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Communication: Start Talking, Stop Fighting

It is unfortunate that in today’s world we hear some variant of “communication is the most important thing in a relationship” to the point where it has become trite. It should be one of the issues people reflect on and judge most when considering their relationship.

Think about it: Everyone is aware that communication is important, but does anyone take the time to analyze the real meaning of what is trying to be conveyed with that statement?

Why let your relationship fall to the point where the other person isn’t even aware you are angry through your silence in the first place?I feel that many people view communication simply as the act of talking to someone else; specifically to their significant other in this context. Worse, it is often referenced solely in regards to when you are having problems in a relationship. For example, you hear about the need to have “communication” and voice what the issue is that is upsetting you, rather than doing something along the lines of being silent or passive aggressive. Why let your relationship fall to the point where the other person isn’t even aware you are angry through your silence in the first place?

So when looking at yourself before or during a relationship, understand that just talking to the other person is not nearly enough to address the underlying purpose of the communication mantra. One vital difference that separates really great relationships apart from the rest is both parties being interested in the same aspects of the topic of discussion.

Caring about the same specifics of a topic is key for a really great relationship.

Let’s use purchasing a fine car as an example. For some people, a discussion revolving around a car might lean towards outer appearance, the interior and how comfortable it is to sit in it, how many flashy components it has on the dashboard, and overall would be mostly filled with talk about the design and aesthetics. If you’re a creative type of person, this would almost certainly come up as major points for you in a conversation, and chances are you would find yourself getting excited with any other creative person when discussing these features with them, since you would both be interested in similar aspects of your car discussion.

An analytical person might care more about statistics: how much horsepower does it have, how fast does it go, how much does it cost, and what is the ratio of cost to performance? The fine and intricate details of the car’s design might be of some importance but still would come at least in a secondary position to the raw numbers. For this person, they might be willing to compromise on the outer beauty of the car if they felt they were getting a better deal when comparing the car’s output to how much they are spending. Certainly when discussing the pros and cons of making such a purchase, numbers will weigh more heavily in their mind than beauty.

When it comes to relationships, it is of huge importance for both people to often care about the same questions surrounding the topic just as much as is the ability and desire to want to talk to the other person about it in the first place. This is not to say that all facts about the topic besides what is most interesting to both people are to be left out of the discussion. Still, it is most important that not only are you comfortable talking about each concept surrounding a topic with the amount of attention that you feel it deserves, but that your partner reciprocates and is equally interested in those concepts.

”But wouldn’t having more differences mean we are a better balanced couple?”

Conventional wisdom might argue about the need for different types of people (“opposites attract”) so that many sides of a topic are represented. So in our example about a fine car, maybe a creative type person would help the couple consider the beauty of the car, while the analytical person would bring up performance and cost, thus enabling them to cover all the bases.

However, most intelligent adults are able to consider all the facts and weigh each important issue, and if they aren’t, then either they a) will most likely be led to a life lesson in the near future, or b) care so little for the issues that don’t interest them that another person droning on about it isn’t going to help their relationship. For instance, if you are a creative person, have you ever solely bought something like a Ferrari for looks without considering whether you could actually afford it? You surely wouldn’t need someone to tell you it wouldn’t be smart to do that on a $35,000 yearly salary. So of course cost would be a discussion, but it certainly wouldn’t dominate the discussion compared to comments about how sleek the car looks.

The details are important.

To follow with the same car theme as before, let’s take two people who are a couple and put them at a car show. Both might not even really enjoy cars, but if they are both talking about the same aspects of the cars, whether that is design, performance, or whatever else, then the couple will create a good time out of it.

It really is no surprise therefore that the findings of a University of Iowa study concluded that similarity in personality is more important than attitude, religion, and values in forming a happy marriage. Being similar people means you validate one another’s views and connect much better. Obviously fewer conflicts arise as well. This is absolutely going to play a huge role in your communication and thus how easily you get along with your partner overall.

It is worth noting that the same study finds that over 85% (!!!) of participants claimed to want someone who has their opposite traits, most likely due to relying on conventional wisdom rather than their true desires. The professor leading the study, Pieternel Dijkstra, goes on to point out that not only do opposites rarely attract, but when they do the relationship often ends prematurely.

