At the beginning of your relationship you probably communicated beautifully. Why else would you believe that you found your soul mate? You trusted your partner to listen and be understanding of your needs. Then at some point in your relationship life got crazy. It got busy and you spend less time with your partner. You may have even started blaming each other for problems that are happening in your life. You stopped trusting. You got scared to say something. It feels like too much time has passed on the subject and you can’t bring it up. Maybe it has even gotten to the point that you forgot how you used to speak to your partner. Even if communicating seems like it is too far in the distant past, you can still reopen the lines of communication.
Life gets busy. We get comfortable. I know it doesn’t seem like that makes sense, but that’s how it tends to play out. I know that I sound cheesy saying this; relationships take constant work. They are easy at first. It is easy to communicate with someone you have very little actually invested in. In the beginning, you want to put forth effort in your relationship because it is new and exciting. Keeping up the relationship is the hard part. We fall into this routine with our partners and just expect them to know how we feel. Better yet we think we know what they feel. Soon, and this happens all to fast, we stop communicating all together.
Think about your frustrated feelings that you didn’t communicate to your partner. Is it all their fault? Were they to blame for everything? No of coarse not. Communication takes two parties. For communication to stop, both parties have to stop. More likely than not, your partner is feeling frustrated and unsure as well. You cannot pass the blame to one partner fully and you have to be willing to take some responsibility. Now, if you are trying to communicate and your partner is having none of it, you should seek counseling. A blatant refusal to communicate, or stonewalling, is a serious relationship problem. It could signal the end of a relationship if counseling isn’t an option.
8 Steps to Open Communication
If you know you are about to brake the ice and reopen lines of communicates, show your partner affection. Communication is 90% body language. Showing your partner that you love them is very important. It is easier to believe you are loved if you are being shown not told. Spend the day sending sweet love texts, or snuggling. Even hold hands when you wouldn’t normally. If you go into a conversation about your relationship and your partner feels loved, they won’t be so defensive. Think about it, if you knew your partner loved you and wanted to stay with you talking to them would be easier. If we’re unsure of our partner’s “true” feelings for us it can be scary. We can feel like a conversation could turn our whole world upside down. Starting with a day or more, full of affection and affirmation can be good for both of you.
Affection can lead to trust. When your love first blossomed, you were affectionate and full of trust. You had each other’s backs. The trust fell away with the communication. If you don’t know their true feelings, then you can’t trust that they will work with you to build your relationship. Here’s the hard part, trust your partner when you go into this conversation. There was a reason why you fell in love. There is a reason you are together. Trust that your partner will remember that and work just as hard as you to communicate. Use the affection between you two to strengthen your trust.
You have to be honest with yourself and your partner. Know that you have your short coming too. It is hard to see them because you live them. You also may have reasons for them that no one else can see or understand. You need to be honest with your partner as well. Sometimes our emotions can be embarrassing. No matter how silly it feels be honest. Your partner loves you and will do what they can to support your needs. It is the little things that build up over time. Even if it seems small and trivial, you should still talk about it or risk it building up.
4. Breaking the ice
The hardest part about starting the conversation is telling your partner that you want to talk. Just knowing that you have to have a conversation can create anxiety. We think of the conversation and it becomes THE conversation. The doomed something is wrong conversation. If we just don’t talk about it everything will be fine. Wrong, it’ll slowly deteriorate and the lack of communication will only get worse. Bring up the conversation in a nice way. A way that says I’m doing this because I want to be with you for the rest of my life. Not because I want to tell you I’m done with this relationship. Talking to your partner used to be fun, or at least fulfilling. Bring that back to your relationship. Just because you are talking about things that upset you doesn’t mean you have to start the conversation by being upset. If you go into it thinking and feeling like you will find a solution, then you will find a solution.
5. The sandwich
The complement sandwich is a good way to give and receive criticism. It is a compliment then a criticism then another compliment. If you find it hard to say something use the sandwich. Steer clear of the but statements. “I love the way you drive, but you never put gas in the car”. A but statement can be seen a mile away. You may notice your partner even roll their eyes. “But” statements invalidate everything you are saying. They are conditional and hard to take for the receiver and often dismissed. The sandwich doesn’t have to be used rapidly. You could be in conversation with your partner and throw in a compliment. While you continue talking add in what you would like to see fixed or changed. Then remember to compliment them again at the end.
6. Don’t accuse, use feel statements.
One of the quickest ways to get someone to stop listening to you is to accuse them of something. Instead of, “You always leave the butter out.” Try, “I feel like you leave the butter out all the time.” When someone accuses you of something it feels permanent. If that statement is made in a way that can be flexible, that will leave room for change. Feelings can be forgiven and changed, judgments cannot. Also, don’t accuse yourself either. Stay away from phrases that downplay your feelings. “I know I’m crazy” or “I’m just being stupid,” or “maybe I’m over reacting”. Your feelings are valid. Keep in mind that both partners’ feelings are valid.
7. Keep an open mind.
One thing may be vitally important to one partner while another thing could be trivial. This could even be the problem with the communication. If something is upsetting to your partner, even if you don’t feel like it’s a big deal, you need to treat it like it’s important. If you do that for your partner they will probably do that for you too. Don’t judge your partner for their insecurities. Most of us have been in relationships before our current one and have scars. Those scars can heal and fade over time with help, but we need to be understanding and patient.
8. Make time for each other.
Make time for each other. You need time away from the kids, from roommates. Time for just you two. Time alone should not be just for the “conversation” but for more quality love time. Quality love time is any time that helps to strengthen and build the love between you and your partner. Talking, doing a hobby, having some kind of connection. So many couples get carried away with the hectic day to day. Don’t forget your partner should be your best friend. Spend best friend time together. You both deserve it.
This is what your conversation could look like.
“John, you are so amazing. I was scared to communicate with you and you just hopped right in. I love that about you. You are so supportive” See how this is one compliment. “I’ve been frustrated lately because I feel like you are not helping around the house enough. I know you take out the garbage and handle the bills. I appreciate that. I just need some help with getting the kids transported.” Here there is a feel statement, a validating statement and a clear statement of needs. Remember your partner is not a mind reader and you have to be clear on what you need. “I’ve tried to do it on my own but I need you. You have always been so supportive and understanding that I feel bad putting this extra burden on you.” This is a communication of feelings partnered with a compliment. Its honest vulnerable and affectionate. Communicate openly, don’t use a ridged outline of what to say. It won’t feel authentic to you or your partner and the communication will not actually open up, leaving you feeling unsatisfied and frustrated.