If you have been in a relationship for a long time and you have the impression that something is not working, you realise that you have distanced yourself from your partner or your partner has distanced from you, you are increasingly dissatisfied and angry, you feel hurt, you think that your partner is not the right person for you, maybe you think about cheating on him/her, you are arguing more and more often, sexual intercourse is becoming rarer… you are probably wondering where that feeling at the beginning of the relationship disappeared, when you were in the phase of falling in love and initial euphoria.
One of the most important aspects of any emotional connection is communication. Lack of communication has been shown to be the most common reason why a breakup occurs. When we talk about communication in a relationship, we primarily think about talking about feelings and resolving conflicts. Often, partners have a fear of conflict, and many people equate conflict with an argument that leads to the end of the relationship and not as a way to deepen the relationship and increase intimacy and understanding.
Every relationship in our life requires effort, and part of that effort is quality communication. When it comes to relationships, communication must be the foundation of that relationship so that it doesn’t collapse. Without effective communication, no relationship will last.
There is a misconception among individuals that love means merging with a partner. This is based on the belief that the quality of true love is when the partners can “read each other’s minds”, which is not the case. Although each couple after a certain period develops their own language and their own way of verbal and non-verbal communication, but this doesn’t mean they can read each other’s thoughts. Individuals, on the other hand, often rely too much on non-verbal communication, which is not reliable, because verbal communication is far more precise than nonverbal. So, until our partner expresses in words how and why they feel a certain way, we cannot know for sure what it is about and what they are experiencing.
The basic characteristic of couples who have good communication is that they express themselves and their needs in an open, direct and energic way. They avoid communication deadlocks in the form of redirecting and accusing (It’s your fault we’re not doing well. No, it’s your fault) and the like. They are able to focus on solving the problem they have, which means that they can precisely define it and acknowledge that they both contribute to the existance of that problem. They manage to stick to topics during the discussion of the problem (e.g. their conversation doesn’t grow into redirecting and remembering everything that the partner has done wrong in the past). They are able to listen and understand the other side and their way of pereciving the problem. They do not avoid conflicts, but openly approach them and see them as challenges and an opportunity to improve the relationship and develop intimacy.
Although we know that quality communication is a way to maintain a good relationship, the question is how to achieve that quality communication. What are the communication patterns we resort to without even being aware of them and how to get rid of them and learn new ones that are more useful for the survival of our relationship.
Some tips that can help you improve your communication skills and resolve conflicts more effeciently:
1. Effective management of negative emotions
The most important condition that you must fulfill in order to communicate effectively is a good regulation of your own emotions, especially anger. And you can do that if you remember that:
· you have control over your emotions, even though the other person may be behaving inappropriately
· despite the other person reacting the way you don’t like, you can still express your feelings without hesitation or blaming the other person
· tell yourself that you will not allow the need to win or to be right to exhaust you and unnecessarily waste your energy.
2. Assertive communication
Assertive communication is based on a clear and open presentation of one’s needs, in a non-aggressive way, but understanding and respecting someone else’s position (what the other person thinks, feels and believes).
People who assertively communicate believe that:
· they have the right to express their feelings and needs
· expressing needs and desires doesn’t make them aggressive, no matter what their partner or other people say
· they are not afraid of other people’s emotions and reactions
· someone else’s inappropriate behavior, ignoring or devaluing their needs, says nothing about themselves and doesn’t make them less valuable.
3. Clearly defining the problem and having a constructive conversation about it
When you wish to raise an issue with your partner criticise, it is advisable to do as follows:
· start the conversation by saying how you feel about the problem (e.g. I feel sad because we rarely do anything together
· name some recent example of your partner’s behavior that bothers you, but very briefly and concisely (e.g. I feel sad because we didn’t go anywhere together and that you refused several times when I suggested we go to the movies or the theatre)
· suggest what you would like in the future when it comes to this problem
· to motivate your partner, state the positive consequences of the change you are proposing.
Listening is extremely important. Although it often happens that we do not listen to each other, as we are focused on what we are going to say or we get caught up in that part of the conversation that has offended and hurt us and we stop listening. Instead, focus on the facts, so you can hear what your partner thinks and feels about the problem. It is important that you listen, without attacking or accusing. Repeat what you have heard, to check with your partner that you understand what was said. Show understanding and give suggestions for solving the problem.
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to understand how the other person is thinking, feeling, and seeing the situation you are in. When you learn how to empathise, you will find it easier to communicate and find it harder to fall into feelings like anger because you will better understand the other person and the reason for their behaviour.
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