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DON'T JUDGE, LISTEN

A great relationship is about two things – appreciating the similarities and respecting the differences.

DONT JUDGE,  LISTEN
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My son is 15 and is always angry and indifferent towards us. We don't know how to communicate with him and it is making life very difficult for us.

Mrs. K. Chatterjee, Kolkata

It may seem hard to believe, given your child's anger or indifference towards you, but teens still crave love, approval and acceptance from their parents.

To open the lines of communication:

Be aware of your own stress levels. If you're angry or upset, now is not the time to try to communicate with your teen. Wait until you're calm and energised before starting a conversation. You're likely to need all the patience and positive energy you can muster.

Be there for your teen. Offering to chat with your teen over coffee will probably be greeted with a sarcastic put-down or dismissive gesture, but it's important to show you're available. Insist on sitting down for meal times together with no TV, phones, or other distractions. Look at your teen when you speak and invite your teen to look at you. Don't get frustrated if your efforts are greeted by nothing more than monosyllabic grunts or shrugs. You may have to eat a lot of dinners in silence, but when your teen does want to open up, they know they'll always have the opportunity to do so.

Find a common ground. Fathers and sons often connect over sports; mothers and daughters over gossip or movies. The objective is not to be your teen's best friend, but to find common interests that you can discuss peacefully. Once you're talking, your teen may feel more comfortable opening up to you about other things.

Listen without judging or giving advice. When your teen does talk to you, it's important that you listen without judging, mocking, interrupting, criticising, or offering advice. Your teen wants to feel understood and valued by you, so maintain eye contact and keep your focus on your child, even when they're not looking at you. If you're checking your email or reading the newspaper, your teen will feel that they're not important to you.

Expect rejection. Your attempts to connect with your teen may often be met with anger, irritation, or other negative reactions. Stay relaxed and give your teen space to cool off. Try again later when you're both calm. Successfully connecting to your teen will take time and effort. Don't be put off; persevere and the breakthrough will come.

I feel that my husband and I are in a very competitive relationship. I don't know why and how to solve this.

Name unknown, New Delhi

If a man has to compete with a woman for control of the relationship, he not only feels inadequate but also like there's no place for his masculinity in his woman's life. Keep this in mind: it's very important.

This isn't to say that a man should control the entire relationship, that's unfair to both parties. Rather, a successful relationship has complementary forces where each person relinquishes control in certain areas. If this doesn't happen, both parties end up in competition — both compete to win and, in the end, the relationship loses. This dynamic shows up in scenarios like these:

In a social context with friends: Did the two of you get into arguments about who was "right" in front of friends?

Financially, who is the breadwinner? Did you make more money than him? And, more importantly, was it ever brought up in a way that emasculated him?

Relationally, did you constantly make the decisions in the relationship? Where to eat, what fun things to do, or what movies to attend?

If he felt like you were against him instead of for him, he never felt fully capable of opening his heart because he was afraid of losing the "game" and getting hurt. Talk it out, spend quality time and make him feel special and desirable. Don't lose heart and hope. Hold on and hold tight. All the best.

I have just started dating someone seriously. How to ensure a good relationship?

Tanvir Khan, New Delhi

To ensure a great relationship, here are few focus areas:

Keep your promises. In most cases, we over commit. Do what you say you'll do. Always respect her and her people. While dating, be on time. Keep the other informed about any changes. Do not take anyone for granted.

Stop assuming. Establish good lines of communication instead. Talk and express as much as possible.

Listen to what she's saying. Don't pretend to listen — actually listen. Sometimes, the only thing we want is a good listener or a shoulder to lean on. Let her talk and be absorbed in what she's saying. Be involved.

Never lie. Being open and never lying establishes great verbal communication, which is at the heart of all great relationships.

Minimise jealousy. You may get a little jealous from time to time, and that's okay, as long as you try to not let it affect your relationship.

Best wishes to you both.

(Send your questions to roopshashotm@gmail.com)

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