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Simple Steps to Improve Your Relationship-Santa Barbara Couples Therapy


What Research Reveals About Successful Couples:


EMPATHY & COMPASSION: Seeing from your partners perspective, understanding and respecting their experience (even if it’s different from yours)


ACTIVE LISTENING: Eye contact, not interrupting, only focusing on what your partner is saying…not what you want to say, head nodding, acknowledging statements (“Wow I didn’t realize you experienced all that”, “Yes I see”, “Go on”, “Can you clarify what you mean by xyz?”)


ACKNOWLEDGE your partner’s concerns even if you disagree with them:

It sounds like you feel I did not support you when I walked away?" 

How could I have said that differently so you don’t feel criticized?"

"I can see that my tone made it difficult for you to hear me"


APPROACHABLE TONE & BODY LANGUAGE: Maintain neutral and approachable tone (you can get your point across without yelling or using defensive language), keep body language open and inviting (sitting, laying down, arms unfolded, hands unclenched, brows and jaw relaxed etc.)


VALIDATION: (validation does not equal agreement):

  • "I can really see how that hurt you”

  • "I know you are struggling right now with my new work schedule…is there something you or I can do to help you feel better about this?”

  • “I can see how painful this is for you.” etc.


SHOW LOVE: Physical affection, hold hands, sit closely, snuggle, say “I love you” etc.


SHOW COMMITMENT-to the relationship:

  • I know we are struggling right now and I am totally committed to you and our relationship…just wanted you to know that I’m not going anywhere”

  • “Regardless how hard this is, you are the most important person to me and I’m sticking by you through thick and thin”

  • "I can see how my actions broke some of your trust in me and I will do whatever it takes to repair this because you are my partner for life” etc.


STAY CALM: Keep your heart rate and breathing down and slow, practice deep breathing exercises to reduce physiological activation (once your heart rate and breathing increases to a certain level you no longer have the ability to listen or have empathy and conflict will worsen)


Showing resentment, contempt, disdain, eye rolling, yelling, name calling, silent treatment, threats to leave, finger pointing, criticizing, gritting teeth, mocking, pressured speech, physical reactivity (slamming doors, throwing things, breaking things, hitting etc) emotional or physical intimacy withdrawal as punishment, criticizing partner etc.

Creative Couples Counseling Santa Barbara & Online Therapy



Lisa Conn Akoni, MA, MFT

Marriage & Family Therapist,

Clinical Program Developer, Consultant,

Trainer & Supervisor

(805) 714-4055

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