Great communication is possible. Despite our culture’s relatively low standards and less-than-inspiring media portrayals of communication in long-term relationships, we’d actually like something better. Holistic life coach Maytal Phillips of The Consciousness Edit offers these practical insights and ideas that are easy to put into action right away…
We’ve heard it 1,000 times: The key to a great relationship is great communication. Seems easy enough, right? Well then, where does this seemingly simple task fall apart at the seams? In a poll of 100 professionals, 65 percent said communication issues were the number one reason for divorce.
Given the nature of our lives and stress today (considered borderline insane in the 1950s), it’s no surprise that our ability to connect with our partner has taken a toll. Between work, kids, social media, emails, to-do lists, making matcha lattes in the morning, and even exercising, our lives are filled with more activity than ever—and this pushes out many of the deeper activities our previous generations experienced.
How To Communicate Effectively + Lovingly With Your Partner
Here are five steps on how to have great communication with your partner no matter what the day/week/month puts on your plate:
Communication isn’t about speaking at all | Shocking, I know! Great communication is all about how you listen to one another. How many times do you find yourself in a conversation with your partner, and all you’re doing is waiting to speak? You feel the urge bubbling up to respond, and if you look closely, you only look like you’re listening but aren’t present at all. Listening is the grace you provide another person. It’s also a skill that can be improved. One simple exercise is to practice listening—but really listening without any thoughts, judgements, defensiveness or multi-tasking.
Determine the space between you + your partner | We always hear the term holding the space for another and I wanted to break down one way this could be interpreted. There are several components commonly discussed around communication—mainly the verbal and non-verbal layers. There is also a subconscious layer that includes your thoughts, feelings and experiences about the other person. These are mainly hidden from view, and are also based in the past. What we don’t realize is that these views of our partner affect the way we communicate with them. If we see our partner as someone who is lazy or lets us down, we will communicate with this in mind. If we put our partner on a pedestal, there is nothing wrong they can say or do.
The key practice here is to give up whatever is in our subconscious space before we communicate. This doesn’t mean you aren’t hurting or have an issue that you don’t communicate (more on that in the next section). But imagine you met your partner today. You would be able to create a delicious clear space where you can bring presence and curiosity to the conversation that may not be available after being together for several years. Practice letting go of preconceived notions and see what communication is created from this space.
Not holding back + being able to digest communication | In order to create a clear and present space to communicate, have the courage to say the good, the bad and the ugly. Easier said than done! This doesn’t mean you vomit everything that’s wrong in life all over your partner. It means you do some soul searching and really talk about what’s bothering you—even if you don’t know how it’s going to land. Communication isn’t always pretty, but it’s always best to start a conversation instead of having it fester and then affect every communication you have moving forward.
But what if you’re on the other end—listening to something that’s uncomfortable or that you may not like? This is where the magic happens in communication. By actually listening to what the other person has to say (even if it’s difficult), we’re letting them be heard, and you’re then able to work out what needs to be worked out. Without that initial discomfort, chances are slim that an issue will be resolved. You may need several conversations to effectively communicate and resolve an issue, but the reward far outweighs those initial feelings.
Make time for communication | This may sound simple but scheduling time to take a walk or spend some time without electronic devices is a game changer. The age-old date night, or even setting time to hash out everything that’s happened over the week, always makes a difference in communicating about the smaller matters before they become bigger issues. Carve out even 30 minutes where you can just listen and communicate.
Text messaging doesn’t count | The absolute worst thing you can do is communicate about something important via text. How is this possible at a time where everything is communicated via text, you ask? Practice! Create boundaries with your partner where you commit to discussing what matters either in person or, at least, by phone. There isn’t an opportunity for a person to feel heard and to engage in active listening via texting, which are two key components in having that magical communication happen between partners.
Having great communication is something that is actively created between partners. It’s an active, living, breathing function of your relationship. It’s important to remember that it’s all a practice and the more you communicate effectively, the easier and more profound it becomes.
Which idea are you going to put into practice first?