The Couple Domino Effect
A blog series to explore the ways we can positively influence the power of the domino effect to foster better romantic relationships
The second post in this blog series looks at the ways active listening can lead to a positive domino effect in romantic relationships.
Couple Domino Effect No.2: Active Listening
Positive and efficient communication in a relationship leads to greater intimacy. A study conducted in the United States by Olson, et. al. involving 50,379 married couples identified five categories with the greatest significance for happy marriages (2008). The five categories ranked in order of importance are as follows: communication, couple closeness, couple flexibility, personality issues and conflict resolution. The study concluded that if there was one communication skill they would consider as paramount for developing and maintaining intimacy, it would be listening. As they stated, good listening skills require patience, as well as the ability to withhold judgment and to spend more energy trying to understand.
In addition to patience and remaining open-minded, other techniques that can show our partners we are hearing them include:
Being fully present in the moment
Non-verbal cues (e.g., eye contact and head nodding)
Asking follow-up questions
Paraphrasing/reflecting - leading us to our second positive domino effect action
Positive Domino Effect Action
Asking: “So what I’m hearing you say is…?” The key to active listening is to focus on understanding what your partner is trying to say first, before thinking about your response. This includes restating what you have heard about the content and their feelings. It is not uncommon to be far into a disagreement only to find that our partner (or ourselves) has misunderstood the intent and meaning behind a thought, worry, or complaint. Next thing you know, you have reached a place where you both don’t feel understood, and conflict continues to escalate. Summarizing what you heard allows your partner to either say “yes, you got it” or “no, let me try to explain again” before you respond and risk going down the wrong path.
Active listening is one of the many foundational skills that couples practice through the Prepare/Enrich Assessment – an evidence-based tool that provides custom insights into your relationship and tips for communication and conflict resolution. If you are interested in learning more about taking the Prepare/Enrich assessment at Through Therapy Collective, click here.
Catch up with the first articles in the series: Couple Domino Effect No.1: Emotional Support
Prepare/Enrich. (2020). The "boring" skills that your relationship depends on. Prepare/Enrich: Relationship Basics. Retrieved from https://www.prepare-enrich.com/blog/the-boring-skills-that-your-relationship-depends-on/
Olson, D. H., Olson-Sigg, A., Larson, P. J. (2008). National Survey of Married Couples. Life Innovations, Inc.