Proper communication can save a relationship. How to talk?
There is no guarantee of a lasting relationship. A relationship never stands still emotionally, although it may seem that way at times. Either it develops and flourishes, or it weakens and fades away. One of the key reasons for distancing from each other and the disappearance of feelings may be the lack of good communication. And proper conversation, clear communication of needs and listening to the other person can be learned.
It is not at all easy to communicate openly in a relationship! Especially when it comes to the more difficult conversations, setting boundaries, or talking about your expectations and needs. Sometimes, with past experiences with our partner in mind, we are afraid of being ignored and rejected again, of having a fight, of having quiet days, of being maligned or ridiculed. Some people, on the other hand, grew up in homes where such things were simply not talked about. Therefore, they have learned from their childhood the limitations and blockades that are still in their heads.
Eight proven ways to strengthen your relationship:
- Tell each other what you need.
- Tell each other what you don’t accept.
- Talk about problems and challenges as they arise.
- Focus on finding a solution (“What can we do about it?”).
- Acknowledge mistakes and errors.
- Apologize and ask for forgiveness.
- Stop talking about your relationship with people who don’t support it.
- Communicate calmly, clearly, and understandably about your expectations.
We assume that our partner should immediately understand what we mean. They don’t need to. Explain what you mean by concrete examples. Learn to paraphrase, that is, to say the same thing in different words. Make sure you understand each other. There is nothing wrong or strange with having to repeat and remind yourself of many things.
Unfortunately, when we form a relationship, we don’t know that one of the key reasons partners drift apart and feelings fade can be a lack of good communication. Ah, how often have I heard: “I wish she had said something to me, I would have done things differently and maybe we would be together today” or “I wish now that I had told him right away, because maybe we would have saved our relationship”. This can involve big issues: “I don’t agree that you should keep in touch with your ex-girlfriend” or “I don’t agree that you should make your own decisions about our finances” or smaller ones: “Please don’t make appointments for us to see your parents without discussing it with me.”
The inability to talk increasingly distances people from each other. Internal feelings of hurt, loneliness, resentment, anger, and rejection emerge. The natural mechanism of negatively interpreting a partner’s behavior and words is activated. It’s just the way we are. This mechanism is merciless. Once turned on, it becomes a self-perpetuating cause of relationship fading. A very destructive force. Fortunately, it can be stopped. If you care about yourself, start acting as soon as possible and make changes before it’s too late. If you want different results than before, then start doing something different than before.
The ground rules!
What are the rules in your relationship? Have you even agreed on them together? Have you talked about them?
In the years that I have been working with women, it has become clear to me that in most relationships, partners have never developed their own rules and principles for their relationship. They have not clearly established what can and cannot happen in their relationship. What they agree to and what they don’t agree to. What needs each of them has and what the needs of the relationship are. And what boundaries. They assume that “somehow it will work out” and that “after all, you know”. No wonder such relationships grow weaker instead of stronger as they drift aimlessly like a boat without a rudder or sail.
Areas in which it is helpful to establish rules
- How will chores be divided up so that not too much falls on one person?
- What does each person like and dislike doing?
- Who will do what on specific days?
- How will you work together to make sure that all household chores are accomplished?
- How will you make sure that neither party feels overwhelmed?
Relationship with the family
- What will your relationship with your parents/family look like?
- How often will you visit your parents/neighbors?
- What issues will you advise your parents on and what issues will you not?
- What will you do if you disagree with the family’s opinion?
- Do you agree that your partner should discuss your affairs with your loved ones?
Sense of security
- What does betrayal mean to you?
- Do you agree with your partner keeping in touch with your ex?
- What are the consequences if one person cheats?
- Do you agree that your partner should keep in touch with his/her girlfriends and your partner with his/her friends?
- Do you agree that you will sometimes go out separately to meet friends?
- What is your attitude toward alcohol and other drugs?
- Do you want to have children?
- When and how many children would you like to have?
- How would you like to raise your daughter/son?
- Do you agree with punishments and if so, what kind?
Work and money
- Do you both intend to work?
