It’s amazing how much of my time working with clients is spent translating what someone partner is really meant when they said something upsetting.
Relationship communication is such an important topic because it’s woven through every aspect of what you and your partner does and how you feel about each other.
Sometimes I get the sense that everyone thinks that communication in relationships is about setting aside X number of minutes on a regular basis to talk about ‘how our relationship is going’ and that’s it. Yes, that’s a good practice, but it really is the thin end of the wedge.
If you want answers to specific questions on relationship communication, go to the main relationship advice page for couples. If you want to get a general overview of the source of relationship communication problems, a kind of basic ‘what’s going wrong?’ here’s as best a summary as I can write within the confines of a web page.
Communication in Relationships and Compatibility
Compatibility is the key to a great relationship. And how compatible you are at communicating is no different.
Everyone has their own unique style of communicating, but there are ‘areas’ of communication style that you can categorize.
- How much do you like to talk?
• How much do you like to listen?
• The depth of what you’re comfortable talking about
• your ability to read non-verbal communication
• the expectation you have for others to be able to understand you without using words explicitly
• and more!
A great starting point is to assume that there are no right or wrong ways of communicating – merely your own, or your partners own preferences.
Imagine what happens if you put someone who likes to talk a lot about their deepest feelings of how the relationship is going together with someone that likes to talk little and is very uneasy sharing anything past a superficial conversation. Recipe for discomfort I think you’ll agree. But you’d be surprised how many couples have a basic incompatibility in their natural communication comfort zones. Maybe it’s not as obvious as that but in compatible all the same. It’s resolvable but it’s going to take a conscious effort to prevent it from being disastrous.
And it’s not as simple as avoiding matching opposites like the example above. Neither is it as simple as matching couples with the same style. Think of a relationship with two people who like to talk a lot and don’t like to listen. There will be a whole lot of jaw movement going on but very few feelings of connection between the couple.
To get your ideal communication partner is like the Chinese symbols of Yin and Yang – opposite in many ways but overall complimenting each other, blending seamlessly together.
If you and your partner are incompatible in some major area of your communication styles then you really do have a challenge. I’ll talk more about how to deal with this later on.
The Gender Gap
Yes – there are plenty of generalizations about the way that men and women communicate. No – they don’t apply to all men or all women. But once you’ve accepted that they are generalizations, you still need to be aware of them. Men and women ‘naturally’ communicate in a different way and for different reasons.
I don’t tell you this so that it becomes an excuse for why you and your partner have problems communicating. I tell you it because a) it makes it easier to spot the gender differences and b) it makes it easier to forgive/understand/appreciate when there is a gap in communication between the two of you.
The most famous of relationship books that looks at the whole gender gap is ‘Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus‘. If you haven’t read it, get a copy now. Also, you may want to get a copy of ‘Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps‘. Neither of these books is sexist, they just outline physiological and observed behavioral differences between the genders. Besides which they’re both fun and compelling reads.
Once you’ve read them, at the very least, you’ll have an appreciation of the common differences which will make understanding those occasional communication ‘glitches’ easier to deal with. This is great news because it means you can stop taking every upset quite so personally.
What to Do If Your Relationship Communication Is Poor
Poor communication or problems around relationship communication are rarely simple, rarely solved by a 3 step process or few quick tips. It’s often a symptom of an underlying issue that needs to be dealt with before your relationship can progress.
If you feel like you’re no longer able to communicate with your partner, if your conversations quickly turn sour, if you can’t bring yourself to share with them what you need to or if you don’t know how to get them to have the conversation that you want, then I suggest you get some relationship communication help, either from me or from another professional.
Poor communication in relationships is the equivalent of finding your house is suffering from subsidence. On the outside the cracks of communication look small and sometimes innocuous. But behind those cracks hide some major issues with your relationship. Sometimes so much so that it’s just not safe to inhabit that relationship any longer.
Will tomorrow be the day you wake up to find it’s all fallen down around you?
Alex Wise is CEO of Loveawake.com – the fast-growing online dating site. The site uses your responses to pair you with compatible dates across New Zeland, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and etc, promising a high accuracy rate as long as you know what you want and are honest about it. He has been covering online dating, relationships, online and marriage niche since 2008. He loves sharing meaningful content that educates and inspires people to bring their dreams into reality