Practically Married: Part 10 – Communication
“You don’t listen.” “She doesn’t understand me.” “We struggle with our communication.” Most people in long-term relationships have either said or thought these words. Although communication can be challenging for newlyweds, it can also be problematic for decades into a relationship.
If communication is something you feel needs improvement, the first thing to figure out is what that really means. In some cases what you’re looking for is agreement. You may believe that if your partner would really listen and try to understand you, he or she will see things your way.
If that’s how you’re defining communication, you may never be satisfied. Based on upbringing or fundamental beliefs, your partner may flat out see things differently. Instead of more convincing, the situation may call for negotiation or acceptance.
For some partners the definition for better communication is more talking. However, as psychologist and co-author of the book “How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It” Patricia Love (yes, that’s her name) says:
The number one myth about relationships is that talking helps. The truth is more often than not, it makes things worse.
This concept certainly went against everything I believed about marriage, but I now believe that depending on the type of spouse you have, it is entirely accurate. Although Love and fellow author/psychologist Steven Stosny aren’t suggesting we never talk about important issues and feelings, they say many of us are going about it backwards.
According to Stosny:
Communication in love relationships is a function of emotional connection.
Dr. Stosny believes we should be striving to create and maintain connection with our partner. Simple acts such as doing activities together, having sex, and nonsexual physical touch are key components to forming a strong connection.
Another way to maintain that sense of connection is by knowing what’s happening in each other’s lives. What’s going on with that big project at work? Why are you concerned about the guy your sister’s dating? Being able to answer questions like this about your spouse is what marriage expert Dr. John Gottman calls “having richly detailed love maps.”
A love map is Gottman’s term for the part of your brain where you store information about your partner. In his bestselling book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. Gottman explains the importance of knowing the small things like how your spouse takes coffee, as well as the big things like his or her future goals and current fears.
For many couples, communicating and staying connected comes from knowing how to show love to each other. Since it’s first edition published in 1992, The 5 Love Languages has been teaching couples that people want to be shown love primarily in one of five different ways:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
Author Dr. Gary Chapman believes that discovering and then using your partner’s love language will have a significant impact on the quality of your relationship.
For couples that choose to be proactive, there are many ways to improve the way you speak and listen to one another regarding feelings and differences of opinion. Sometimes by implementing just one recommendation or technique, it’s possible to make profound changes in the quality of your relationship.