“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”
George Bernard Shaw
Communicating your life to the world through instagram, facebook and other social media, or in your workplace to get a task complete, is not the same as communicating to the person you love.
It’s so important to be able to communicate effectively with your partner if your relationship is to thrive. Good communication can smooth the everyday planning and living, can be key in avoiding difficulties over time and of course in resolving disagreements when they happen. Relationships are more intense now than ever before, as we live and work through the lens of our screens or at home 24/7.
Many people wrongly assume that communication is good when it is not and they often don’t realise this until it is too late and the problems have grown silently between them.
What are you sharing?
Communication is all about sharing. We think of it as the transfer of information, ideas or perspectives. It is how we communicate problems, seek alternative views and ultimately find solutions. Good communicators are valuable in the workplace. They can not only deliver the clear message but can instinctively read the reactions of those that they’re speaking to and adjust their message accordingly. These people often work in sales, front of house or in some other position with public interface. In my therapeutic world I see these people as hardwired for reception as well as transmission. They are not just talkers they are listeners. They can both articulate what they want to say but they can also absorb what is being said to them.It seems simple and in some ways it is, but many relationships flounder on the absence of either.
Partners need to share the small everyday events of life so as to build a strong connection. It’s how you get to know each other, how you both begin to understand what is important to each other- what they value, what they dislike and fear. It’s not something that comes easily to everyone.
Some people share their stories and their emotions quite easily, others find it difficult. It’s important to be the storyteller sometimes and other times to be the listener.
It can be striking when working with couples to see how little real communication is going on.
Days months and years can pass under the assumption that it is happening and It is only when big problems arise and they arrive for therapy that it is clear that the communication has been focused on the functional tasks of living and not on the relationship itself.
LOVING COMMUNICATION IS DIFFERENT!
Telling your partner that you love them once a week is simply not enough. Loving communication needs to be detailed and specific to be valuable.When communicating within a relationship as opposed to any other environment the purpose is to understand and appreciate above all else. It’s so important to understand your partner’s world, why they are saying what they are saying, what they are feeling and what is important to them. It’s also about taking the opportunities to show appreciation for your partner,noticing what they have done and telling them how much you appreciate it and why.
It is this continuous exchange of appreciation, this constant display of how you are both valuable to each other that adds depth and strength to your relationship. Neither party is left to wonder if they are important and it is not left to chance.
One of the biggest communication difficulties in relationships is when people need to win and to be right all of the time. In all relationships balance will shift and change and that is how it should be. Sometimes the compromise should work in your favour and other times you need to feel willing to allow the compromised to be in your partner’s favour. this way no one feels bitter and resentful about allowing this to happen and the chances of compromise just get better.
Of course there will be difficulties and disagreements when one or other of you feels strongly about something and you try to find a middle ground. The discussions that happen around disagreements are not about winning or defeating, but are all about understanding the other person’s perspective.
If you can listen to your partner with that in mind then you will listen to them, to what they say and what they are trying to say. You will ask questions to clarify what they are saying, showing them that you care.
The language of loving communication and understanding is a little different and it’s good for you to be aware of it so that you can check your own style.
It has been shown in a number of research studies that marriage breakdown can be predicted by the style of language that is used by the partners very early in a relationship. Those who use “I” statements expressing their views and feelings were more likely to stay together as opposed to those couples who used “You” statements, expressing their views about their partners.
I can confirm this as I have seen it in my everyday practice. The language of love is hinged on communicating perspectives with an eye on resolution and the future. Some couples do this very well.
Couples who remain happy and sweet to each other after many years often have the language of loving communication.
They speak fondly to each other, “Yes Darling”
They begin most sentences to each other with “I”, I feel we could try. I’d like if we did go.
They talk about what they can do, not what they did do.
They say things like “We could do this. We could try”…
Conversely I have met many couples who speak harshly to each other and who work to win and make the point above all else. these are the couples that don’t make it to the long-term.
I often tell them communication is less like golf and more like tennis, not the one great swing and walk away but rather a tip tap of reciprocal communication.
THE SILENT TREATMENT
Silence in a relationship can be very destructive. it can occur because of hurt, frustration or anger. Often people become silent because they cannot find the words or do not have confidence that they can explain what is really going on for them. It is not a positive response to what is occurring and will not bring about change or resolution.
It’s important to speak early about any problem you might be having as a couple. Try to avoid silence and instead adopt the good habit of speaking regularly about everything that matters to you. This also will stop you from accumulating tensions around unresolved issues, that get thrown into the mix once the silence ends.
ASSUMING YOU UNDERSTAND
Assuming that you understand what your partner means or wants is a very common mistake. Sometimes when people live together for a while they think they know everything about each other. This lack of curiosity and lack of desire to continue to explore your partner’s world can augur very badly for your relationship. So tread carefully with assumptions. It’s so much more
productive and healthy for your relationship to continue to enquire and to give your partner the complement of wanting to know than to assume and presume in silence.
Having positive habits and a positive style can really help your communications over time. It’s important not to wait until it is too late to start focusing on your communication. Here are a few things that might help you to improve your loving communication. I am including a few positive actions here that can improve your loving communications.
Screen for the positive.- Say something appreciative and positive to your partner everyday. It can be something quite small but it must be detailed. “ You look lovely in that ” You’ve been very understanding of me lately and I really appreciate it ”, “ I love your sense of humour”. Doing this frequently will get you into the habit of noticing the positive things about your partner and will lift the mood between you as you continuously appreciate each other.
Review- It is useful to set time aside when there are no particular issues to be sorted and to use that time to review your relationship. It’s best if the review happens in the cool light of day, over coffee as opposed to during a date dinner or other social time. ( not that we anyone is going out to dinner anymore!) I suggest this to couples as a practical review of the relationship. Practical things like finance, baby minding, working from home issues, but there should also be time to discuss what is working well emotionally and what needs some attention.
It is a structured way of providing an environment where problems can be deflected by discussing potential issues at the very earliest point. We use these strategies and in many walks of life but we can be slow to use them in relationships. I have been entirely shocked sometimes at the lack of depth in the communication between couples who may be living together for some many years. It is not uncommon in troubled relationships for couples never to have really spoken about what exactly makes them happy in the relationship and conversely what makes them sad. I think it is expecting too much to expect the relationships will flourish in some kind of state of osmosis, where a partner is somehow expected to absorb the truth and intentions and desires of each other.
Value the differences – Each partner tends to have different strengths and weaknesses. It is really important in a relationship to recognise these and to value them. We cannot all be as good as each other at planning, managing the finance, arranging holidays. Equally one person can be more sociable, connecting more easily, making friends and establishing a social network.
It is really good for a couple if you can value what it is that you both bring into the relationship and how it add to your overall happiness,