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Communication in Relationships
Good communication in relationships isn’t something that comes naturally to most people. It’s hard to communicate with your partner when you are hurt or afraid. Your natural tendency is to learn away from danger, or the source of pain in your life. This is how your ancestors survived over time. They were able to lean away from pain and danger in life. However, this tendency isn’t doing you a lot of favors in your relationships. For example, instead of communicating with your partner about what’s hurting you might be angry at them. You share your anger rather than your hurt. This doesn’t help you get closer as a couple.
Let’s talk about how to lean in towards your partner instead of leaning out. This will include how to embrace uncomfortable emotions instead of pushing them away (Related Articles: Emotions 101: How To Be Healthy and 3 Principles Of Emotional Health).
Communicate Your Emotions More Than Your Thoughts
First, you want to recognize what you are feeling, so that you can share it. It’s hard to differentiate between thoughts and emotions sometimes. This is a crucial skill to have if you want to create healthy communication in your relationships. For example, if you start talking about your emotions by saying, ‘I feel like…’ then you are most likely talking about your thoughts and not your emotions. This is your heart’s subtle way of leaning away from discomfort and protecting itself. It’s safer to talk about your thoughts compared to your emotions. The ‘like’ turns it into a thought.
If you want to talk about your feelings, then drop the ‘like’ and just state it simply, ‘I feel _____.’. Pick a word from an emotional vocabulary list and put it in the blank. This will put you in a more vulnerable place emotionally with your partner. Therefore, you will be able to connect with them more fully, but I’ll warn you that it is scarier.
Be Safe For Your Spouse To Share Their Emotions With
Second, hold emotional space for your spouse to do the same (Related Article: Hold Emotional Space For Your Spouse). Instead of trying to explain away what they are feeling or trying to convince them they are not feeling something, listen and ask questions. Be genuinely curious. Give them space to feel and explore their feelings with you. You don’t need to try to interpret them (Related Article: How To Communicate Effectively: Avoid These Two Communication Problems In Marriage), just listen, reflect and give them space.
For example, let’s say your spouse comes to you and says they are sad because they didn’t get the job they just applied for. If you want to be good at communication in relationships, instead of saying ‘It’s for the best. You will find another one’, say, ‘Yeah, that must be disappointing and sad. You really wanted that job’. Give them space to open up and feel and explore their emotions. Even if you have good intentions when you try to encourage them that it’s for the best, you are still dismissing them and not holding space.
Learn healthy communication in relationships by going to therapy with a marriage counselor near you: South Jordan, Orem, Spanish Fork and American Fork.
Written by Triston Morgan, PhD, Utah Marriage and Family Therapist