I’ve spent a great deal of time working with couples who are having a hard time communicating within their relationship. One of the first questions I ask them is “Was it always hard to talk to each other”? The answer is almost always no. But over time, the inability to connect through verbal communication has faded. It is interesting to note, that I see this more in couples who are younger than 40. I believe this to be true because this demographic grew up with a mobile device attached to their hips and hands, and never really had to rely on basic interpersonal skills. And there are 3 areas that commonly cause problems for us as we try to communicate.
The first problem area is courtesy. Courtesy and basic politeness are in many cases are non-existent in my younger couples. While this can be true at any age, the art of courtesy is lacking with the 40 and younger crowd (please know that I am not making a generalization. I just see it more with these couples).
I have written about this extensively. When engaged in mindful conversation with our partner, we don’t answer text, emails or take calls. I know I am guilty of this from time to time. But both my wife and I are very good at communicating our needs when having these conversations. Just the other night as we were driving down to the water, I started to talk about our upcoming financial responsibilities. In a matter of seconds, she asked if we could please not talk about that now. That the point of going to the water was to enjoy the sunset and wildlife. In a matter of seconds, that conversation stopped, and we were able to enjoy our evening talking about more meaningful things.
By showing her respect and honoring her wishes, we were able to connect to each other and source. She stated her request. She wasn’t rude about it. I didn’t take offense to it. We had a lovely evening. Politeness paved the way.
The second area that brings couples do my door is their fighting. When two or more are gathered together, there will eventually be misunderstanding and conflict. However, if you “fight fair”, it can be a door that leads to greater intimacy. Let me try and simplify this. See the above section on courtesy and politeness. It is so important that when a difficult conversation starts, be fully present and invest in the process.
I have had couples when in the middle of a heated discussion take calls, turn of the TV set and any other thing they could do to avoid intimacy. Because that what this really boils down to. Being vulnerable and resistant to change. There are many tools out there that can help facilitate an argument. It would be helpful to research some, and have them readily available (and agreed upon) prior to a fight. It is much better to be proactive than reactive in these situations.
The last thing I want to mention is the “I’m sorry” area. So many of us have outgrown an apology. We either don’t say it. Or, we don’t mean it. You know the old saying that the best apology is changed behavior. But even before we get to that point, it starts from those words rolling off of our lips. I am sorry. And know that not every apology is an admission to guilt. You can be sorry that someone is hurting. You can be sorry that someone misunderstood what you said. The important this is say it. Give clarifications. Make adjustments. Be open. Be vulnerable and move on. It’s quite the simple process.
If you follow these 3 steps, you should be well on your way to a greater level of communication and intimacy in your relationship. When you’re polite, you will usually be met with kindness in return. If you have tools that are agreeable to the both of you prior to a heated discussion, you probably decreased the intensity by at least a third. And it’s okay to say I’m sorry and be vulnerable. If we remain closed off, the best we can expect is a relationship of little progress and superficial communication. And if you’re still reading this. I’m guessing you want more from your relationship.