Communicating in a relationship — why bother?
Relationships are hard. The human species is a social animal yet, so often, we can find ourselves lost, feeling misunderstood or not have our needs met within relationships
As social people, we build networks whether at work, with our friends, through shared interests and even through social media. We thrive on human contact and interaction, it's in our very nature.
So why is it, if we thrive on human contact as building positive and effective relationships especially our most intimate, so hard?
When we enter into a relationship we like to think we stand upon common ground, we have something to share, to aspire to. We hope our values and our way of looking at the world are aligned and that it will sustain us through difficulty or difference.
Relationships exist in cycles - there is the initial buzz and excitement as we meet someone whom we are attracted or drawn to. Then there is the formality of becoming an “official” couple, being seen as a couple by our friends. What then follows is the realisation of difference, negotiating how to stay individual within a relationship, learning how to navigate change and cope with the inevitable stresses of daily life along the way.
If we surpass these well, then there is hope that we have learnt some skills and insights to sustain and continue to grow together.
As humans evolve, our needs and our aspirations may change - we may be lucky enough to find our partner is on the same track or that we can talk it over and find a new way of being, which allows and nurtures this.
However, what about those times when we find it hard to talk effectively or we feel unheard? What happens when we are unable to say what we really feel or think out of fear? What should we do when we need something different, that might threaten our partner or compromise our relationship? What happens when the communication breaks down and we find the relationship has become one based on criticism, anger and misunderstanding; where one or both of us is hurt or afraid?
Communication is the key to successful relationships, but it needs effort and work. Often, we expect the other to ‘just get it’ without us actually taking the time to explain. Sometimes it’s not until we start to explain and explore that we can begin to even understand it ourselves. Yet, often we look for the other to work it out and sometimes even have the answers for us.
Holding on to unspoken hurts or bringing up previous mistakes does harm to our relationships and ourselves as individuals. It can be hard to come back from that and rebuild trust.
When relationships are working well for both partners they offer us space and a nurturing environment, in which we can learn resilience and grow. Truthful communication and honesty with each other and ourselves are fundamental, the building blocks of any successful relationship.
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About Christine King
Christine is a person centred counsellor working in Glasgow. She works across a wide range of difficulty with an interest in how we build better and more sustaining and enhancing relationships with ourselves and others.