One of the universal truths of a great relationship is that the partners involved are able to communicate with one another. It’s crucial to be able to discuss things that you are less than satisfied with. Discuss. Not interrogate, finger-point or blame. This requires two people who are willing to lay it all on the line, be vulnerable, and actually listen to one another.
But so often, when we sit down to talk about these things, it turns into an issue that we brought it up in the first place and rather than solving problems, more are created. Alternatively, some people leave their problems unaddressed until one day someone loses it and/or the relationship just crumbles. Here, my friends, are 7 principles to consider for effective communication:
1. Make sure you’re in a relationship where you can talk about your problems with someone who cares enough to listen, empathize and change… or at least make an effort to. Plain and simple: if you aren’t with someone who cares enough to work on things, you’re wasting your time.
2. Approach these conversations from the perspective of, hey, I really care about you, and I care about what we have together, so I’d like to share with you some things that are bothering me so we can talk about it. Not argue about it, not ignore the problem, but talk it through. You have to make sure you communicate that you are not attacking this person, rather you care enough about them to deal with the discomfort of talking about the things that aren’t so perfect between you.
3. The environment for these conversations must be a) neutral, b) private and c) when neither of you are angry. By neutral I mean don’t talk about these things in your parent’s house where they could possibly overhear and your significant other feels obligated to act one way or another because, for God’s sake, you’re visiting your parents. Which leads me to my next point of make sure you’re in private. These conversations are nobody else’s business. Lastly, and probably most obviously, nothing good comes of a conversation where one or both of you enter fuming.
4. Be willing to hear if and how you are part of the problem. Don’t ever expect that your partner will feel that he or she is entirely the problem and that you have no role in it, even if you are most compelled to feel that you don’t. This is not a one-sided thing where if you’re unhappy your significant other has to change to appease you. Accept that you may be faced with the idea that you are part of the problem or that they also have things they want you to work on.
5. Don’t think you have failed because you have some strife in your love life. It is absolutely inevitable for two people who are around one another for extended periods of time while also deeply emotionally invested to not have negative feelings arouse now and again. As long as you put forth your best effort to work through them in a healthy manner, don’t ever feel as though you’ve failed.
6. Ignoring problems will not make them go away.
7. Understand that it’s not easy to hear how someone you love very much is dissatisfied with you. Don’t be surprised if defense mechanisms are utilized. Don’t be surprised if you’re met by excuses fueled by embarrassment. What’s key in this process is listening to what you’re saying and imagine if it were being said to you.