All relationships need to be looked after, nurtured and cared for, whether it’s your relationship with your spouse, partner, parents, children, or friends. As a couple, it’s important to continually care for and pay attention to your relationship, keeping the lines of communication open and keeping you close to each other. When couples are close and communicate regularly with each other it supports them to deal with any difficult issues that arise. Issues that cause difficulty between couples are better dealt with at any early stage rather than festering. Below is some guidance aimed at supporting you to have good communication in your relationship.
1. Trust and honesty are important - for yourself and your partner
Trust is a major foundation stone in relationships. In order for trust to develop, grow and continue to thrive, partners need to be honest with one another. Dishonesty can threaten trust, and regular dishonesty has the potential to destroy a partner’s trust and to seriously damage a relationship. Being honest with one another is crucial for healthy, solid relationships. If you commit to being honest with yourself and with each other this will this will support you in having a healthy, close and trustworthy relationship.
It is important not to let difficulties between you fester. If you don’t raise issues that are worrying or upsetting you, your partner may remain unaware that there is any difficulty between you, and therefore can’t be part of dealing with these issues. Generally, none of our partners are mind readers and it is unfair to someone to expect them to be sensitive to or knowledgeable about relationship issues that we have not named or spoken to them about. The only way to deal with problems and to get to know and continue to know one another well is by being open with and talking to one another on a continuing basis.
2. Talk and Listen attentively to one another regularly
We can all be very busy and we often have to multi-task in life, but it’s essential to spend time each day communicating with each other with as few distractions as possible. It is important to show interest in your partners work and or home duties, to listen to your partner’s interests, opinions and concerns in order to keep your relationship close. With the busyness of everyday life, it may be helpful to set aside some dedicated time each day to chat and listen to each and establish a habit lest it gets lost in the busyness of living and multitasking. Listening to someone is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. Being listened to is one of the greatest gifts we can receive from someone.
Good listening involves listening attentively to what the other person is saying. Remember how attentively you listened to your partner when you were getting to know them first?
You may have hung on their every word? Is there a difference in how often and how you listen to them now?
When you have been in a relationship with someone for a long time, it’s not uncommon to fall into patterns of listening that are less attentive and make assumptions about what they are going to say and how they may be feeling. When you know someone very well, it can be easy or tempting to make assumptions about how they might feel. You may be accurate a lot of the time, but not always; you need to be able to listen with focus and attention to what your partner is saying - not what you assume you will hear.
In the workplace or with friends, we may be accustomed to responding very quickly to one another in day-to-day communications. When talking and listening attentively to your partner, it can be helpful to remove any pressure to respond quickly. Allow both yourself and your partner space and time to reflect on what you want to say. This will help prevent you from saying things in an awkward or unclear way and will give you both the room to listen to and express yourselves in a more considered and reflective way.
3. Accept that your partner may have different opinions to you
It can be difficult to hear and accept when your partner has a completely different viewpoint than you on an issue. This doesn’t in any way mean that you have to agree with them, or they with you. All it means is that your partner sees this issue from a different perspective than you. It doesn’t mean they are absolutely right or absolutely wrong. Both of you have the right to your own views and opinions and your right to express them. It is important to remember that a couple does not have to agree on everything, they can agree to differ. Sometimes it may not be possible to agree to differ and a compromise may need to be negotiated. Honest and respectful communication between a couple will greatly support them in negotiating about issues on which they differ.
4. Be open to discussing uncomfortable topics
Each person has their own communication style. Some people are quick to speak up immediately if something is bothering them and they may like to try to sort things out at the earliest opportunity. Others prefer to take time to reflect on their feelings before addressing difficult issues with their partner. It is helpful to be aware of and respect your partner's tendency and they yours. Neither of these approaches is necessarily better than the other, each has its strengths and each its challenges.
The most important thing is that issues arising between you are addressed and both of you are listened to and respected. It’s crucial not to ignore difficulties over long periods of time. This can cause them to fester and solidify and make them more difficult to discuss, manage or resolve. It’s important to be open and honest with your partner even when it doesn’t feel easy. When couples care for one another each will be open to listening to what their partner is upset or distressed about.
5. Even when you are not clear about what’s bothering you it’s still helpful to talk.
We are complex beings and relationships are complicated. Our feelings and reactions can ebb and flow and change in relation to issues over time. It’s not always easy to understand ourselves or our partners. Even if you are not clear yourself what is bothering you or why, you can still let your partner know how you feel. It could be related to their behaviour, or not at all. Starting the conversation may help to clarify an issue for you. Once something is clarified for you can then being to explore how it might be managed or resolved. Even if the initial conversation doesn’t clarify what’s going on for or bothering you, sharing honestly and openly with each other and knowing your partner is willing to help you figure things out can bring you closer together and help your understanding of each other to grow and deepen.
If you’d like help from professional marriage and relationship counsellors contact ACCORD Catholic Marriage Care Service.