Communication is the life force that flows through healthy relationships, and partnerships can live or die on how effectively these channels of dialogue are kept open. Yet there's something about our very closest of connections that can make calm, considered and consistent communication challenging. No-one pushes our buttons quite like our other half, and when fragile feelings are involved, all bets are off. We could all do with a few pointers, so here's your ProperGirl guide to better communication with your beau:
1. Don't be afraid of conflict.
A certain amount of disagreement in a relationship is completely natural. While it shouldn't feel like a battle ground, if you've never argued with your partner then that's a tell-tale that one (or both) of you aren't voicing your needs and wants. If the fear of conflict is preventing open communication then you're merely papering over the cracks, and one day they will show.
2. Don't make assumptions.
All too often we apply our own unique past experiences, beliefs and feelings and leap to wildly incorrect conclusions. Never guess someone else's motives, emotions and desires, always ask!
3. Listen without trying to fix.
When we listen to a partner talk about negative feelings, a bad day or a problem they're having, we can feel compelled to offer a solution. Although you mean well, trying to problem solve when your partner is actually looking to vent and get some emotional support, may make them feel frustrated and unheard. Practice actively listening to each other, without interruption or offering unsolicited advice.
4. Avoid the Blame Game.
It's important to always take responsibility for your own feelings and not place them solely at your partners feet. That means avoiding language which labels how you feel as their fault. By swapping you (don't appreciate me) for I feel (unappreciated), you're more likely to prompt a sympathetic, rather than defensive, response.
5. Be honest.
Make sure that you're being honest, not only with your partner, but also with yourself. There's no need to be blunt or tactless, but don't speak watered down half-truths, in an attempt to be more palatable.
6. Actions speak louder than words.
Communication is not just verbal, and often our behavior is more powerful than what we say. Reaching over to hold a hand, making eye contact and giving your full attention are strong gestures that show you are engaging in the conversation.
7. Let some things slide.
Open communication doesn't mean that you need to relay to your partner in great detail every minor annoyance that they provoke in you. It's not exactly a case of choosing your battles, but more about recognizing that along with two people's changing moods, small passing irritations are bound to occur. Something that may lead to an argument now could seem insignificant in a couple of days. Sometimes it's wise to wait, cool off, and allow perspective to settle in.
8. Pay attention to the little things.
Effective communication isn't all about deep heart to hearts. It's just as much about showing an interest in the seemingly insignificant everyday stuff too. Truly listening as they retell a somewhat arduous work story, and asking questions, builds a deeper bond.
9. Sulking is no better than shouting.
It's startling how many of us fully grown adults resort to 5 year old tactics when our feelings are hurt. The silent treatment is in no way a morally superior way of dealing with issues. Although it's on the other side of the spectrum, shutting down is a passive-aggressive technique that equally closes down lines of communication and allows resentment to build.
Ultimately we're human beings, who are constantly changing, growing and learning, and not emotionless robots. That means that better communication will always be a constant work in progress rather than a perfect finished product. What's most important is to be forgiving of each others communication flaws and keep on talking.