By contributor Laura Dickey
What makes a relationship great?
Is it the number of kids you have?
Is it the length of time you’ve been together?
Is it how much you enjoy each other’s company?
Is it the delicious food your partner can cook?
Some of these do help you to build your relationships, but there’s something that makes a bigger impact on the success and longevity of a relationship. The secret to a great, and balanced, relationship is simple: communication.
While there are many things you can do to grow and develop your relationship, nothing is as crucial and binding or divisive as communication. If you’re not satisfied with your current relationship, the first thing you should look at is the communication that you two have. But before you decide that you’ve done all the communicating you possibly can with your partner, let’s take another look at communication. Clear your mind of all things you have heard about communication from relationship experts, family members and counselors and consider these ideas with a fresh mind and heart.
Step 1. Do you know what communication is?
Let’s start with what communication is not. It is not you telling your partner what to do. It isn’t your partner yelling at you. It isn’t one of you setting up a bunch of ground rules. Communication isn’t a one way street. Unfortunately, in a lot of relationships it feels exactly like this. It feels as if you’re not being heard, that your partner doesn’t care about what you’re trying to tell them or what you need. Let’s assume that your partner does actually care about you and the relationship. In that case, there needs to be a transformation, and balancing, of your relationship, which starts in learning how to communicate well with each other.
The biggest priority is that together you have to agree that you’re going to stop talking, telling or yelling and start communicating. You simply can’t have an effective, balanced or happy relationship or expect you or your partner to listen or do something if one of you is talking, telling or yelling at the other. Sit down with your partner, and a mediator, counselor or coach if necessary, and express that you would like to work on communicating better with each other.
Step 2. Get prepared
You also need to know what your actual needs are before you can communicate them. You’d be surprised how many people just go around saying they want a better partner but what they really want is 10 peaceful minutes alone. If you’re not sure what your actually trying to communicate, sit down and write down your needs, priorities, responsibilities and wants. Your list should include time for your kids, for work, to be with your partner, to cook and eat, to exercise and time to be alone and rejuvenate yourself. It should also include time to communicate with and meet the needs of your partner.
Step 3. Get clear
Once you’re clear on what you actually need to be a functioning, happy, responsible human being, and partner, you need to express them clearly. You could say something like: “I need you to help me have 10 minutes each day to be quiet and alone,” “I need you to help me get out one night each month with my friends,” “I need you to actually look at me when you get home from work,” or “I need you to help me get the kids ready for school every Tuesday because I have a lot of meetings on Tuesdays.” Here you’re not just saying “You need to help me with the kids” or “You don’t like me,” you’re communicating clearly exactly what you need.
Step 4. Listen (really!)
If you want to be listened to and have your needs met, you need to respect the communications of your partner. When they come to you and say “Can you help me sort the receipts for our bills each month” or “The kids really miss seeing you during the week,” you need to actually stop and listen to what they’re saying. Look at them as they communicate what is on their heart, listen to what they’re saying and don’t laugh at them or brush off their concerns or requests. Sit down together to come up with a plan that balances both of your needs, priorities, responsibilities and wants.
Step 5. Walk the Talk
Then, most importantly, you both need to actually do what you’ve agreed to do. If you agree to sort the bills, set up a filing system that works for both of you. If you agree to spend more time with the kids, set up a schedule so that both of you are spending more time with the kids but not neglecting what else needs to be done. Plan how you will meet your needs together and then follow through.
If you can both agree to communicate in your relationship, not only will you have a healthier, more satisfying relationship, your whole life will become more balanced and supported because you’re working together to create the life that you both want. There won’t be any more confusion about who wants or doesn’t want what or what dislikes or struggles you or your partner. The feeling that you’re not being heard won’t be there anymore either.
In the upcoming days I encourage you to sit down with your partner and evaluate your relationship. Do you just talk or are you communicating? You’ll be amazed at the difference communication will make in your relationship.
Laura Dickey is passionate about sharing hope and empowering individuals, families and businesses to live balanced and successful lives. When she’s not writing or supporting others in their life journeys, she loves to organize, read, be creative and take walks. Read more about Laura here.
Photo credit: purplemattfish