You feel misunderstood, you feel frustrated… and chances are your partner feels the same way. Every time you communicate, you’re going to tense up just at the thought of communicating – – maybe just as you hear these fateful four words “We-need-to-talk”. You tense up before the talk, and you tense up during the talk. Even if all goes well, it’s tiring simply because you’re tense.
Chances are, if you have communication problems, the talk doesn’t go that well. It feels like a major effort to get your points across.
Improving your relationship means dealing squarely with the problems that are making it unravel. This means that you’re going to make an effort to overcome the accumulated layers of misunderstandings that exist between the two of you.
It takes a conscious effort to reverse the vicious cycle of miscommunications. But it’s well worth the effort.
Resolving conflicts has some similarity with what is popularly referred to as getting to a compromise. But this is a different notion of compromise than the one we’re accustomed to.
All too often, we think of as a compromise as a measure that is some way in-between what each of you wants… This means it will frustrate both of you because it’s not what either of you really wants!
This notion of compromise is very much related to the idea that you are in an adversarial position: You are at a stalemate, and each of you has to give up something because the other person forces them to.
Trying to find the “right” compromise on the issue is not necessarily going to be much help for the underlying emotional problem.
What’s going to be more helpful is to experience that there is a place where you can feel empathy without losing yourself. In other words: a way that you can pay attention to your partner’s needs without your needs being trampled.
From that place where there is both love and strength, both of you can feel yourself be emotionally in tune. You can find agreements without losing yourself. And dealing with conflicts is going to feel like something that strengthens your relationship, instead of threatening it.
I have an image in mind – – two images actually:
– First, imagine a little cart on wheels; it glides smoothly when you gently push it. This is communication when it works.
– Now, imagine a heavy crate without any wheels. It’s a major effort to get it to move even a few inches. And, as you keep pushing, you get more and more tired, you may even strain a muscle. This is the image for communication problems.
Now, let me ask you: which of the two situations above do you want? It sounds like a dumb question, doesn’t it? But, if you really don’t want to have the strain of bad communication, why do you keep doing what you’re doing?
It takes a conscious effort to change established patterns. Plus, there may be the feeling that it’s not you who should change, it’s your partner. You’re not the one at fault in this relationship. He/she is!
Until at least one of you makes the decision to make changes, things are going to stay the same – – or get worse.
How do you know when some change is needed?
Here’s one way: Ask yourself whether conversations with your partner are, on the whole, nurturing, neutral, or draining. Better yet, discuss this with your partner.
How do you change the pattern?
The very first step is for the two of you to start actively listening to each other. This means, paying attention to what the other is saying, and summarizing what you hear. Then, and only then, saying your piece.
Listening to each other, giving each other the sense of being heard, is great… but sometimes the problems run deeper than that. So, do not be disappointed if listening is not a magic solution to all your problems. At the very least, what you can accomplish through listening is agree that you have a problem, and that you may need outside help.
Stress tends to happen when you feel overwhelmed and feel you have no way to effectively address your problems. Conversely, you will probably notice that, as you start taking action to deal with these problems, some of the stress starts lifting.
Photo: Mohammed Hassan / Pixabay