This week I worked with a couple and they were struggling with issues related to communication. They have been having problems in their relationship because she has not been completely honest and isn’t sharing her true feelings with her partner. She finally admitted that she was afraid to upset her partner and didn’t want to create contention or have an argument.
When difficult issues arise, it’s important that each of you have a chance to talk it out. The type of talking where you will both have a voice and commit to constructively discuss your problems, both as individuals and as a couple.
I’ve often seen clients swallow their feelings for the sake of not wanting to upset their partner. They’re not clear about why they’re upset. They shy away from asserting their needs in the relationship because they’re afraid of causing friction in the partnership.
When you don’t share your feelings, frustration can fester inside of you. Then when you’re finally ready to express how you feel, instead of calmly and rationally explaining your side you find yourself exploding at your partner because you have been holding in your feelings for way too long. And yet, the worst part is that your real message gets lost because your partner only hears your anger.
Speak for yourself. Talk about your thoughts, feelings and concerns; not your perceptions of the listener’s point of view or motives. Try to use “I” statements, and talk about your own point of view and feelings, “I was upset when you forgot our date night,” is an “I” statement. “I think you don’t care about me” is not.
Don’t be vague. Provide your partner information; the specific behavior, the context in which it occurs, how you feel when it happens and the opportunity to correct it. This is highly preferable to the typical alternative—a vague description of the problem that, when blurted out, can sound like character defamation.
It’s important to put all relevant facts and feelings on the table so you can lay out a good foundation for communicating.
You want your partner to hear and respect your needs, but you can only do this by creating open dialogue. Communicating your needs is critical for every healthy relationship.
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