Communication is arguably the most important aspect of a relationship. More than chemistry, similarities or differences, communication is the lifeblood of making a relationship last long term. This goes for any relationship: romantic, friendly, work, etc. Without communication, we are left to assume what the other person may be thinking, feeling or wanting and you know what they say about assuming...
Good communication starts with a solid understanding of communication styles. In relationships, those styles have to be built, developed, and evolved through change and circumstances. I cannot tell you how many times I have said to my clients, and my husband, it is not what you say but how you say it. One thing could be said at least 5 different ways. The challenge with healthy communication in relationships is being aware of and sensitive to what both you and your partner needs.
In romantic relationships, this may mean knowing how to preface a conversation that is very important to you because you know your partner could be distracted otherwise. In professional relationships it may mean being direct and blunt because you know that is what your boss responds best to. Sometimes it will take more words and a bit more thought to do this, but it will certainly help avoid arguments and upset feelings.
In our relationship, I am the type that needs to just be heard and supported. Brian is the type that needs to fix things and move forward. You see how this could be problematic? We continue working on finding that balance of him understanding my need to have a compassionate ear when his nature is to swoop in and fix the problems. I also have to ask what he may need when he needs to vent: a listener or a partner to help come up with solutions.
Books like The 5 Love Languages offer great advice to couples developing or having issues with their communication. There are different ways that people need to feel loved and be heard, and this book details them as well as how to understand your partner's style if it is not the same as your own. Imagine giving someone a gift as a gesture of love when what they really wanted was a hug. This is why it is so important to communicate your needs and understand the needs of your partner.
The other hard, but important part about communication is having those tough conversations with one another. I understand it may be easier to talk to friends or family about issues in your relationship, but if you aren't talking about the issues with your partner as well, you will not likely get any resolution. I am a big proponent of talking things out, fitting as a therapist, right? Talks about your future desires: commitment, marriage, children, financials, goals, aspirations are all incredibly difficult talks to have because they leave you open and vulnerable. That does not make them any less important to have with one another.
Discussions about everything from wanting to move when the other person doesn't, to expectations when around friends and family, and even about pooping (did you know that couples who talk about poop are the happiest couples??) are completely necessary to have with one another. Brian and I have been there and we are stronger because of it.
This does not always mean that everything will be agreed upon. Along with communicating your thoughts and feelings comes disagreement. The goal should never be to convince your partner to agree with your stance or to be the one who is "right," but should be more about respecting what the other person is saying. Arguing mindfully means getting your thoughts and feelings out in a way that is calm and respectful. Explain what the issue is and allow yourselves the time to talk it out. If things are not getting resolved, give each other space until you are both able to clear your heads.
Have the hard talks and grow from them. I cannot begin to explain how much better of a therapist it has made me because of the difficult talks I have had with Brian, close friends, and colleagues. It is also very satisfying to be able to work through an issue with a satisfactory outcome. All it takes is some well thought out words, patience, and courage.
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