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Seven Essential Skills for Relationships

Seven essentials skills for strong relationships, marriages and families, courtesy of PAIRS Foundation.


Begins with goodwill. It’s important to: a) be present without distractions, b) be clear about your intentions, c) listen to understand, and d) speak with empathy and authenticity so that the meaning of your intended message is received clearly.


Check-in with each other daily in the five areas of the DTR. Identify the best time and place for you to do this. Take turns with each topic before going to the next.

Learn more here or download the free PAIRS DTR app from iTunes.

  • Appreciations (be sincere and specific)
  • New Information (share what’s up in your life)
  • Puzzles (anything you’re wondering about – but avoid making assumptions, they are relationship killers)
  • Concerns with Recommendations (if something’s bothering you, say what it is, how it makes you feel, and specifically what you want instead–then talk about it together on behalf of a better relationship, never against the other person)
  • Wishes, Hopes and Dreams (for today, this week, this lifetime, or anywhere in between)


Speak on your own behalf; use “I-Talk,” not “You-Talk.” Ask permission first, and then follow these short sentence stems to confide about a specific behavior. Listener’s role is to listen to understand and repeat back what you say with understanding. After the exercise, you can reverse roles, talk about the issue, or simply appreciate the opportunity to confide and be heard: “I notice,” “I assume this means,” “I think,” “I am frustrated by,” “I am hurt by,” “I worry about,” “I want (specific request),” “I appreciate you for (be very generous in your appreciations and sincere),” “I realize,” and I hope.”


Learn to fight for your relationship, never against another person. In any conflict, the relationship should be the winner. Focus on a behavior, not on a person’s character or some intangible issue. Make it a specific behavior that could potentially change. State your concern clearly and invite your partner to repeat back what they heard to make sure your message is delivered accurately. Ask for what you want in a way that can be understood. Don’t overload or overwhelm. Stick to one concern and one request. Go back and forth sharing, listening, repeating back with empathy, appreciating one another, and negotiating until you reach a solution or make meaningful progress. Remember, you’re on the same side.


Make regular deposits into the “Love Bank” accounts of those who are important in your life. Ask what makes them feel cared about, and make an effort to do what they want for themselves, which may be different from what you want for yourself. For some, it’s kind words or quality time together, others appreciate gifts, affection or doing things to help them out. Ask, listen, and invest through regular deposits!


What are the hidden expectations and assumptions that are causing pain, disappointment or frustration in your relationships? Identify your “Love Knots,” such as the belief that significant others can read your mind and know what you want, or that if one of you disagrees, it means someone is wrong, or if you have to ask for something to get it, it doesn’t count. Stop assuming, expecting, waiting – and learn to confide, listen to understand, and celebrate deeper levels of connection.


When something happens that triggers an intense feeling inside you, pause and reflect. Ask yourself where the feeling is really coming from. Is it connected to memories or events from your past? If so, the feeling is probably a reaction to one or more of your “Emotional Allergies.” It’s possible that part of your reaction involves handing the bill to people in your life today for things that others did or did not do in your past. Learn to pause and reflect when you experience strong negative emotions. Check out the real source. Then take the chance of being vulnerable with your partner about what you’re really feeling. Your partner must respond with empathy and acceptance. See how this new dynamic creates even deeper connection and stronger feelings of love.

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