Communicate – Good communication is a key part of any relationship. When both people know what they want from the relationship and feel comfortable expressing their needs, fears, and desires, it can increase trust and strengthen the bond between you. Like Tony Robbins intelligently put it, “communication in relationships, at its core, is about connecting and using your verbal, written and physical skills to fulfill your partner’s needs. It’s not about making small talk.”
I enjoy this topic very much because the whole marital journey from friendship to courtship begins with one person communicating their desire to have you spend forever with them and the other party agreeing by communicating likewise. Have you ever wondered like me how we could go on and on while dating talking about everything and nothing but get married and conversations get very short and somewhat rigid? What changed?
Assumptions on the other hand are toxic to healthy relationships. It’s simply a conversation with yourself that you know something for a fact about another person without giving them the chance to clarify or speak for themselves and going ahead to act on it. If you are prone to assumptions, you need to work hard to improve your communication or else you will be angry or unhappy about many things alone half the time and they are unreal.
What to do? Realise that every issue or challenge that my marriage has faced we have had to talk through. I mean everything.
Learn to recognize quickly when you are drifting into the world of assumption. If you did not see or hear something yourself and you have made a conclusion, you are assuming and it can be very wrong.
Communication is a skill and that means it can be learned, improved upon or developed. A few things that have helped me;
Not trying to play the mind reader and actually clarifying
Making time to deliberately listen to one another so we can pick even non verbal cues from body language
Asking questions to show particular concern about details of the person’s day, passion or challenges
Expressing disagreements without the use of hateful or hurtful words (this has to be very deliberate and may mean you do not address issues when its heated)
Understanding the times. Meaning sometimes s/he just needs me to listen and other times I may require guidance or just a gossip partner.
This list is not exhaustive as it shouldn’t, considering the journey is still ongoing and we learn every day.
The ultimate key to healthy communication is being deliberate and interested in the other person as much as you will love for it to be done for you.
Learn from Others and Customise your Journey – There is a place for learning, taking pre and post marital counsel. Personally, I do not see the wisdom in having to make my own mistakes from ignorance if I can lean or glean from wise people who are willing to share theirs to keep me from repeating the errors they made.
I have always being a lover of books. I began to read books on marriage before I was 18. I was not eager to be married, I was just interested in the knowledge. The books came with advantages as well as disadvantages. The advantages was the knowledge I got that helped me share and help others older than I was at the time, but the disadvantage was when I was to begin my own relationship, I had unspoken expectations defined by the prior knowledge I had gotten. It affects the uniqueness of your journey and frustrates the other party who is a living being and not some character from a perfectly scripted story.
My point is, while we learn from others and seek counsel for guidance, we should never allow the experiences of others become a source for comparison or frustration. No two marital journeys can ever be the same. If you doubt me, ask someone who has had cause to be married more than once. The experiences are never the same.
You can be wrong too – Trust me, I am used to being right most of the time and this was one tough pill I swallowed too. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being intelligent, opinionated with ahealthy dose of confidence. However, there are times when there is thin line between a healthy confidence and a stubborn unhealthy ego. A sure way to test this is when you find you are unable to admit when you are wrong.
You need that humility that keeps you mindful to understand that everyone makes mistakes and we ought to learn how to take responsibility. Taking responsibility creates trust and dependability. When you take responsibility for your behaviors, you demonstrate to your partner your willingness to be honest and vulnerable, which in turns encourages your partner to be open and authentic with you.
There are different reasons we struggle with accepting wrong doing, it ranges from a poor sense of self awareness (see previous lessons to explore this), for others it is ego or the embarrassment or guilt of acceptance. Feel free to add other causes you may know of in the comment section.
What to do? Begin, a day at a time. While you may not become the person, who says “I am sorry’ in a heartbeat overnight, remember that even realizing you struggle to admit even when you are confronted with wrongdoing is a good start. Never forget that admitting flaws allows others to see our vulnerability and can even endear them to us. It also opens the door to meaningful conversations. So, start today, baby steps…write the wrongs you have habitually done and refused to admit recently. Proceed to place the ‘I am sorry’ note underneath your Spouses pillow or somewhere he or she can easily find it and don’t retrieve it on a second thought (laughs).
By the way, apologising does not make you weak!
Coming up in the final piece on this topic…How to overcome tough times without losing one another. Thank you for reading.