Marriages and relationships take work. If you ask any marriage specialist – or any happy couple – what the secret is for a successful marriage, they’re going to tell you “communication.” It’s an almost cliché answer, but it is true that communication is how relationships work.
What is not true is the idea that communication is the ability or willingness to talk. Many people think that, when a person recommends communication, it means that they just need to talk more and maybe share the issues that are important to them in order to work through it.
That may be important, especially for some couples, but in most marriages people do talk about their problems and what they need, and that doesn’t always translate into a happier marriage. That’s because communication, as a skill, is not just about talking, but about the entire process of communicating.
What Else is There Besides Talking?
Communication is far more complex than the words you use. You can communicate through body language. You can communicate through the things you *don’t* say. When we talk about communication for couples, we mean not only talking to your partner, but:
- Listening – Talking doesn’t matter if you’re not hearing them, and by “hearing” them, we mean taking in what they say meaningfully and not using their words to try to come up with your own. Sometimes we, perhaps ironically, call this “seeing” someone. Our partner is sharing their needs and wants the best way they know how (whether we like their communication style or not) and we are tasked with listening to those words in full.
- Processing and Translating – Similarly, part of communication is processing what you’ve told to understand what *they* mean with *their* words. We need to translate it through our understanding of them. For example, if a spouse starts yelling at you angrily about something like dishes, but you’ve learned that they’ve experienced trauma related to perfectionism, you have to be able to process what they’re saying by not only hearing the words they use but translating how their minds work to know what they really mean to communicate.
- Following Up – Communication is also not something that ends. It is something that continues based on how you follow up both mentally and actionably with what was communicated. If you leave a discussion trying to find fault in what your partner said or growing more upset over time, then you’re not really communicating effectively. If you do not find a way to respond to their needs, then you weren’t really listening. How you move forward after you talk is a part of communication.
So, yes, you do need to talk with your partner. Sharing your needs, wants, and more all help to make sure that your relationship thrives. But communication isn’t just “tell each other what you need on all the time.” Communication is sometimes the unspoken – like taking a break from a tough life to plan a nice date out. It is how you talk. It is how you process the conversation. It is in your understanding of your partner. It is in so much more than just words.
If you need help communicating with your partner, contact the couples counselors at Long Island Counseling Services, today.