When looking back on a failed relationship, our vision is usually 20/20. Most women and men are easily able to point out what went wrong and why. However when in the relationship, we are usually not as clear as to what may be harming the relationship with our partner, or even ourselves.
A poll was done on a sample of 333 women of the ages 20-35 years old and asked their opinion on what factors harmed their previous relationships the most. The results varied, but pointed to 3 interesting conclusions – too little communication hurts, but so does too much.
Lack of Communication
Communication – the magic word. We think we know what it is, but how many of us are able to communicate effectively? And what is lack of communication anyway?
Communication is defined as:
“The imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.”
However we can all agree it is more than just exchanging information. It is also body language, tone of voice and micro expressions. You and your partner may be easily able to discuss your day at work, lunch, the weather and who is going to bath the kids – but how good are you at telling them your feelings, your thoughts and your desires?
This type of information is not as easily conveyed. It takes a great deal of trust to communicate with another about how we are feeling and it takes a lot more empathy to receive this information from our partners and be able to act on it effectively. Generally speaking, communication breakdown occurs after some form of trust has been broken, or an individual has been slowly over time made to feel unimportant or insecure. The hurt partner then begins to deny their own feelings and become unable to share deeper thoughts with their significant other. The other partner then feels the communication shutdown (consciously or unconsciously) and also pulls away. It becomes a non communication tit for tat: I won’t talk to you if you don’t talk to me. Eventually this becomes the norm and we have couples who are only able to talk to each other about the basics of life. This then effects sexual intimacy, the children, long term goals and erodes trust in the relationship. It is no wonder that lack of communication is then voted to be the biggest relationship killer.
In order to truly communicate with our partner, we need to be able to put ourselves in their shoes and to wrap our minds around their perspective. We have to not only respect each other’s right to have a different perspective, but actively try to understand that perspective – no matter how right you think you are. This involves frank and honest talks with clear descriptions of thoughts and feelings. A couple need to describe their needs to each other ie: “I really would like if you could sit with me for a few minutes while I cook dinner because it makes me feel appreciated”. However they must not prescribe their needs, ie: “You must sit with me while I cook dinner”.
True communication needs empathy and kindness and is something to be practiced everyday. If you want to learn more on effective communication, have a look at this book.
So now that we understand how damaging lack of communication can be, let’s look at how too much communication can hurt.
Instant Messaging and Social Media.
It is fascinating how advancements in technology have brought people closer together than ever before – so why is it then that women are saying that it is harming their relationship?
Firstly, this is because the communication is not always with each other and when it is, it is not the good kind.
Cell phones bring anyone and everyone into your household. Instead of spending quality time with each other at night, couples are engrossed on their phones and online activity. Suddenly you are sharing more information with your old friend from high school than you are with your partner. Spending so much time away from our partner (even when sitting beside them) inevitably leads to feelings of insecurity and ‘what if’ thinking – and ‘what if’ thinking in a relationship is incredibly damaging. It is estimated that the average social media user spends up to 50 minutes of their day on social media alone. Because most people work during the day and spend about 8 hours a night sleeping, this means that important time with your partner or family is used to check messages and update your status. And seeing as it has been proven that humans cannot actually multitask – this is a significant amount of time wasted. It is time wasted that you should be talking and sharing with your partner. It doesn’t mean social media doesn’t have its’ place – it can be great at keeping in touch with family and friends – but it should never replace time with your spouse.
Communicating with your partner online or via instant communication apps is not so great either. You miss out on the key parts of information sharing as mentioned earlier – namely tone of voice, body language and micro expressions. Read this, if you would like to know why you should delete your partner off of WhatsApp.
To summarize, the women in the poll complained of these factors hurting their relationships for very real reasons. Lack of communication and having your partner more interested in their online profiles or cellphone causes huge feelings of rejection, which is the ultimate breeding ground for insecurity. Insecurity often leads to resentment, and once resentment sets into a relationship it causes damage that is very hard to un do. We need to spend more time listening to our partners. Listening to understand and not just hearing.
Here are some tips to improve on your communication:
- Consider asking your partner 3 important questions everyday:
“What happened today?” “What is something you learned?” “What is something you felt?”
- Make time to talk. Decide on an actual time, free from distractions, where you can ask each other questions and have the time and space to answer. This may seem odd at first, but it is a useful exercise to practice communicating on deeper levels.
- Keep your cell phone out of the bedroom. Buy an alarm clock!
- If you both decide that you want social media time, agree to do it together, at a certain time, for a certain length of time (about 20 minutes). Afterwards, put your devices away and agree that it is now “couple time” and no one else is allowed.
- If you feel that communication problems have hurt your relationship, seek counselling soon. The counsellor will be able to give you some tools and skills necessary to boost your communication and help you re-connect. It is always best to seek counselling before the issues between you grow too big.