Most couples experience communication issues at some point in their relationship. I see this all the time at The Couples Center; they've tried to talk about something important and get stuck in the petty details. Or worse, they get into a fight and end up feeling misunderstood and resentful. So they conclude that they have communication problems, try to learn better techniques and seek out resources that they think will help.
These are well-intentioned steps, but they don't touch the root of the problem. While your communication skills may indeed need a tune-up, simply getting advice on better ways to talk won't solve your relationship problems. At its heart, communication is about connection.
Remember when you started dating? Communication flowed easily, and you were able to talk for hours. How was this possible? Your level of connection was high, and both of you were doing your best to maintain it. You probably enjoyed more spontaneity together, focused more attention on your partner and felt open to learning all about the wonderful new person in your life.
This is normal in a new relationship. Over time, though, life together becomes more challenging. We settle into a routine, do fewer things that make us feel connected and insist more on the things we want. All of this can lead to arguments.
When partners feel connected, communication usually flows well even if you don't always say things in the right way. Without connection, every word or gesture can be misinterpreted. Connection equals attitude plus action.
On a scale of 1 to 10, ask yourself: "How close do I feel to my partner?" Feeling connected comes from a healthy combination of concrete action and a loving attitude. If your number is lower than you'd like it to be, do something to increase it before you talk about an issue with your partner. Here are two steps you can take:
- Do Something to Make You Two Closer. A thoughtful gesture, nice dinner or generous compliment are all actions you can take that deepen connection. Taking steps to connect to your partner daily will turn your communication — and your relationship — around before you know it.
- Empathize With Their State Of Mind. Once we settle into a long-term relationship, we tend to get caught up in our own needs. Next time you're trying to get something across to your partner, pause for a moment and try to imagine what they're feeling or going through. The more you can understand your partner's experience (without losing sight of your own), the more you'll feel connected to them — and you just might be surprised to find that your communication starts to flow like it used to.
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