When a relationship is new we often feel like we can talk for hours and never run out of things to say. We feel heard and understood and that this other person has deep care and concern for our well-being and we for theirs. Wouldn’t it be nice if this euphoria lasted forever? Unfortunately this initial phase of a relationship, filled a heady sense of passion, is often fleeting. Soon it’s replaced with two flawed individuals just trying to figure out how to navigate their lives together. As we start seeing more of this human-side of our partner, the communication that once flowed so freely can become stunted. He no longer seems to listen. She seems to become more critical and nagging. Soon we start to feel less and less connected and begin to wonder if we are meant to be together at all.
While it is often not possible for a relationship to recapture the exact feelings that were present at the very beginning, it is possible to have so much more. A relationship of depth based on time and experiences together. One of learning to love the person standing in front of you instead of the version of him or her that you envisioned in your mind. In order to get there however, we need to figure out how to communicate in an effective way.
Steps to Improve Communication With Your Partner
The following steps will put you on the path of improving communication with your partner.
1. Pick the Right Time
The first step in this process is to pick the right times to communicate. All of us have times when we don’t want to hear anything from anybody. These times often occur when we feel drained, tired, hungry, or irritable. If someone tries to initiate conversation with us during these times, in particular if the focus is on something that is needed from us, we will most likely not receive it well. We will respond out of whatever emotion we are experiencing at the time (i.e. anger, frustration, or irritability). In order to increase the chances of having a productive conversation, ask your partner if this is a good time to talk instead of simply launching into conversation. This lets your partner know that you are considering his needs as well.
2. Stay on Topic
The next step is to make sure that you stay on topic. It can be easy to go from, a simple request to take out the trash, to blaming your partner for never being there for you. This is how arguments can become damaging and hurtful words are often flung at each other out of this hurt. By staying on topic you reduce the chances of a conversation turning into an argument. You also increase the chances of having your primary concern resolved.
3. Focus on Connection Instead of Control
The final step is to focus on connection instead of control. Now this might sound like an odd step, but think about it. Take a moment right now to reflect on the communication you had with your partner in the last 24-hours. How much of your communication was centered around what you wanted your partner to do for you, the home, or the kids. How much of it was about how your partner was doing, feeling, or thinking? How much was about relationship building and connecting with him? Was your tone of voice loving or demanding?
Our partners are more likely to become defensive if they perceive that we are trying to control them or tell them what to do. Instead try speaking with your partner instead of talking at him. Think about communicating with her from a position of partnership and connection instead of one of control. If you filter your communication through this lens, imagine how this might enhance your connection with her.
Communicating well with others is something that most of us will be working on for the rest of our lives. Following the above steps of picking the right time, staying on topic, and focusing on connection, will get you on your way to enriching your most cherished relationships.