Though many of us like to fancy ourselves as such, the reality is that no one is a mind reader. For any relationship to move forward and be rewarding, it has to be based on a foundation of clear and consistent communication. How many times have you let the sun go down on an argument because neither of you could find common ground? What about those times you’ve spoken over or around your partner in an attempt to undermine any attempt at an explanation?
Truthfully, most of us have had more than a few instances of broken-down communication. When you put together two opinionated and charged up people, each with the mindset that he or she is correct, it’s like trying to mix oil and water. Yet, the good news is that with a little bit of self-reflection and a commitment to change, you can reverse this trend and start having conversations with your partner that are meaningful, fruitful and progressive.
Not sure if you need to work on your communication skills as a couple? Read on. Today, we’re sharing five signs that your current strategy is flawed, and how you can fix it.
1. Your texts are one-sided.
We’ve all been there. You send a string of single-sentence text messages to your partner, wait approximately five seconds, and then send another paragraph. Then, you wait by the phone with bated breath only to get a pitiful “OK” in return. While there’s arguably nothing more aggravating, it might be worth it to dig a little deeper.
Sure, there are some people that just aren’t texters. Others might avoid talking on the phone like the plague. In these cases, it’s important to understand your partner’s communication preferences before repeatedly contacting him or her via a medium that isn’t preferred.
Yet, if you know full well that your partner has his smartphone attached to his hip at all times and texts normal, lengthy responses to the rest of his friends and family but can only muster a few letters when replying to you, that could be a red flag. Take a look back at the last few messages you’ve sent. Do they look skewed to your side?
If so, resist the urge to keep typing away. Instead, put the phone down and talk face-to-face with your significant other. Explain your concerns and listen to the response you receive in return. There may be a totally benign reason why you’re not getting the digital feedback you need. Maybe he can’t use his phone in the office, he doesn’t get a signal where he’s at or he was busy working on a project. Or, maybe he’s avoiding you and giving your attempts at “talking it out” the cold shoulder.
2. You’re afraid to reveal your true feelings.
Your partner forgot your birthday. Do you a) talk to him openly about your hurt feelings and disappointment or b) sweep it under the rug and convince yourself there must be a slew of legitimate reasons why this one slipped by. If it’s “b” then this relationship needs some work to do.
A long-term partnership is based on many things, but two of the most important ones are trust and truth. If you constantly feel the need to cover up your true emotions or put on a mask to hide the pain you’re feeling, the union might look great from the outside, but inside, it’s far from authentic. You can only maintain this facade for so long before something gives, and it’s usually a combination of your sanity and the relationship.
Before you go one more day not revealing who you really are or how you truly feel, schedule a conversation with your partner. Explain that you feel as though you can’t speak up. Maybe it’s out of fear of rejection, retaliation or a combination of both. Either way, if you’re being silenced, your inner dialogue will grow so loud that one day you’ll reach a breaking point. Remember, if the lack of communication is catalyzed by abuse of any kind, there are resources, including the National Domestic Violence Hotline, that can help.
3. You’ve learned how to tiptoe around hard topics.
You want kids but he doesn’t. He wants to move to the country but your heart is in the city. These are just a few of the big-ticket, life-changing issues that can be difficult to talk about, especially if both partners don’t agree on them. While opposites can attract, even the most polarly different people should agree on their major life trajectories or else they’ll end up missing each other along the way. Or, worse, one party will settle to make the other happy, which is never a great problem-solving solution.
If you’ve learned how to strategically avoid talking about the major issues that bring you both stress, congratulations! You’ve made life easy for today. But, remember, in the morning those same nagging concerns will still be there, having grown even bigger overnight. The truth is, holding our opinions and voices inside breeds resentment and there are proven reasons why it just feels better to get your opinions and emotions out on the table.
If you’re avoiding certain topics because you know that hashing them out will keep you up all night, or your partner just doesn’t like talking about them, you’ll be bearing that weight for much longer than necessary.
4. You don’t really know each other after all.
You keep your toothbrush at his place and there’s a drawer cleared in your medicine cabinet for his things. You spend infinite amounts of time together and everything is going well. The only catch? You don’t know his birthday and he’s never learned your middle name.
Sometimes, a communication breakdown doesn’t occur because of conflict within a relationship. Rather, it comes about after two people who are madly in love become just a little too comfortable. They stop asking the important questions and learning as much as possible about the other person. They’d rather crash on the couch after a long day and soak up some late-night television than sit eye-to-eye and have a long chat. While there is a time and a place for everything, it’s important to assess if this problem could be plaguing your relationship.
You know his favorite sports, hobbies and movies but how much do you really know about what scares him, what brings him alive and what he hopes to do one day? You’ll never know until you ask, which is why clear communication is not only helpful — it’s necessary.
5. You’re hesitant to share important news.
You just got a big promotion at work. Who do you call first? If your partner is last on your list, now is the time to ask yourself why. Is it because you know the reaction won’t be what you’re expecting and you don’t want to put a damper on this otherwise fantastic day? Is your partner more inclined to question why this power move is such a big deal to you, rather than to celebrate your success? Can you count on him to join you in accepting your big news as his own, regardless of how insignificant it might be in his own life? Or, does he trivialize the details and make you feel as though you’re overreacting, either in a good or bad way?
You should be able to go to your partner with anything, confident that your enthusiasm, anxiety, grief or sheer joy will be returned to you. No one wants to feel elated, only to have the one they love the most pop a hole in their balloon. Or, if you’re stressing over a tiny detail that doesn’t seem like much but is monumentous to you, your partner should sense that and help you through it, not minimize the concern or ridicule it.
Finding That Communication Sweet Spot
No one wants to be texted, called or talked to in-person 100 times a day. We all have our own lives, duties, interests and time constraints. To this end, it’s important to make the best use of the time that you do have as a couple and make sure that you’re communicating as clearly as you can, both while you’re together and when you’re apart.
A communicative partnership will leave you feeling completely understood and like your true, authentic self. Conversely, if you’re living behind a lie and putting on a brave face in public but then crying out of loneliness when you’re back home, it’s time for a major relationship change. Talk to your partner today if you feel the need to improve your ability to work through issues and challenges in a healthy and upfront manner. Change won’t come if no one speaks up, and that first step may begin with you.