Mark's Blog   

Communicating more honestly

When a long term relationship begins to experience problems, one of the first causes to be identified is communication, or the lack of it, to be more precise. So where perhaps, did it all go wrong?

Hopefully a relationship will start with both of us making every effort to spend as much time as possible together, building a friendship by asking lots of questions, and finding out as much as we can about the person we have been attracted to. Starting with basic information we then progress as trust develops, to a more meaningful level and we discover things about our partner and what makes them tick. If the bond between us grows we will begin to reveal our feelings and emotions, taking risks and showing our vulnerability, in the hope of having our various needs met by our partner. The more we talk, the more we know, and the more we are truly known by our partner, the deeper our friendship can go.

The early stages of relationship building will often be characterised by communicating our affection in various ways, such as the giving of gifts, and being generous with our time and money. So how is it that somewhere down the line, we find that our relationship is heading towards the buffers and we seem powerless to stop it, and the person we once wanted to talk to and spend all our time with, is now our greatest source of frustration and conflict. We may want to blame each other, but the finger of suspicion is pointing at the breakdown in our joint communication.

It’s possible that we will look back and identify a specific time when things started to change, when life became busier, perhaps due to family and career pressures. An innocent and innocuous complacency set in, causing us to take our communication and each other for granted, thinking we knew all there was to know about each other. But that may not really be where things started. The seeds of that slow, creeping breakdown were probably sown at the start of the relationship if not before, thanks to how we learnt to communicate in our families of origin. Perhaps as children we were not listened to, what we said was not valued or we were not encouraged to express our feelings. As a result when things get difficult in our relationship today, instead of speaking out honestly and clearly about how we feel, we don’t say anything as perhaps we feel it won’t make any difference. Through counselling we can explore those barriers and the effectiveness of our communication, identifying what we are doing well and what aspects need improving.

The strongest of relationships will not prevent us from experiencing disagreement. Whilst compatibility is vital, we are still two different people with our own opinions and points of view so there will always be room for improving our communication skills to minimise the fall out. Open and honest debate doesn’t need to be feared because if done sensitively it is much more likely to strengthen a relationship.