unhappy couple sitting on a couch

6 Ways to Get Your Communication Back on Track

“This morning was incredibly busy.  After you left, I ate breakfast.  It was a total rush job.  I just grabbed a cookie and coffee. Not much of a breakfast.  Then I brought Albert to preschool.  Mrs. Smith wanted to talk to me, I think, but I just didn’t have time.  I hope Albert is doing ok.  Whatever it is, she’ll handle it, or if she doesn’t, I’m sure she will call.  Then I had to bring in the car because you know, the rear door doesn't close right. I couldn’t believe how long it took just to fix a sticky door!  So, then I went shopping. I saw Jane, which was great.  She and her husband have been fighting again. I’m glad we almost never fight.  By then, it was lunchtime, and….Oh, I’m doing all the talking.  What did you do today, Bill?”

“Nothing, really, Jillian. Just clients, you know.”

  “So, then I went to Ricky’s for lunch.  That place is really doing well……Wait. Clients? All you did was clients?”

“That’s it.  And honestly, I’m not real interested in Ricky’s and the rest of it.”

Bill and Jillian have a problem that is about to break out into the open, but not quite yet.

The problem is that their communication has taken a steep downturn.  They used to have a lot to tell each other.  Now Jillian tells Bill everything about her life….and then some.

Bill has tuned out.  He isn’t really listening.  And Bill tells Jillian next to nothing. Communication has become one-way, except that Jillian is essentially talking to herself--Bill isn't listening.

One might think that Bill has something to hide, and some quiet spouses do!

But Bill feels like he is in a rut at his work and nothing is worth talking about.  Every day is the same—clients—and his interactions with them are hardly worth talking about.

When he gets home, all he wants to do is have a beer and settle down to watch a ball game.  He doesn’t want to tell about his boring day and he’s not much interested in what he calls Jillian’s “chatter.”

Bill feels Jillian talks too much.  Jillian feels Bill talks too little.

Bill isn’t listening.  Jillian has virtually nothing to listen to.

When communication goes downhill, it often takes the relationship with it.

Because Bill does not listen, Jillian likely eventually will stop talking.

Bill, at the same time, has already pretty much stopped talking.

At the rate Bill and Jillian are going, they may soon find they have nothing to say to each other, and then they may find they have little to offer each other.

Why is communication so important?

There is a whole range of reasons why it is important for you to keep communicating with your partner, even if you're tired, you both lead busy lives, or you feel like there is not much to say.

  • Communication is the foundation of intimacy. Without communication, intimacy begins to vanish. And intimacy is the foundation of any good relationship.
  • Communication tells you who your partner is and who they are becoming. People change.  Relationships sometimes fail because partners change in ways that don’t work for each other.  To know who your partner is becoming, you have to hear what they have to say.
  • Communication brings you closer together. Communication is not only the foundation of intimacy—it creates more of it.  Lack of communication results in less of it.
  • Communication lets you know if you are doing well as a couple or are in trouble. The earlier you realize that things aren't going the way you'd ideally like them to, the better a position you are in to counteract decline and get things back on track.
  • Communication is how you know how your partner sees the world. And sometimes it tells you how you see the world!

How can you improve communication if things aren't going well?

It's always important to be aware of your way of communicating with your partner. But particularly when things are not going well, it pays to take a closer look at your interactions to see where things might be a bit off. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Be willing to talk.

When Bill gets home from work, Bill and Jillian should agree to have a time to share their day.  That means Bill needs to be willing to communicate.  His going silent puts the couple in peril.

2. Be willing to listen

Bill also needs to be willing to listen.  Tuning your partner out often sends the signal, even if unintentional, that you don’t care.

3. Refrain from making aggressive comments

Bill should knock out comments that come across as aggressive, such as his showing his lack of interest in Ricky’s.  The restaurant may indeed be less than interesting to him. But the point of listening is not to learn about Ricky’s but to show he cares.

4. Pay attention to your partner’s needs and mood when communicating

Jillian needs to decide if it would be better to be just a bit more selective in what she tells Bill.  She may be overwhelming him.  He may feel like anything he says will seem too meager, so he says hardly anything at all.  Jillian should discuss that issue with Bill.

5. Particularly when things are not going well, find something exciting to do together

Bill and Jillian are at a crossroads in their relationship.  They should actively seek out some excitement together—things they can share and talk about because they really want to talk about them.

6. If you can’t improve your communication, seek counseling

If Bill and Jillian cannot get their communication going, they should seek counseling. They have fallen into a maladaptive pattern and they would do well to find a different pattern, one that involves the meaningful communication they once had.

How is your communication with your partner doing?  If it’s not where it should be, it may be time for a tune-up.  Good communication is one of the most essential things in a relationship.  That’s got to be one of the things that brought you and your partner together, right?  Never let it go!

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