Communication is the bedrock of a healthy marriage or relationship. Through the process of communicating, you share your needs and discover what your partner needs. Such sharing creates a bridge between two separate individuals—a bridge that is the foundation of connection and intimacy. When you stop communicating (or when miscommunication becomes the norm) you remain two separate, isolated islands and your relationship will suffer.
Many marriage and relationship problems can be traced back to faulty communication patterns. Many marriage counselors stay in business because couples fail to use effective communication strategies. A commitment to better communication is the first step in strengthening your relationship—and keeping it strong. The next step is to use effective communication tools to build bridges of intimacy.
Clear message, favorable outcome
Clearly communicating your needs is the foundation of effective communication and a healthy relationship. Marriage counselors often focus on improving a couple’s communication skills; a breakdown in communication often leads to significant marriage and relationship problems. Unfortunately, many couples have discovered that clearly communicating their needs, while necessary, doesn’t always work out as planned.
Unless, of course, you found that mythic creature, the altruistic listener—the kind of listener depicted in romance novels and films. The altruistic listener hears a message once and responds as you hoped. He’s always responsive, is interested and concerned about you and therefore interested in what you have to say. (If you find such a person, you may want to grab on tightly and not let go.)
A little appreciation goes a long way
It’s human nature to feel good about yourself when someone you care about shows gratitude for something you’ve done. You can never heap too much gratitude and thanks onto your spouse/partner—unless, of course, it’s insincere. For many couples, danger lies in not showing enough appreciation because they’ve come to expect certain things from one another.
Give a Little, Get a Little
This is the carrot-at-the-end-of-the-stick communication. This type of “give and take” is a natural part of any relationship. This communication approach is effective for two reasons: First, it shows your partner that you are a giving person and this may stir his/her own desire to give back (giving is often contagious);
You can rely more heavily on this approach when it’s apparent that your spouse/partner needs
some incentive (a nudge) to put on his/her best listening ears and get his sluggish self in high
If you’re like most people, once in a while you will say and do something that is upsetting to your partner, and your partner will do the same (you’re only human, after all); when this occurs it may be important to address the troubling issue—with the goal of stopping your partner from repeating the upsetting behavior.
But what if you’ve told him/her several times to stop a certain unwanted behavior (for example, to stop saying insensitive things about your mother), yet despite your best efforts, he continues on this insensitive path?
If you automatically rely on The Reprimand (when it isn’t necessarily warranted) to get what you want, take a few deep breaths and slow down. Begin adding the other methods to your communication repertoire and practice them until they become a natural part of your marriage or relationship. In doing so, you may find that the doors of mutual, effective communication are starting to open, and intimacy is starting to deepen.