Communication is important in any relationship we are a part of, but because the nature of a romantic relationship leads us to be more vulnerable to one another, it becomes especially valuable. Communication can help us set the foundation of a healthy relationship. It allows us to feel supported, heard, respected, and on the same team. There are a lot of different aspects of a relationship that may arise, which can make communication challenging. I would like to share some important points that may help ease communication in your relationship.
1. Communication Development
Typically the first teachers in our lives are our parents or primary care givers. We learn a lot about how communication works by the way they interact with us early on. In addition to our parents, our communication development is also influenced by what we witness when our family communicates with each other. I often hear couples’ confusion when trying to understand why they struggle with communication in their relationship, even though their partner may be of the same culture, religion, or hometown. During times when we feel our partner does not understand our thoughts and feelings with the ease we hope for, it is important to consider the ways you both were raised and how that impacts communication.
2. Communication Style
Often times, couples that I see discover the importance of communication styles when they face communication challenges. What does this mean exactly? When we speak the same language to each other, we expect the person to receive the message as we communicated it. It is not as easy as that because we also need to consider how they interpret the message based on their communication style. Sounds complicated, but it’s all about learning your communication style and that of the ones you love. An example of communication styles is gender differences. Even though everyone has their own communication style, we see a more distinct gap between men and women, which makes learning about communication styles especially important in romantic relationships. Usually, men are solution seekers and are motivated to solve problems to help alleviate stress their partner is experiencing. Women on the other hand, appreciate being heard and supported through an uninterrupted listening session. We may need the complete opposite from our partner then what they try to provide to us, imagine that! Of course, this can cause friction between a couple when woman and men have different tactics to help their partner. A woman can feel they are not being heard by her partner because he continues to offer solutions to the problem, or a man can feel like their problem is not important because their partner is not providing solutions to help. Don’t expect your partner to be a mind reader. Instead, be honest about what you need when you are experiencing difficulties.
I would like to provide you with a quick tip when communicating in your relationship. Try to avoid the word “don’t” when communicating with each other. “Don’t” can automatically lead your partner to feel defensive. For example, try “ I like it when you take our dishes to the dishwasher” verses “ I don’t like it when you leave your dishes on the table and expect me to clean up after you.”
I witness couples experiencing difficulties in their relationship, not because they don’t love each other, but because they find it hard to understand each other. If you are in a relationship where you experience tension due the inability to effectively communicate, counseling can help. In counseling, I help the couple become aware of their communication development and style, while learning tools that fit their relationship and help ease communication between them.
by Manisha Mayani
MA, LPC-Intern, NCC