I have a fancy, expensive degree in communications from New York University, so communicating with an SO should be as natural as breathing for me, right? Try again. While I did learn how to effectively express myself through concise language and understand the nuances of the unspoken (i.e. body language), that can all get Mojito-level muddled once feelings are involved. I've experienced my fair share of miscommunications that can be held almost entirely accountable for relationship downfalls. But what are the signs of bad communication in a relationship, and how do you fix it?
"Whether you've been on one date, dating for one week, one month, or one year, there will always be new things to learn about each other and learn to navigate together," says Lori Salkin, SawYouatSinai.com Senior Matchmaker and Dating Coach. "Having open and honest communication is the only way to truly succeed in a relationship."
As humans, we are constantly communicating, whether verbally or nonverbally, intentionally or unintentionally. Communication is simply the process by which information is exchanged. So being conscious of what info you're sharing and how you interpret the info your parter is sharing is crucial to how we learn — together. Of course, there is room for error (like, a lot of err). Here are the three key ways in which bad communication manifests and how to stop it from happening.
1. An Unwillingness To Be Open-Minded
You might not like to admit it, but even the best of us are at least a little set in our ways (which is the nice way to say stubborn). A lot of people think that compromise is a huge factor in successful relationships, and it is... but you cannot arrive at true compromise without first approaching your partner with an open mind.
"In every relationship, especially in the beginning, you are strangers coming from different places and will always have different opinions," says Salkin. "No two people are perfectly alike and every relationship takes compromise and a willingness to be open-minded." She continues that maintaining an open mind and honest communication allows couples to "[validate] each other's differences of opinions, and offer ... [a] willingness to communicate and agree to disagree to build a healthy relationship."
Expert Tip: Salkin advises that couples should avoid planning too far into the future (i.e. the five-year plan). The unpredictability of life makes it impossible to account for where you will go (both physically and mentally), how you will grow, or even who your kids will be.
2. You're Not Fighting (And Making Up)
It might seem counterintuitive to say not fighting is a sign of relationship doom, but according to Salkin, "good communication includes fighting and making up." As intellectual beings, humans are prone to clash with one another. In other words, no one (or couple) is perfect; disagreements come along with the roller coaster that is life. The good news? "It is the way in which [a couple] handles the disagreements that can enable a couple to succeed or break up," says Salkin.
Expert Tip: Salkin stresses the importance of having "realistic expectations about how people change and the curveballs life throws you." If you can do that, you'll have smooth makeups. And my tip? It doesn't take an expert to state the obvious here. Makeups = makeup sex. Jussayin'.
3. Issues Arise During The Times You're Not Together
The other day the guy I'm currently seeing went out to surf and then texted me that he would be back later than he expected. Sweet baby Jesus, thank you for this man.
"Communication issues often arise in the time between being together," Salkin explains. "It is very hard to sit and wait and have no idea when you will hear from your significant other." When you don't keep someone you love in the loop about your life, it starts entering the territory of disrespecting another person's time, which is just not cool. Technology might be starting to hinder humanity (case in point: every episode of Black Mirror), but with Salkin's advice, you can use it to benefit your relationship.
Expert Tip: As Salkin says, "A little ... goes a long way." "Send frequent messages, even if they only say 'still here' or 'things are still hectic,'" she continues. "Updates go a very long way in softening the frustration." Showing some effort between dates by checking in over text and the phone majorly steps up your communication game. Plus, it'll likely make your partner feel pretty special.
Of course, communication issues outside of these three factors, like a total lack thereof, might lead to a bigger struggle. In that case, it might be time to seriously check in with your SO on why that's happening. It might sound obvious, but put down your phones and do some activities together. Salkin makes a great point that not every date has to be talk, talk, talk, but instead, share experiences, and it's likely you'll find you have a lot more to talk about.
She concludes, "If the other person is not receptive to sharing reality with you, then it is unlikely to be a sustainable relationship."
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