It’s surprising, how in the age of communication, connectedness and hyper-accessibility, people in relationships still play the guessing game. We still attempt to communicate by omission, sometimes for brevity’s sake, other times through comfort or laziness. It’s the assumption that we don’t need to say what we’re thinking, what emotional state we’re in or why we’re behaving a particular way, because the other person should know. We would rather spend our time with the fall-out conversations that begin ‘We’ve been together X amount of years, I shouldn’t have to spell this out’ or ‘You’re supposed to get me’. When we expect those closest to us to know full-time what we mean or how something will make us feel, we are giving them less help and support in the act than we would a stranger. But ironically, we’ll still go toe-to-toe and argue like a lover when it goes wrong.
It’s rewarding to get to the blissful stage of a relationship or friendship where words are transcended, replaced by knowing glances and clipped sentences, it’s beautiful – but speech is more constructive. With so much time spent on innuendo, smart talking, double-talking and the sarcasm that saturates our TV shows, couples forget that the most helpful information is often the simplest. Plain words and direct questions, asked with the agenda only of gaining further knowledge of what we need to know. We need to be clear, even when we’re tired or frustrated, because it’s usually in these times that the telepathy we’ve nurtured loses its signal.
A useful exercise can be to actually sit down with your partner – no TV, iPad, Phones – and ask them some straight-forward questions, based on good, fun or tough things you want to know. Practicing clear, emotionally uncharged communication is a necessity if it has flown the relationship or is taken for granted. The only rule, is that answers begin with ‘I’ and not the accusatory ‘you make me’ or the detached ‘it makes me’. Revisiting the answers from time to time can be a real wake up call and a reminder that being unambiguous tears down a lot of unnecessary communication barriers. You may be surprised at the things you thought you know but actually don’t.
Do you know your partner’s answers to these?
The good stuff:
How do you feel when…
I am affectionate with you in front of your friends
I really look at you when you speak to me
I say I love you
I surprise you
I say something funny-stupid
I dance unexpectedly
The not-so good stuff:
What do you hear when…
I say I’m not in the mood for sex
I say I’m trying my best
I sayI don’t want to get married
I look at another woman/man
He/she looks at you the way I used to
I don’t understand why you’re hurt
Also reprinted here on The Good Men Project.