- Do you agree that one of you will work in another city/country?
- Will you have joint or separate bank accounts?
- Who will be responsible for paying specific
How will you plan and control spending and savings?
This is not a complete list and is not meant to be. It is important to see that in a relationship, as in many other important areas of life, you can set rules. It’s normal to talk about it and set rules for our relationship. All of them, both minor and major, matter. Poor communication has led to the breakdown of relationships that could have thrived. It didn’t have to happen that way. People just didn’t know about each other’s needs because they didn’t tell each other about them. So never stop communicating openly with each other if you want to grow as a couple. The better you learn to listen to each other, the better chance you have of having a successful relationship.
The golden rules of communication
- Listen to each other so that you can hear the other side and not think of an answer.
- Be open to talking before something becomes an issue.
- Don’t avoid talking about difficult topics and don’t put them off. This will save you from many arguments in the future.
- Ignoring problems only prolongs and magnifies them.
- Bringing up difficult topics and having difficult conversations saves relationships.
- How to have difficult conversations?
- Difficult conversations are an opportunity to better understand your partner, develop your relationship, and strengthen your bond. These tips will help you have them.
- Start the conversation when you have established your intentions.
- Focus on the problem, not the person.
- Talk about your feelings and emotions.
- Take turns talking — don’t interrupt each other.
- Listen to understand each other, not to respond.
- Discuss only one problem or one issue at a time.
- Raising your voice is not a way for someone to better hear what you are saying.
- Take breaks when you need them.
- Communication is a skill. And like any skill, it can be improved through practice. It requires time, patience and commitment.
As you talk, ask questions to make sure you understand. Ask the person you’re talking to to ask questions, too, so you can confirm that they’ve understood correctly, or better explain what you mean. Remember to talk about solutions, not just the problem.
How to be assertive?
Assertiveness is a healthy way to communicate your needs, boundaries and opinions. It helps avoid misunderstandings and recurring arguments.
Instead of starting difficult conversations with: “It’s because of you…”, “It’s your fault that…”, “Because you always…” or “Because you never…”, start talking about how the situation affects you. Say: “When (this happens), I feel …………………., that’s why I need ……………………”
We all have the right to take care of ourselves. Assertive people show respect for the other party, pay attention to what they say and how they behave. The opposite of assertiveness is aggression and criticism, insulting, coercing or manipulating to get what we want.
This is assertive communication:
“I felt ……………….. when you did ………..”.
“I got sad when ………………………..”.
“I stop feeling safe when ………………”.
“I care …………. because I love you”.
“I don’t agree with that, but I understand that you feel that way.”
“I understand what you’re saying even though I don’t agree with it.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way.”
It’s not assertiveness, it’s aggression
- Expecting things to always be your way.
- Manipulating others to get what you want.
- Yelling, insulting, challenging.
- Getting offended to get what you want.
- Using verbal or physical abuse.
- Using information against someone that was a secret.
Only in an unhealthy relationship are you ignored, silenced and pushed away, and your opinion is neither respected nor taken seriously because the other party simply doesn’t care. In a healthy relationship, talking openly and assertively about your feelings, needs and boundaries is normal, expected and respected because you care about each other.
Happy couples never argue?
This is a widespread myth!
We may have been taught to believe in childhood that conflict and arguing are just negative events. This may be the case if we have seen parents or caregivers arguing in such a way that they hurt each other. They have called each other names, yelled at each other, manipulated each other, and then resented each other, punished each other with silence, and emotionally withdrew from the relationship.
Arguing is normal and necessary in a relationship. It is a natural part of communication, always present in human relationships. It’s how we learn what’s important to our partner, what their needs and boundaries are, how we learn their perspective. An argument is a signal that partners are not indifferent to each other, that they care about each other. The worst thing is when one or both of them stop talking to each other and indifference appears. It is not the arguing that is the problem, but the lack of ability to argue and reconcile.
When you learn to argue constructively, you will increase your chances of having a lasting and happy relationship.
- No one knows everything.
- No one is infallible.
- If you both always want to be right and have the last word, you will both lose.