7 tips to improve communication in couples
As a couples therapist it is clear that clients in my practice tend to come with various types of problems, and I think I can say with some confidence that there are almost always communication issues, or a lack of communication altogether. I say almost because we therapists do not believe in the terms "always" or "never".
At the same time, as a human being just like any other, I also see several couples with problems around me; friends, relatives, acquaintances, even people on the street. I noticed some recurring difficulties, and I would like to talk about communication problems in couples.
I'm going to start by saying that, even though it hurts me to say this, I think communication is more of a priority than love itself in a relationship. As a child I did not believe it, not surprisingly with the education of romantic love of princesses and princes that we are taught, or were taught, thinking that with true love everything goes well and it´s enough... Well no.
Love needs effort, a kind of effort one enjoys making rather than out of obligation. Communication also requires effort, with everyone really, not just with your partner!
So I'm going to talk to you about 7 communication ¨mistakes¨ often made and I'm going to give you some tips to improve them and thus have a healthier and more loving relationship. If you can think of more, please don't hesitate to add them!
1. NOT LISTENING
It may seem silly to you, but most people don't know how to listen. People hear but do not listen. Especially if it is during an argument, many people already have their argument prepared, whatever the other person says. How is it possible to move forward in a conversation like this? If I already know what to say to you, it means that I am not really listening to what you are saying in the moment. I don't pay attention. This is very noticeable and does not feel good at all. The result? The other gets even more angry, doesn't feel respected, feels hurt, and the fight continues ... until the argument most likely ends badly.
Alternative – First, one person speaks, the other repeats what they have just heard to ensure that they have understood it correctly and then respond in line with what they have just heard. With kindness. Most of the time we will not like what we are going to hear, but it is important to give it importance. Giving importance to the other person´s feelings is essential. In this way we can expect the same in return.
2. READING MINDS
This tends to happen in two ways:
- ¨ You should know what I like! You should know this makes me mad! ¨
- ¨ I know you! I know what you´re thinking! ¨
First of all, how is the other supposed to know what we like and what we don't like, if we don't tell them? Most people cannot guess what the other thinks, they are not God, they are probably not mediums, and I believe that they do not have super powers to enter our mind and know what we think (Thank God!) . IT´S OK to tell the other person for example ¨ I like surprises, I would love for you to give me one at some point. I'd rather you touch me like this than like that. Honey, I don't like it when you're on your mobile all the time when we're together, I feel abandoned. ¨ etc.
Secondly, it is true that we can know each other very well and know how one and the other normally act. Still, we can't know each other THAT well to know all the thoughts and feelings we always have. Sometimes something can feel different, it can affect us in a distinct way. Also, what this behaviour meant in the past doesn't necessarily mean exactly the same thing this time. So, it would be better to give the other the opportunity to explain what is really happening before guessing and assuming things that make us angry for no reason. What do you think?
Avoiding confronting problems does not make them go away. It is easier, yes, because it avoids having an uncomfortable conversation, an unwanted result, a confrontation that is difficult for us to have, etc. It´s easier to pretend everything is fine, or be silent. Both very bad options. Acting like everything is going well makes the other person not know for sure if something is wrong. Then everything remains the same, while one of the two becomes more and more angry, which obviously does not go well for the relationship. On the other hand, silence makes the other person know that something is very wrong but they do not know why, and then they fill their heads with possible scenarios, which most of the time do not adjust to reality.
This happens in many couples, and then the problems pile up, both keep quiet, start to behave differently, making rash comments or acting slightly angrily. Until one day, one of the two explodes uncontrollably without knowing where this reaction came from. Is this familiar to you?
Alternative - Talk about things from the beginning. Sit down together calmly and express your feelings and thoughts on the subject, bearing in mind the first point on this list, LISTEN. It is normal that you are going to have disagreements, on many issues! Because you are two different individuals, with different stories, values, experiences and different thoughts. Therefore, we have to speak and express what bothers us, what we think is not going well, what we would like to see happen (more), etc. In this way, more trust is gained in the relationship and, consequently, it gives a sense of security.
