Ever heard the phrase ‘We don’t talk anymore’? Even before I commenced counselling I heard this phrase more times than I can remember from friends complaining about the shortcomings within their relationship. I often wondered how and why people suddenly cease communicating. Something which has undoubtedly played a role in getting you together suddenly becomes the one thing potentially pulling you apart. What changes within a relationship where you no longer feel comfortable talking to your partner? I think sometimes after a period of time we stop working at our relationships and start taking things for granted. We stop asking and start assuming and we almost feel like we have a right to make decisions which will affect the other person without consulting them. Fundamentally we limit communication and as a result cease putting the work and the effort in we once did.
I once heard an interview with Patrick Swayze who stated the key to his successful marriage was the fact they worked at it every day. So every day brings a new challenge and another opportunity to ensure your relationship is where you would both like it to be and a chance to ensure you are still both getting out of it exactly what you want. It’s easy to be taken in by the misconception that the longer you have been together the stronger you are. Remember the greater the longevity, the more time you have had to become acquainted with those little habits in your partner which may frustrate you! Aesthetically we will inevitably change over time so it’s important to ensure you don’t merely fall into a routine, but continue to seek and find those things which have made you happy as a couple in the past.
As a Counsellor I have worked with young couples and couples who have been together a long time; Couples with and without kids and I see the same recurring problem in nearly every case. That is, they stopped talking and began making assumptions. I am well acquainted with hearing one person say “I have been making an effort doing….” And the other interjecting and saying “But I want you to do…”. My question in this instance is always the same, and that is “When did the conversation take place when you both outlined your expectations?” The simple answer is it didn’t. So one person thought they were making an effort and the other didn’t and that’s primarily because they had never had the conversation to discuss what they both expected; A conversation which highlighted what they both brought to the relationship and what they would like to get out of it.
You see relationships are about compromise and not sacrifice. Once you have explored what you would like and what you can bring there is a decision to be made about whether or not that relationship is suited to you. Sometimes it becomes evident that there is one person making sacrifices and this has an impact on the equilibrium of the relationship. It becomes one sided and can quite easily breed contempt for the individual not wishing to compromise. Keeping the communication channels open is imperative. Arguments aren’t always a negative thing, but you need to know when and how to have them. I have known some people reticent to approach their partner in fear of what the reaction will be. The problem is again we are making assumptions. Have that conversation which asks “If there is something I want to speak to you about, what is the best way to approach you? how will you best receive that information/feedback?” If you set those expectations you will feel more comfortable approaching your partner as you have a preordained agreement about methods of communicating.
Remember the only time you should stop talking in a relationship is when you are listening.
Thanks for reading and stay safe friends.