Relationships that stand the test of time usually do so because the couple communicate well. Most problems in relationships can be traced back to a lack of effective communication. We are never just sharing information in the form of words, it’s also our feelings, needs, fears, hopes and dreams. It’s through sharing these with a partner that intimacy is developed.
One of the most common problems comes from people not being honest with their partner about how they feel. This may mean you go along with things you don’t really like or hide hurt feelings when something upsets you. The reason we do this is to protect the relationship from arguments and resentment but a lack of honesty can stop trust and intimacy from developing.
It wouldn’t be appropriate to share all our thoughts and feelings because they often change so quickly. It takes time to establish a strong enough bond where you can be open about anything. The important thing is to check that you’re willing to be open even if you’re not quite there yet.
Be as honest as possible with your partner about your feelings. Don’t expect them to be able to mind-read, most people can’t. If you say you’re happy about something then they will assume that you are being honest. Take responsibility for your own happiness and be clear with your partner about how they contribute to it.
Embrace the differences
In his book ‘Men are from Mars, Women are form Venus’ John Gray says that women and men communicate in totally different ways. Men communicate to impart information and solve problems while women talk to share feelings and feel closer to people.
Women often hope their partner will interpret the meaning behind their words and fulfil her needs. Men get frustrated by this lack of clarity and respond much better to clear requests. If a woman is telling him something he will think it’s because she wants him to help solve a problem, while she might just want to feel close to him.
Obviously each person communicates in a unique way and it’s important to understand your partner’s communication style. Some people are naturally quiet and reflective and each of us will communicate love in different ways. The most common mistake people make is in believing that their partner should be able to communicate with them in the way a same-sex friend would.
Listen as well as talk
Listening is as important to good communication as speaking is. When someone doesn’t listen it can feel like they don’t care. Sometimes it can seem like they aren’t listening because they’re carrying on with other things while you are speaking to them – they’re with you in body but their mind is elsewhere.
No-one can give you their undivided attention all the time so it’s important to let them know when you need them to really listen to what you are saying. We teach people how to treat us.
To practice active listening:
– Stop what you’re doing and give your partner your attention when they are speaking to you. Say if you haven’t got time now and arrange a time when you can listen properly.
– Don’t formulate a response in your head while they are speaking.
– Take notice of their body language as well as their words.
– Get a sense of how they are feeling about what they are telling you – ask them if you are right e.g ‘You seem quite upset about this’.
– Clarify why they are sharing this with you. Do they just want to share or do they need something from you?
– Ask for clarity if you are unsure about anything.
– Give your partner some undivided attention every day. A 10 minute check in at the beginning, or end, of each day can stop big problems from building up.
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