Why is communication so hard in relationships? We communicate all day long at work, no issues. We communicate with our girl friends, perfectly received and accepted messages. Our mother’s practically read our minds, our fathers can sigh or make a face and we know exactly what it means. Why oh why is it so tough to get through to our partners sometimes?
I believe there are varying levels, or shall I say depths, of communications challenges. First we have the daily, routine stuff, shallow depth. “Did you remember to mail that package?” “No, what are you talking about?” “I have been talking about it all week and reminded you twice today, how do you not know what I’m talking about.” Sound familiar? LOL. I think we all do!
Could it be that we are so focused on the hundred other things on our plate, that we somehow tune out our beloved? I certainly don’t think it’s on purpose, but it does happen. It could be that you didn’t completely capture his attention before you started talking to him. It could be that he’s still ingrained in what happened during work today and his mind is just not available to take in anything else at the moment. It could be that you were rapid firing so many things in his direction that you lost him after the second thing! Let’s face it, daily communication about routine things can become just another thing on our already busy to-do list.
To combat this, you might try finding set time(s) daily when you are both committed to being in the present moment and running through your lists. Heck, you might even find that if you both slow down and listen to each other, you could consolidate a few tasks/errands and make a few less check boxes on the to-do list. We seem to have hit our stride in doing a “how was your day and what’s tomorrow look like” session each night as we are getting around for bed. It’s like our little time of peace and quiet, the boys are already in bed. We can high five about the day’s wins, commiserate about the days short comings and offer advice and comfort. We can also strategize on the best way to accomplish all of our musts for the next day. Who will get the kids up and around, who will do drop off, do we need a post office or mail run, are there any meetings or errands that take us near where something else needs to be done, etc. It sure makes the morning and next day less stressful, we both know the “extras” that are on our plates.
But that’s the easy one…
What about communication about the tough stuff, the deep depth. You know, the stuff that is buried inside of you. Me for instance, my instinct is to blurt it out. I don’t have much of a filter. I am received differently than I intended because of my delivery. Or, on the flip side, some like to hold things in, they bottle it up and pretend everything is peachy. That usually causes a few likely scenarios, either they bottle it up so long that they end up exploding over something small and meaningless. That’s when EVERYTHING comes out. Otherwise, they become passive aggressive and their partner is walking around wondering where that comment/small behavior came from, you know, since everything is seemingly good.
How do we fix this? Good question!
I’ve been reading a book lately, Mastering Your Mean Girl, by Melissa Ambrosini, and it’s inspiring me to approach these things differently. This was recommended to me by a friend and I highly recommend it to you as well (for either gender). If you enjoy authors like Rachel Hollis, this is very similarly styled and equally easy to read and relate to.
She says approach all things from a place of love. That love can dissolve any conflict! Sounds simple, right. Ha. It’s not quite as simple as one would think, however, when I can pull it off I’m getting great results! I’ve been sharing my learnings with Ricardo, so he’s also working on this with me. Practice makes perfect, right?!
It goes something like this…
A situation arises where he needs to give me some feedback. I don’t know about you, but I am always trying to do my best and it can throw me into defensive mode to hear constructive criticism. I am striving to catch myself right there. Rather than allow myself to get defensive, tell him all the things he is saying are wrong (without even really listening), and defending my point of view or actions, I’m taking a deep breath. I force myself to remember, in that instant, that I love this man and he loves me. I open my heart and my ears and listen to to what he has to say. I thank him for sharing his feelings and thoughts and I take it all in. I try very hard not to respond in that moment, but allow myself time to let it sit and see what parts really ring true for me and what changes I can make. Once I’ve figured that out, I circle back to him and again thank him and fill him in on how it impacted me, what my thoughts are now that I’ve had a chance to process it, and what I can do differently. When I do this effectively there’s nothing to “fight” about, both sides have been heard and had opportunity to respond. It feels really good! So much better than spouting off some sarcastic comments, throwing a half-baked thought out there and arguing about it, where neither party really hears the other and everyone leaves the situation frustrated and sad.
On the flip side, he needs to deliver this feedback with love. He’s my life partner, so surely he’s not out to hurt me or ruin my day. This is all in an effort to make a stronger, healthier relationship and bond. Before he approaches me, he’s given it some forethought. He is approaching me calmly, with kindness, and in a positive manner. After all, the desired outcome is conversation and positive change. He understands that with this approach I will need some time to process what is being said, and he respects me enough to give that. There may be additional dialog when we come back together to discuss it, but we try to do that with kindness and an open heart. When we are successful with this method, we are able to share hard truths, constructive criticisms, and make relational changes all while feeling safe, loved, and continuing to build trust and partnership!
It’s a whole new world for me! Give it a try and see what kind of results you get!