Strong communication is often said to be at the core of a solid relationship. But for communication to exist, these qualities must not.
It’s sensible to imagine that when two people truly like each other, they’re willing to listen to each other’s struggles and stories, and respond with interest and compassion. But, very often, other elements are at play that prevent a smooth exchange between couples. For one thing, people are emotional creatures. We all get hurt, suspicious, mistrusting and frustrated more than we’d like. Because of how we have learned to process and adapt to emotional experiences, our responses to current situations are often based on past occurrences. Though it may seem at times like an act of self-defense, principle or even psychological survival, engaging in these techniques only leads us to become more and more alienated and estranged from those we wish to keep the closest. To achieve real intimacy, integrity and lasting love in a relationship, it is important to identify and avoid the following killers of communication.
One of the most effective techniques that couplesuse to manipulate, control and punish each other is intimidation. Many couples report that the behaviors they are most intimidated by are not those that are overt and aggressive but rather the subtle, covert behaviors that leave them feeling guilty and responsible for their partner’s unhappiness. During a conversation, where one partner responds by being miserable, self-hating or self-destructive, it is virtually impossible for the other partner not to submit. The conversation is over; the intimidating partner has won.
The truth is that both members of the couple have suffered disastrous defeats. The dictionary says that to intimidate “implies reduction to a state where the spirit is broken or all courage is lost.” This certainly defines the emotional state of the partner who has been frightened into submission. But the cost to the intimidating person is also high. When we employ intimidation, whether consciously or unconsciously, we must forfeit our autonomy, leaving our spirit broken and courage lost. At these times we are inclined to feel critical toward our partner for their weakness in submitting to us and critical of ourselves for acting out in a manipulative manner.
Parental or childish styles of communicating
It’s important to watch out for ways that you might be communicating from a childish or parental stance. Whether or not we like it, we developed our communication skills in the families we grew up in. Even though we try to relate differently, it is easy to fall into our old familiar, negative patterns. Childish communication can involve deferring and submitting, looking for direction or definition, being servile or subservient, seeking approval or criticism. Parental communication can involve directing and dominating, being condescending and aggressive, acting judgmental and critical. None of these qualities has a place in the communication between two independent adults in an equal relationship. When you communicate, be aware of falling into old, familiar roles, the disapproving parent or the rebellious child. These are not true representations of who you are or who your partner is. When you speak to each other, be respectful of both yourselves and one another.
Non-verbal communication refers to how one’s body language contributes to the process of communicating feelings and reactions. Non-verbal communication doesn’t have to be seen as a negative form of communicating. On the contrary, it can be very helpful in trying to understand what a person is saying.
Sometimes what a person says does not coincide with what they are communicating non-verbally. These mixed messages often cause confusion. When this is the case, you have to acknowledge both messages, even though they conflict. Then you can decide which one more accurately communicates what the person is thinking or feeling. Often the non-verbal message is more truthful.
In couple relationships, partners often give mixed messages. One may say “I love you” while acting indifferent and unaffectionate. Many of us may declare interest and concern about our partners, but whenever our partners talks about themselves, we interrupt or become distracted. Pay attention to what your actions are saying. Make your actions and words match. In other words, be truthful in how you communicate both verbally and non-verbally.
In this clip from our exclusive interview series with relationship expert Dr. Pat Love, this fundamental issue behind broken relationships and staying connected is addressed.
On Tuesday April 24th, 2012 from 11am to 12pm, Dr. Lisa Firestone will present a live webinar about what it means to be in a Fantasy Bond. The Fantasy Bond is a major concept in psychological theory developed by Dr. Robert Firestone.
This webinar will present a model for an ideal relationship that combines emotional closeness and sexual intimacy, while each partner maintains a differentiated and individuated sense of self. Dr. Firestone will discuss characteristics of a relationship in which a fantasy bond has developed verses an ideal relationship.