems together.
  • Sex. Talk to one another about your needs so you can work together on areas where your desires are compatible.
  • Money. More tips help you handle money matters such as budgeting, credit history, and credit card advice.

For additional information, you can also visit the Relationship Skills section of HPRC’s website.

Survival tips for couples during the holidays #4: Friendship

A marital friendship is an important part of long-term marital satisfaction.

In this final entry in our holiday season series, we remind you to foster a good friendship with your loved ones. Try these ideas:

  • Discuss each other's goals and dreams for the future.
  • Listen to the your partner talk about the daily things that interest him or her, and share what interests you.
  • Do things together that you both enjoy.

Friendship with your partner is an important part of long-term marital satisfaction.

Survival tips for couples during the holidays #3: Repair

When tensions arise between you and a loved one or friend, here are some tips to help you defuse and repair the situation.

When having a disagreement with your spouse or partner, defusing the situation helps calm things down and helps you and the other person reconnect and repair your relationship. You can defuse most situations by:

  • agreeing to disagree;
  • bringing humor into the conversation;
  • using gentle statements; or
  • being intimate.

Sometimes what works in one conflict doesn’t work in another. Be flexible and see what works—make the effort to use one or more of these techniques in every disagreement.

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