Although wonderful, relationships can be extremely challenging and stressful. You can find someone that fulfills you in every way, compliments who you are, and loves you undeniably, but none of that matters if you don’t have a solid foundation for communication. I’ve done a lot of growing and learning over this past year in my relationship, especially through the pandemic. During this time, when many couples have been forced into long distance relationships, communication is more important than ever. I met my current partner during this pandemic, which has been difficult. Although I am still learning how to navigate this myself, I believe communication is the key to making any relationship work.
The basis of a relationship is having someone that can understand, love, and trust you, but all of those aspects are directly tied to communication. How can you have a healthy relationship if you can’t confide in the other person and trust that they will listen to you? Everyone has their own baggage and past, which makes communication difficult. Whether you’re easily angered, have difficulty understanding your emotions, or difficulty verbalizing them, communication will never be easy - so don’t be too harsh on yourself if you and your partner are still figuring it out. Everyone communicates differently, the important thing is for you and your partner to determine what healthy communication looks like for you. Even arguing is not necessarily a bad thing. This is something I struggled to see initially (as many people do) but being able to voice your differences (respectfully) is healthy for a relationship. How I choose to communicate in my relationship may be different from you, but for those of you who are still trying to figure it out here are a few tips that I like to keep in mind when communicating with my partner.
1. Identify what healthy communication looks like for you and your partner
Healthy communication will look different in every relationship, so have a conversation with your partner about what that looks like for you. Do they want you to give advice? Do they want you to listen quietly? Do they want comfort? If your partner just wants you to listen, then don’t interrupt them when they are trying to tell you something. You guys can set the rules for how you want these conversations to happen and what’s essential for you to communicate effectively.
2. Honesty and trust
In order to feel safe communicating with your partner, you need to establish a foundation of trust and honesty. Transparency is key in this regard, as lying or speaking half-truths will only set a pattern for continued lying later in the relationship. No matter how difficult vulnerability can be, it is necessary to be honest. You should always feel safe to say anything without judgement. When your partner does something that rubs you the wrong way, or hurts you, bring it up. Starting these conversations can be hard, but keeping it bottled up will affect your relationship down the road.
3. Listen and be patient
The biggest thing I’ve learned from my relationship is the importance of being a good listener. You need to make the other person feel like you are genuinely listening to them, otherwise they just feel like you don’t care about what they have to say. Even if what they have to say involves something negative that you have done, try not to get defensive. Just listen and be patient with them. Getting angry or impatient will only make them feel like you haven’t understood what they said. Give your partner the love and patience they deserve and that you would expect from them. Listen to what they are saying because oftentimes it’s a reflection of how you have been acting and how the relationship is progressing.
4. Acknowledge that their feelings are valid
Everyone has different struggles and values. Something that’s important to you may not matter as much to your partner. The most important thing is to validate what they are feeling and not make them feel as if their feelings are wrong. Just because it doesn’t matter to you, doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter to them. If it matters to your partner you need to be open to listening to them, and vice versa. Your partner needs to validate and care about your needs and interests as well.
5. Do not attack them
Do not attack your partner when they approach you with a difficult conversation. If they are coming to you to tell you how they feel, that means they trust you and feel safe with you. Do not be condescending with them just because you don’t like what you are hearing. This will only create a space that feels unsafe and toxic. It will convince them that you are not someone they can confide in. If you truly love your partner you will be respectful of what they are saying even if you don’t agree or it reflects negatively on you. Consider what they are saying because they might see something that you haven’t realized yet. I know this is not easy, I am guilty of this too. Oftentimes when someone says something negative about something you’ve done, you will get defensive. But take a minute, think about what they’re saying, and do not attack them. This open and trusting communication will lead to further growth so that you can both feel more fulfilled in your relationship.
There are so many different ways to communicate effectively; figure out what works for you and your partner. I am still learning and bettering myself every day, but I am happy to say that both my partner and I are open to learning and creating that safe space for communication. It might take a while for you to figure out how to communicate effectively, but remember no relationship is perfect. It’s a learning process and a long journey where you will continue to learn new things every day. As long as you find a person who is willing to stick with you through it all, then this journey will be enjoyable and enlightening.