Have you ever had a situation with your partner where they assume you know something or presume it is common sense? How about the other way around, where you expected your partner to do something or know how to do something without discussing it previously? Whether you are in a fresh new relationship or have been together for decades, this type of scenario has undoubtedly occurred, probably more often that you would like to admit. These circumstances are a result of the most influential aspect of any relationship: communication.
It is usually when our signals get crossed or we do not feel understood that we consciously become aware of our couple communication, and unfortunately we usually label our partner or ourselves a failure in the attempt to communicate. These notions are not only poisonous but also unsubstantiated because we are always communicating with one another, whether or not we intend to or even notice it. Therefore it is not the person who is a failure, but rather it is the communication that failed.
So you may be asking yourself, how does this matter, or even, is there really a difference? Let me address the skeptics first. Yes, there is a significant difference, because when it comes to communication, perspective is everything. As for answering how to make this distinction count so that you can handle those inevitable situations, the idea is to make your communication more effective and purposeful. A key facet to this puzzle is to realize that the goal of communication is to be and feel understood; it is not to convince your partner that your perspective is right. As for making your communication purposeful, you need to have a goal or direction in mind before you begin.
The next step is of course, how do you go about accomplishing this? First you need to look at how you and your partner communicate currently. This might vary depending on the circumstances at hand, the time of day, or even just your mood, but it is important to know where you are before you start moving forward. Here are some helpful tips and techniques to try and utilize to enhance your communication:
- Make “I” statements, not “you” statements
- Practice reflective listening
- Avoid getting defensive or ignoring your partner
- Understand and accept the differences between you and your partner
- Apologize with sincerity when necessary
- Use positive, loving physical contact when communicating with your partner
Of course these are just tools. In order to make a tool work, you have to learn how to use it and practice to become a skilled craftsman. I will be blunt; relationships are work and require constant maintenance. This can be anything along the spectrum, such as conversing, having date nights, trying new things together, or seeking professional guidance. Hopefully I have made it clear that healthy relationships need joint efforts and TLC, with any luck the myth of “happily ever after” can begin to fade away and into the realm of fairytales where it belongs.
In light of these ideas, it is crucial to understand a few things about relationships before effective, purposeful communication can exist. First and foremost, all relationships are cross-cultural because no matter where you come from, what language you speak, or what your views on life are, a relationship is made up of two unique and separate individuals. Even if you grew up down the street from one another, it is impossible that you experienced everything identically or had matching responses to duplicate events. It is equally as important to realize that there is no single perfect way of enacting change or a magic recipe for creating an ideal relationship. Let me make this poignantly clear; this means just because it works for you does not mean it works for everybody, especially when it comes to differences between you and your partner.
I encourage you to ponder on these thoughts and maybe you can begin to take the first steps towards building effective communication in your life. To reiterate, please do not forget that relationships are work, and like all great adventures, the journey is what we remember and cherish. We are always learning new things, myself included, and hopefully we can use this knowledge to build stronger, healthier relationships.