Whether you are married or in a committed relationship, your ability to communicate will determine the success, or failure, of the relationship.
So what does communication really mean? Communication, in one form or another, has been around, since man first walked the Earth. Not only man, but every other creature has some sort of way of communicating. Simple, right? Webster defines it as “the process of transmitting or exchanging information through a common system of signs, symbols, or behaviors”. On the surface this really does appear to be a simple and easy process. So why then, for many of us, do we find the act of communicating with our loved one so difficult to do?
Even creatures large and small communicate. If they didn’t, how else would they know when to, well among everything from basic survival to mating? There are two ways in which most living things (we are leaving plants out of this for now, at least till I do more research), either non-verbal or verbal.
So let’s all agree that communication is necessary to establish intimacy in any relationship. Problems begin not always because of something one partner said to the other, but it can start due to something that was done, or not done. It’s not only what was or wasn’t said. To have a successful, intimate, satisfying and lasting relationship, effective communication on both levels are REQUIRED. Yes, they are required. Until science evolves (and let’s just hope it doesn’t) to the point of each of us learning to read our partner’s minds, then we have to learn to communicate.
To communicate in a relationship there must be a speaker, a listener and a message. The last time you and your partner argued, stalked off, or even sulked over some issue, who was the speaker? What was the actual message? Think hard. Did the two of you argue? Or did one of you simply leave. What was the actual message?
But let’s look first at the non-verbal way we communicate. Many times it’s not what we say but how we say it, it’s the tone of one’s voice, lack of eye contact, space, as well as proximity. What stance are you taking, or noticed in yourself? If the conversation, or argument is becoming loud, then it is usually an indicator that emotions are high, and one or both participants to not feel as if they are being heard. Did one or both of you turn away? Walk off? Leave? This could indicate wanting to close up, or even being disinterested, or worse, not wanting to hear what the other wants or needs to say.
So how can couples help each other? If they want to have a successful and happier relationship here are some tips:
1. Don’t leave. Sure, if your angry and need to cool off, this is acceptable, until you can cool off and talk to your partner in a calmer demeanor. If it’s your partner who is angry, hurtful, or threatening, then you have a right not to have to endure the “tantrum”. You can leave and wait till a time that is acceptable and both of you are calm enough to talk it out. Packing your bags and leaving isn’t the answer. If your way of handling a problem is avoidance, this will create more distance between the two of you. No matter how large or small the problem is, when you do come back the original problem has grown and probably will be worse. Remember the old saying? “never go to bed angry”? Well, there was some good reasoning behind it. Everyone needs to be able to discuss problems and concerns in a healthy way. So what happens if you don’t just walk out? You might end up communicating and learning something about the other. You might learn why you react as you do, or why your partner feels they way they do. That doesn’t make either of you right or wrong. At worse, you may also learn that “OK, this isn’t going to work”. Either way, you are taking a mature, grown up way to handle your relationship.
2. OK, you are both still in the same room. Now would be the time to stop talking, take a deep breath, and begin an open minded conversation regarding the disagreement, or concern. You can begin this by listening. Try to remember it’s not about who is right or who is wrong. It should be more of “how can we fix this problem”. If you feel that you HAVE to be right then there is a bigger problem. If your unwilling to compromise you will eventually destroy your relationship. Don’t attack your partner, attack the issue and problem solve.
3. Be honest. Some people will hide their feelings and thoughts because they either don’t know themselves well, or they don’t want the other to know them well. If you cannot be yourself in your relationship, then you don’t have a healthy relationship. Let me repeat that…. IF YOU CAN NOT BE YOURSELF IN YOUR CURRENT RELATIONSHIP, THEN YOU DO NOT HAVE A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP. Little lies turn in to big lies and big lies get larger. If you are hiding your true self, eventually it will come out. If you want a healthy relationship it starts with honestly. Let them know the real you and decide for themselves if you are who they want. The real you. Not the one you think they actually want. You really don’t know what anyone else wants. It’s hard enough to figure out what we want, forget about trying to figure out the wants of someone else.
4. Don’t stop communicating. I didn’t say start arguing again, but the “silent treatment speaks volumes”. We already established that communicating was not only verbal but non-verbal. It was Dr. John Grohol, a respected psychologist who I first read the statement: Giving your partner the silent treatment is about as useful as a fish with a bicycle, in the desert, at night”.
5. Don’t bring up past hurts. Hopefully, you two have already worked through these past issues. If not, then now, when emotions are high and feelings and egos are bruised, is NOT the time to bring them back up. Focus on one issue at a time.