Communication in Relationships
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Graeme Orr MBACP(Accred), UKRCP Reg. Ind. Counsellor
5th December, 20120 Comments
Relationships have problems and breakdown for a number of reasons, typically finance, sexual problems or infidelity and arguments and family problems. All have their unique difficulties but as most relationship counsellors will tell you at the root of the majority of the problems is a breakdown in communication between the partners. Ultimately a big factor is the recovery process is whether communication between partners can be brought back to healthy levels.
It is often said that trust and affection are the things that build relationships. If that is the case then it is communication that is the mortar that sticks the whole thing together. Healthy communication will mean that both partners can feel the other’s trust and affection and from that the relationship is healthy. Yet if the communication is unhealthy then the mortar is weak, partners are less sure about the sturdiness of the trust and the affection. With communication forming such a key part of any relationship how should you ensure that your communication is healthy?
It’s easy when we are hurt or feel unappreciated to hit out, to try to hurt in the way that we are hurting. We might hurl accusations at our partner: “You always leave the car without any petrol in it!” One attack leaves to another in a vicious circle that gets further and further from a solution. Yet there is a simple way to defuse this situation and that is to own your feelings about the situation and to resist the temptation to hit out: “I feel like you don’t care about me, I have to leave early in the morning and if there is no petrol in the car I am late”. This communicates much better what you feel about the situation, does not judge your partner, but leaves it to them to understand how they should act in the future.
It’s also easy to make assumptions and mind read what your partner is thinking without checking it out. For example your partner meets one of their “exes” in the street and suggests you all catch up for a drink sometime. You assume that they still like them perhaps that they even prefer them to you. Instead of explaining how uncomfortable you feel, you choose to assume things about your partner. Perhaps it was someone that they didn’t get on with and going for a drink was just a way of getting away quickly. If you don’t check you could have a conflict that is based on an assumption. While this is an almost trivial example you can see how it could apply to more complex situations in a relationship.
Finally probably the thing people do least of in communication is listen. Interestingly it is probably the thing that people need to do the most of to resolve conflicts. By listening you can understand what is going on for the other person. Perhaps there is something you didn’t realise you were doing in the relationship and want to change.
Ultimately one of the things that will help you communicate well and effectively is if you can both be vulnerable in your relationship. It is easy when the trust and the affection are there for there is something to build with. It can be very difficult to be vulnerable if you are under attack. In the end perhaps the best way to have good communication in a relationship is to practice being responsible for how you feel in the relationship and being honest about how that affects you for if you both do that you will have something very strong indeed.
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