The difference between “work” and “effort” as they relate to communication.

Too many people confuse work and effort in the context of relationships. You always hear “Relationships are hard work!” which was a driving force behind our slogan being “Relationships Made Easy.”

Isn’t it worth putting in the effort beforehand to avoid the work of getting better later?Consider this: If you make the effort to take a daily multivitamin, you reduce the chance that you get sick. If you don’t make that effort, you will get sick, and you will have to miserably work through being ill using medicines and rest and all sorts of other things to cure you and get you back to normal. Isn’t it worth putting in the effort beforehand to avoid the work of getting better later?

The same goes for relationships, and it is why Laura and I conscientiously practice putting effort into our relationship. Despite both of us naturally being introverted, we make it a point to be loquacious with one another. This is partially because we are a great match, so communication is already very easy. It is also partially because when there is nothing left unsaid and the other person fully understands you, then you essentially eliminate the ability for resentment to build up between either person.

As with all parts of a relationship, effort is only 50% of the equation.

Now, when it comes to how we actually talk and communicate, I often observe that when Laura and I talk, the same “how” and “why” questions appear. If I talk about something that happened while I was at work, the conversation will always lean towards how I or we feel about it internally. Of course other parts to the story might be mentioned, like how will this affect my job status or the company I work for, but in the end it the vast majority of the time will be spent talking about feelings. This is natural for us: we are both very in tune with ourselves and our feelings guide us far more often while we personally navigate life as opposed to looking at hard factual data. The ability to be ourselves and the fact that we truly ought to be together as a couple, as opposed to trying to “make it work” with the wrong person, is the other 50%.

Now, this is not to say that you have to be the same as your partner on every level. A small, healthy level of difference is good. Laura and I are not completely equal: I have a bit more of an analytical/factual side to me while she is more strongly guided by emotions. This is perfectly OK and there is definitely a fine balance between having a lot of similarities while still retaining one’s individuality.

Be cognizant of the fact that how you communicate together is far more important than simply doing it.

What I’m trying to point out is that similarity is better than difference, especially in regard to communication, considering how important it is to a relationship. If you are not speaking about the same basic parts of a story and getting excited over similar things in a conversation, then interactions between the two of you are not going to be nearly as easy as they could be with someone who is often on the same wavelength with you.

This extends out into all areas of your relationship, including–and most importantly–during the times when problems or issues arise. If you are already free-flowing and understood by your partner and you connect on most things, then it really becomes quite a breeze to move through those problems.

Isn’t being understood by your partner really one of the greatest desires for anyone in a relationship?Isn’t being understood by your partner really one of the greatest desires for anyone in a relationship? Most of us want the other person to ‘get’ us, to really know who we are deep down. This cannot be accomplished on the very deep level that Laura and I feel all people in relationships can get to if their partner doesn’t have the same values they do, no matter how much you talk at one another, because without that similarity, you can’t truly understand where the other person is coming from.

Part of being in a truly great and rewarding relationship is always having fun no matter what. I have an amazing time when we go shopping for anything because we are both always talking about the same things. When Laura and I go to the grocery store, cost is certainly a concern, but more important in our discussions is the quality of ingredients and all the cool dishes we can cook up with them. One of us isn’t constantly droning on about buying cheaper food to save money (an aspect of the topic we personally don’t care as much about); instead, we are both smiling and getting excited thinking about cooking it all together later. I can’t really explain how wonderful it is to do something like grocery shopping and experience real, true joy because I’m doing it with someone who makes whatever we are doing so much fun just by being there and talking with me about the experience along the way.

Some actionable steps to take:

  • Sit down and reflect on what gets you excited when talking to other people. What themes keep re-appearing?
  • If you are single, think about paying attention to the “how’s” and “why’s” when you meet other people and decide if their personality and communication are similar to yours.
  • If you are in a relationship, consider if most of your conversations are upbeat and excited when revolving around those themes, or whether they tend to trail off because the other person can’t appreciate deep down where you are coming from.
  • Feel free to share this article with someone who might be having problems communicating with their partner that you might know, or comment about your own experience down below. We’d love to hear your feedback!

Categories: In A Relationship, Relationship Concepts
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