Long-term relationships are difficult and require work. That is not the romantic, story-book version, but it is reality. And as people continue in a relationship together, they encounter the challenges of stress, boredom, disillusionment, anger, and compromise. Oftentimes, couples cannot understand how they have grown bored or grown apart, but they find a rift between them that is difficult to cross. Although there is no way to eliminate the challenges that a relationship brings, healthy communication can help get you through and help build bonds in the relationship which make it stronger throughout these challenges.
Healthy communication includes a commitment of both parties to the following:
1. Being honest with your partner at all times: Without honesty, any conversation gets caught up in deception, doubt, frustration, and resentment. You start by treating your partner as you would like to be treated.
2. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt: If you ask your partner a question, accept that what they answer you is true.
3. Don’t try to ‘mind-read’: If both of you have agreed to being honest and giving each other the benefit of the doubt, then don’t jump to the conclusion that you know your partner is thinking something other than what they are saying. Open and healthy communication depends on it.
Obviously, these parameters for communication only work if both parties participate. You may be attempting to have healthy communication with your partner only to find that they are not really interested in having healthy communication with you. Everyone has their moments when they are upset, or they may want to be left alone. But if unhealthy patterns continue repeatedly over time, you should consider seeking counseling to improve the communication.
There may also be some level of emotional abuse happening in the relationship. This often leaves one partner feeling hurt, ashamed, confused, and upset. Here are some warning flags to look out for:
1. You find yourself talking under your breath or thinking very negative things about your partner on a regular basis.
2. You feel your partner is a burden and you would rather be alone.
3. You often have arguments about seemingly trivial things.
4. You openly insult each other or threaten each other.
5. You tell each other all the things that the other does wrong on a regular basis.
6. You avoid talking about things even when one of you has pointed out there is a problem.
7. You have a pattern in which one of you is always asking for or pursuing conversation and the other person is avoiding, or it just gets explosive.
If you are experiencing any of the above patterns in your relationship, there are probably much bigger issues going on. It would be worthwhile to meet with a couple’s therapist to start to address these issues. Remember, the longer these patterns persist, the more difficult they are to correct. Healthy communication is a conscious decision that, at times, takes more effort than others. But it is key for continued growth and happiness in a relationship.