Relationship Musts to Improve Communication and Connection

Relationship Musts to Improve Communication and Connection

02/14/20 Laura Gibbons

Many things are needed to fuel a relationship to keep it strong, healthy, and happy, but let’s start with three important foundational pieces that make couples feel safe, loved, and understood.

1. Honesty:
First and foremost, individuals must be honest with each other. A lack of honesty, leads to a lack of trust. Without trust, it is hard to connect and feel safe. Many relationships buckle when lies, half-truths, and hiding things become known or suspected by the other party. The partner who starts doubting the honesty of the other may live with anxiety, fear, suspicion, and may become resentful of the other person.

Learning to be open and honest with each other will help create a safer environment for more effective communication with your loved one.

Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I feel safe enough with my partner to be open and honest? If not, why?
2. Do I find myself trying to deceive my partner by telling lies, half-truths, or omitting the truth, creating more anxiety for you and your partner?
3. If I’m not being honest, what am I willing to do to change that?

2. Communication:
Communication tends to be the number one issue couples report they need to improve. Many couples fall into negative interaction patterns or cycles that repeat, causing partners to disconnect and lose the ability to communicate in a productive and loving fashion. They begin to feel that their needs are not being met or that they just can’t satisfy their partner no matter what, which perpetuates the negative cycle.

When partners feel vulnerable or threatened, they may respond anxiously by pursuing the other partner, which may appear as nagging, criticizing, or demanding. The other response is withdrawal where the partner appears uncaring, dismissive, and distant. Both these actions carry underlying emotions that are too hard to communicate to their partner (fear, sadness, shame, guilt) and so they present with anger, defensiveness, or stonewalling (to avoid conflict) which prevents them from really connecting.

Use I-statements rather than a blaming position. You might get a better response if you say, “I feel sometimes you don’t realize I need more help around the house,” rather than “You never do anything, I do everything around here.”

Be more direct. Your partner is not a mind-reader. Clearly define the message you want to send so that you don’t deliver a mixed message; you might actually get what you need from your partner. If you want to spend more time together, you should propose that.

Actively listen to your partner. Provide eye contact and repeat your partner’s needs or feelings – this is called mirroring and lets your partner know that you hear them, understand them, and value their feelings. They in return feel heard, understood, and cared for.

Avoid the four horsemen: Criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. These are detrimental communication patterns that will not benefit a couple and lead to disconnection.

Ask yourself this question:
Am I a pursuer or a withdrawer?
Pursuers need to slow down, share their feelings in a calm and concise manner without being critical so that their partner does not feel overwhelmed and apt to want to evade the situation. Withdrawers need to stay engaged, be responsive, and reassuring so that their partner does not feel rejected, alone, or abandoned. Ultimately, partners are fighting for connection and breaking the negative interaction cycle will allow the partners to reconnect and feel more secure in the relationship.

3. Attention to Relationship
Most couples remember the excitement and focused attention given at the beginning of their relationship. But when that honeymoon period ends, couples can justify and make excuses why they don’t give their relationship the attention it deserves. It’s the kids, work, family obligations, housework, or other outside activities. A relationship needs to have mutual respect, be reciprocal – you get what you give – and selfless. Consistently setting aside quality time to spend with your partner is essential, whether you have kids or not.

Ask yourself these questions:
1. How do you like to give and receive love?
2. What excuses are you willing to lay to rest for the sake of your relationship?
3. What steps will you take daily to show your partner you care and love them?

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