TikToker, Emily King states that, “Men were taught their entire life how to treat a woman but not what to expect from a woman while a woman was taught her entire life what to expect from a man but not how to treat a man.”
She certainly isn’t wrong about that statement and one way to improve on this shortsightedness that most people are not at fault for is to learn healthy relationship communication. It is common knowledge that a trait of a healthy and successful relationship is having good communication. However, it does not necessarily come naturally to all of us which is why we don’t always know exactly what it is and how to achieve it. We learned from our families, cultures, and friends how to communicate our thoughts and feelings or if expressing feelings and being vulnerable is considered “wrong” or “bad.” The communication we learn from these sources may or may not be healthy when entering a relationship.
Why is communication so important in a relationship
In regard to expectations and how to treat your partner, needs and desires need to be communicated. Communication is so important due to how miscommunication can disrupt relationships by misinterpreting intentions and causing hurt feelings. Despite being a young culture that is well-versed in the language around feelings and mental health, we continue to have the bad habit of expecting our partners to read our minds. We expect that they can predict our needs and intuitively know what will upset us. Rationally, we often know this is unrealistic to expect these things. Emotionally we get caught up in our feelings about the relationship and often forget this.
A big hurdle with communication worth addressing early on in a relationship is expressing what kind of communication you expect or want in the relationship. Do you want regular texts throughout the day, only in the morning and evening, or a just phone call/text conversation at night with nothing else throughout the day? Everyone has different communication preferences and needs. If you aren’t open about these preferences then you may feel that your needs aren’t being met. This makes you feel neglected/abandoned, and ultimately feel disconnected from this person.
What is healthy Relationship communication?
Healthy communication looks like being open about what your feelings, expectations, and intentions are with a relationship. Communicating when something bothers or upsets you and not being passive-aggressive about what is going on. Express what your insecurities are. Insecurities often get in the way of us being vulnerable and expressing what could upset us. So informing your partner of what these are can prevent easily avoided issues in the future. Even if you’re not able to be explicit about what you are experiencing due to the newness of a relationship or your comfortability with the subject, at least express to your partner that something is wrong. You can say that you’re not ready to talk about it; that is still considered healthy communication. The main goal of healthy communication is to not leave your partner in the dark.
What is Unhealthy Relationship Communication?
It is just as important to label what is actively unhealthy communication so that we can identify it when we see it. The obvious is lying, playing games of any sort, not being honest about what you are feeling and experiencing in the relationship, or not saying what you mean. Not playing games encompasses not being the first to reach out in order for your partner to always pursue you first; this can leave a partner feeling as if you don’t care or are indifferent about the relationship when really you could be experiencing some insecurity. Withholding communication can look like inflicting the silent treatment. Or if you say that everything is “fine” when it is clear that you are upset. Making them guess what is wrong with you is a game people play to have their partner prove that they care when really it fuels disconnection.
If you seek to improve your communication, it is important to not withhold information about yourself that would otherwise hinder healing the relationship or cause disconnection from the other person. Remember, your partner is not a mind reader.
Why do some people find it so hard to communicate with their partners?
Communication is a skill we learn from our families and those around us. It does not necessarily come naturally to us. It also often involves vulnerability which can be uncomfortable and scary for a lot of people. Depending on the culture and household you were raised in, healthy communication may have never been role modeled for you. There is nothing wrong with learning communication as a skill later in life. It certainly is something that is better late than never!
What are the benefits of healthy Relationship communication?
The benefit of healthy communication is that you feel secure in the relationship. This means that you’re not guessing what the other person is thinking or feeling. Insecurities will not be unnecessarily triggered by a person that you feel safe with.
tips for having better communication with your partner
- Honesty is always the best policy, even if it briefly makes one or both of you upset
- Express what level of regular communication makes you feel secure (and be honest about this!)
- Be open about something that bothers you even if it is uncomfortable to say. And if you can’t talk about it, express exactly that
- Asking your partner about their needs for communication (how often they want to hear from you, for example)
- Process your feelings first. This can be on your own through writing or with a friend, before bringing upsetting subjects up to your partner
- The term, “never go to bed angry” is outdated and wrong. Sleeping on something that is bothering you can do wonders to calm you down and better organize your thoughts
- Remember your partner can not read your mind! You have to tell them what you are thinking
Article written by Jennifer Klesman, LCSW