I have spent a lot of time working with couples who are having trouble communicating within their relationship. Among the first questions I ask them is “Was it always tough to talk to each other”? The answer is almost always no. But over time, the inability to connect through verbal communication has faded. It’s interesting to note, that I see that more in couples that are younger than 40. I believe this to be true because this demographic grew up with a mobile device attached to their hips and hands, and never really had to rely on fundamental interpersonal skills. And there are 3 areas that commonly cause problems for us as we try to communicate.
The first problem area is courtesy. Although this can be true at any age, the art of courtesy is lacking with the 40 and younger audience (please understand that I am not making a generalization. I just see it more with these couples).
I’ve written about this extensively. When engaged in mindful conversation with our spouse, we don’t reply text, emails or take calls. I know I am guilty of this from time to time. But both my spouse and I are very good at communicating our needs when having these discussions. Just another night as we were driving down to the water, I began to discuss our forthcoming financial responsibilities. In a matter of moments, she asked if we could please not talk about that now. That the point of going to the water was supposed to enjoy the wildlife and sunset. In a matter of moments, that conversation stopped, and we were able to enjoy our evening talking about more meaningful things.
By showing her respect and honoring her wishes, we could connect to one another and source. She said her request. She was not rude about it. We had a beautiful evening.
The second area that brings couples do my door is their fighting. When two or more are gathered together, there will eventually be misunderstanding and conflict. However, if you “fight fair”, it can be a doorway that leads to greater intimacy. Allow me to try and simplify this. See the above section on courtesy and politeness. It’s so important that when a difficult conversation begins, be fully present and invest in the process.
I’ve had couples when in the middle of a heated conversation take calls, turn of the TV set and some other thing they could do to avoid intimacy. Being vulnerable and resistant to change. There are many tools out there that can help facilitate an argument. It would be helpful to research some, and have them easily available (and agreed upon) prior to a fight. It’s a lot better to be proactive than reactive in these situations.
The final thing I want to mention is that the “I’m sorry” area. So many of us have outgrown an apology. We either do not say it. Or, we don’t mean it. You know the old saying that the best apology is changed behavior. But even before we reach that point, it starts from those words rolling from our lips. You can be sorry that someone is hurting. You can be sorry that someone misunderstood what you said. The important this is state it. Give clarifications. Make adjustments. Be open. Be vulnerable and proceed. It’s quite the easy process.
If you follow these 3 steps, you should be well on your way to a greater level of communication and intimacy in your relationship. When you are polite, you will usually be met with kindness in return. For those who have tools that are agreeable to both of you before a heated conversation, you probably diminished the intensity by at least a third. And it’s fine to say I’m sorry and be exposed. If we remain closed off, the best we can expect is a connection of little progress and superficial communication. And if you are still reading this. I’m guessing you need more from your relationship.