Human beings, social creatures that we are, are hard-wired to be together. We live our first 15 or 20 years in families. Then we bond with someone new and repeat the cycle.
Our relationships provide the contexts for our biggest highs and our times of deepest despair.
So how does a relationship grow stale? There are many answers, from incompatibility to addictions to stupid mistakes, to distance. But at the heart of the failure of many relationships is sloppy communication.
Remember the first time you were in love. You talked honestly with each other, and the more you talked, the more you understood each other. The more you knew about each other the more you liked each other, so the more you wanted to talk. You had begun the upward spiral of communication, understanding and affection. You both realized that the intense level of communion you were feeling was love.
When your committed relationship grows stale, you cannot just decide, “I’m going to understand him better,” or “I’m going to like her more.” You don’t have control over understanding or affection. But you do have control over communication.
If you can make time for and practice good communication, you will understand each other more — and your affection will grow. You are reversing a downward spiral towards alienation and re-creating an upward spiral towards communion. Unfortunately, we are all vulnerable to slipping into sloppy communication and inactive listening.
You may be skipping one of the essential elements of good communication.
The first is ‘attention’ for both you and your partner. If he is not paying attention to you — reading the paper, in the middle of paying the bills — communication doesn’t happen. If you are not paying attention to him as you speak and don’t notice he’s watching the news or has left the room, your communication again fails, leaving you frustrated.
The second essential element is ‘intention.’ For communication to take place you have to intend to communicate something and he has to intend to hear it. Have you ever had someone start to tell you something, but let their voice trail off as if they didn’t care if you heard them? Have you ever tried to tell an adolescent something they didn’t want to hear?
The third element, ‘acknowledgement’, is the easiest, yet the most neglected. You say something. No answer. You say it again. No answer. You say it the third time, this time with irritation in your voice. You get back an annoyed, “I heard you the first time.” Every communication must be acknowledged. The cycle is incomplete until he lets you know he got it. Consistent acknowledgement alone could save a marriage. It’s that powerful!
So pay attention, intend to communicate, intend to hear, and acknowledge, acknowledge, acknowledge! Re-establish communication and enjoy again the upward spiral!
If your relationship has got so stale it is silent, book an appointment with a psychologist … or a lawyer.
You can reach Registered Psychologist Dr. Neill Neill at 250-752-8684 or through his website www.neillneill.com