page contents

Resolve To Be Softer  

As we start the New Year I put my mind to coming up with a topic that would be a good relationship oriented goal. I’m not really a fan of resolutions, and prefer setting goals: Be softer in relationships in general and in particular in your intimate relationship.

Softness in communication is good for relationships. According to the relationship researcher John Gottman, one of the things that helps with conflict or addressing disagreements is a softened startup. The principle is to open conflict, complaint, or expression of unhappiness in a gentle manner, speaking more about yourself and your experience than your partner and what they “have done wrong.” It is also important to work very hard to avoid criticism or labeling your partner in a negative way. It is not the easiest thing to do as complaint and conflict often go hand in hand with anger, and anger often leads to harsh communication (though it doesn’t have to). Using statements that have “I” as a subject rather than “you” and focusing on emotions you are experiencing is also helpful in this regard.

Softness can go beyond helping in the management of conflict or negative feelings. And the more you practice softness generally in your relationship the more likely you will be to keep yourself wrapped in that softness when you do have to face conflict or unhappiness. I wrote last month of the benefits of expressing your vulnerability in relationships and the connection between vulnerability and intimacy. Vulnerability is a wonderful expression of softness and allowing yourself to be vulnerable is a great way to be soft in a relationship.

Expressions of appreciation, affection, attraction, and love are all great examples of being soft in a relationship. Generally speaking, if something is said that makes you feel all soft and gooey inside it is a good example of being soft. Unfortunately, many of us tend to avoid saying such things. They aren’t cool, we take the sentiments expressed for granted, and quite frankly, saying those things may make you feel vulnerable. I’m sure you have all had the experience of being with a friend who was talking to their spouse or significant other on the phone and they end the conversation with “me too.” You, probably correctly, surmised that their partner ended with an “I love you.” Perhaps you have even been guilty of this yourself. Why is it that we feel like we can’t express our love for those the closest to us when in front of other people? I don’t know, but lets resolve to change it this year.

So, think it through and seriously consider setting a goal for yourself of developing more softness in your relationships.