Relationship problems can occur at any time – even newlyweds can find that the promise of everlasting love and romance isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when they’ve come down to earth to face the daily grind.
What’s the key to making a relationship work? In my opinion, it’s communication. What we tend to do is to want our partner to read our mind. ‘They should know how I feel, we’ve been together long enough!’ or ‘I’ve given them enough clues, why can’t they see what I want?’
The truth is, we are very bad at mind-reading (even Derren Brown can't do it in reality - it's all a trick (sorry, but it is)). We often get it wrong, we misinterpret, we catastrophise, we minimise, we jump to conclusions. It’s in the nature of our thought patterns. So, the way to circumvent all of that is to communicate what you want, or how you feel, clearly and without ambiguity.
It’s easy to fall into bad communication habits in a relationship. Things like switching off, pretending to listen, not paying attention, talking over the other person ... all these can creep into a once loving relationship, simply because we start taking each other for granted and don’t take the time and trouble to communicate with care.
So, what are the elements of good communication?
- Listen. I mean really listen. Listen with your heart
- Encourage your partner to talk ... show them you’re interested
- Don’t be defensive. Take time to absorb what is being said and -
- Try not to react immediately
- Try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes – seeing things from their perspective can really help you to understand what they’re trying to say.
- Take turns to talk. Don’t interrupt your partner or talk over them. Wait until they’re finished and then put your point of view, staying calm all the time
- Be willing to be open – sharing how you feel is an important aspect of communication. If we keep things bottled up our partner might feel rejected or suspicious – feeling we have something to hide
- Try not to personalise things. Use ‘I’ statements and don’t apportion blame. Things happen, it doesn’t have to be anyone’s fault. Blaming rarely solves anything. Blaming is accusatory and is bound to put the other person on the defensive, effectively shutting down communication
- Don’t go back over old history. There can be a tendency to bring up every occasion when something bad happened, maybe going right back to the beginning of your relationship. This isn’t helpful – focus on the here and now and the future. You can’t change the past, but you can make a better future
- Don’t fall into becoming aggressive or threatening. Discussions can quickly turn to arguments which can then get out of control when emotions are running high. Try to stay calm, take a five minute break now and then if you need to – but let your partner know what you’re doing and that you’re coming back to carry on the discussion when you’ve both calmed down
Things aren’t going to be fixed overnight if your relationship is having problems, but taking a first step towards better communication will really help you to remember why you got together in the first place.