4. SPEAK BADLY TO EACH OTHER
The truth is, it amazes me how easily couples get to the point where it's supposed to be okay to talk badly to each other. It is one thing to feel comfortable and to be able to express anger or annoyance, but why disrespect? At what point do you think that spending time with a partner gives you permission to speak badly, criticize and insult the other? How do you think you can fix things by speaking badly? When you see people fight in the street and insult each other, does it ever end well?
I don´t think so. I think that this way they end up getting more irritated, their ego goes off the roof because they have been disrespected and because you just can't talk like that to people, and then they end up hitting each other. Am I wrong?
I can be very angry with you and I will say things that I can regret, but the daily comments of criticism and insults make the relationship toxic, self-esteem gets worse and worse, and takes away the desire to want to be with the other in an intimate way and to enjoy spending time together. This kind of hostility causes everything to fall apart. If there is not even the slightest respect when it comes to speaking in a civilized way to each other, you cannot work on anything else in the relationship.
Alternative - DO NOT SPEAK BADLY. DO NOT DISRESPECT.
5. THE SMALL THINGS
Another thing that I have noticed that often happens in couples is that, after a certain point, they stop giving importance to the small things in life, but they actually mean a lot in the end. For example saying ¨Good morning¨, ¨Good night¨, giving a good morning kiss, or a kiss when you get back from work, give a hug at any time just because, maybe make little surprises (like buying a chocolate, nothing major), compliment each other ...
Do these things ever stop pleasing? Do you stop liking a good morning kiss or a comment like ¨How beautiful you are!¨ ¨I love it when you do this!¨etc.? Right? So why stop?
These seemingly small things can be powerful enough to change someone else's mood for the whole day, or to make them feel good about themselves. Also, in this way they motivate each other to follow these things, for example, if he/she buys you a chocolate that you like one day, it will make you more likely to want to do something for them, to make their life easier or to make them smile.
It's a give and take, and it's rewarding for the both of you as well as the relationship.
Taking revenge in the relationship will get you nowhere.
Revenge basically translates into ´Not forgiving´. If one has not forgiven the other for something, it is in their right, they are probably still hurting. Maybe it is something that you will not be able to overcome, or it takes more time and effort on both sides. However, if you act with revenge as a result of the pain, it only makes things worse. The other gets hurt too, and this continues in a vicious cycle, with infinite things to forgive. It reaches a point where there are so many things that can no longer be forgiven. So the first problem has turned into a mountain of problems full of pain, anger, betrayal, injustice, revenge and fear. How do you recover from this?
Alternative - Be sincere if you are not prepared to forgive, be sincere with what you feel and reach an agreement on how you prefer to continue for now. If you decide to forgive, you have to do it for real, not blaming this situation at every opportunity. If one is not prepared to forgive, it is also valid. You just have to be honest and reflect on what the other needs, and have a conversation about the needs of both.
7. MINIMISING ISSUES
This is another indirect way of disrespecting, and not listening to each other. As a result, it often creates feelings of anger and impotence; two very strong feelings that make the person reach their limits and not act in their normal way of being.
Whatever it is, if it bothers the other person and they express it, it has to be respected. Maybe you don't see it in the same way. It doesn't matter, because the other person sees it that way and feels that way. It doesn't mean that your opinion doesn't matter, but that the other person's opinion has to be taken into account as well.
For example, if it seems silly and exaggerated to me that when I speak badly to you, I don't really mean it like that and it is with affection and you know it, but it makes you feel terrible, you think I don't love you, you feel ashamed that I talk to you like this in public and it puts you in a bad mood almost every day… then I should consider your feelings and think about my way of speaking, even though I know that I love you and that it does not seem so derogatory to me. If I love you, and I want you to feel good with me, I will make an effort in the way I speak to you.
All of these points of communication affect the relationship constantly. What is most needed to achieve all this, is listening. I repeat it because it cannot be repeated enough. We have not been taught to actively listen in life, which means that we don't really take into account the words that come out of the other person's mouth. We only look at what we feel and think. In this way, it becomes very difficult to move forward and evolve in a loving way.
So I encourage you to think about these points, reflect, and share this way of thinking and acting with everyone, to try to promote healthy communication between everyone, and thus live more peacefully.