By now, we've all heard that communication is imperative to maintaining a healthy relationship. But what does communication really mean? It's much more than a mere exchange of words. When the years have taken their toll and physical and mental vitality have waned, words are the one enduring aspect of a relationship, because they never fade.
While there may be an almost limitless supply of words, the way you put them together can send you down a pit of monotony or bring you to a greater level of depth and connection. As we charge through our days filled with work, responsibility, errands, chores and tasks, exhaustion takes a hold and we rely on brief exchanges, silence or our go-tos for chit chat. Sometimes that is exactly what the Doctor ordered. However, issues arise when sometimes turns to all of the time. Conversations stay surface and partners begin to feel bored and consequently, disconnected.
Looking to recharge your connection and start getting deeper with your mate? Check out the following:
1. Get on the Catwalk – Not sure how to begin or deepen a dialogue? Look to your friends, family or co-workers for a strong model for communication. Pay attention to their body language, eye contact, tone, pace, content and questions and then start acting as if you were naturally that way. Over time, your “modeling” will become reality and you'll move from talking the talk to walking the walk.
2. Turn Up the Volume – It's easy to get caught up in specific content; the topics being shared and the words being used. However, part of what creates depth is about understanding what your partner is really trying to say.
For example, if he/she asked you to take out the trash and you neglected to do it, you may get a strong reaction over what seems like a benign issue. His/her anger is likely signaling something more significant. He/she may feel that their needs aren’t being met, requests aren't being respected etc. Try (kindly) asking if their reaction is about greater themes or deeper feelings. Not only will you prevent a blow up, you will create a greater sense of intimacy by showing your mate that you truly hear what they are saying (or trying your best to do so).
3. Open it Up – When we fall back on those go tos they often involve closed ended questions that only lead to yes or no answers. Try using open ended questions that lead to more dialogue and depth. When discussing a topic, ask your significant other things like:
a. How they feel about it
b. What they think about it
c. What prompts them to have those thoughts or reactions
d. What might the world be like or how has the world changed since this person/situation has come to be.
4. Go Back to School – Pay attention to what interests your partner. Learn more about that topic and bring it up in conversation. Not only will he/she appreciate your efforts, they may just reciprocate and grow their knowledge of what interests you in return.
5. Check Your Ego at the Door – Things quickly deteriorate when the focus of a conversation turns from a dialogue to a game of "Who is Right and Who is Wrong?" We lose the opportunity to bond with our mate and really feel heard when our goal is about getting our significant other to relent and submit. When you are able to shift your mindset and move towards "Agree to Disagree" you open up the opportunity to dig in to those open ended questions. You learn more about your partner’s philosophies, feelings and thoughts, thereby preventing agitation and further roadblocks.
6. Introduce Yourself....to Yourself – In order to smooth our path or prevent a circular debate, we often shut off our own feelings/opinions and stumble into the pleaser trap. We agree or say nothing and fall one more rung down the ladder of disconnect. When having a conversation, check in with yourself to evaluate your thoughts and feelings and practice sharing them. Start slowly with small topics to get your feet wet.
7. Become an Archeologist – Over the years, we may feel that we know everything about our mate, when in fact, there are so many topics that we just don't get around to covering. Take a moment and think about what you don't know about your partner and then ask. Here's a jump start:
a. Details from his/her personal history
b. What truly drives him/her
c. Sexual desires
d. Greatest disappointments
e. What excites him/her
f. What scares him/her
g. What matters most to him/her
h. What makes/would make him/her feel the most proud/accomplished
8. Channel Dear Abby – Nothing is more endearing than asking for help or advice. You send an important message not only that you value your partner’s opinion but that you are open to exploring and having a meaningful dialogue.
9. Carry the Weight – We often have the tendency to offer feedback before our love asks for it. We end up diminishing their feelings and create an emotional shut off. When your mate is sharing his/her feelings, practice sitting with it before jumping to the solution. Support where they are at and try to relate to their struggles. Offer loving statements of care and then ask if they want feedback as to possible options. They may take your offer and they may not. Connecting deeply in part, is about giving your significant other what they need in the moment and not what you think they need.
10. Start Drawing – When your mate is sharing with you, try drawing connections to your thoughts, feelings, knowledge or experiences. It offers the opportunity for greater depth, length and content to a conversation.
There is no question that conversation and communication are art forms unto themselves. With practice, the tools above will help you achieve the intensity that can bring you out of the doldrums and provide a powerful reminder as to why you fell in love with your partner at the start. While the length of a relationship matters, it’s the depth the moves you forward.
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