Did you know we communicate both verbally and nonverbally? Nonverbals include body language, eye contact, presentation (clothing, cleanliness, etc.).
CONNECTING, BETTER THAN COMMUNICATING?
In intimate relationships the key to making it last is constant CONNECTION, not necessarily communication.
Based on brain chemistry, and what we understand from functional MRIs...
--Did you know that for women connecting means that she needs to feel heard, appreciated, and safe?
--Did you know that for men connecting means that he feels like he is the provider and protector?
If you can figure out how your partner feels connected, then it will help you to stay intimate. When I talk about connection, I am refering to that feeling of being loved. For women it is hearing and knowing the little things you do are being noticed and appreciated, that your life and relationship matter to your partner, that someone cares what you do, that your purpose in life is validated...For men it is hearing and knowing from your loved one that their job (even with long hours) is what makes you feel safe and secure, that you appreciate the fact that he can lift heavier things, do chores, errands that make your life easier, that you enjoy being taken care of and looked out for...Sometimes both men and women freak out when they feel their partner pulling away from them. Often we think the solution is to talk it out. First we gossip to our friends and family about what annoys us about our partner. Heck, we may even drag our partner to a counselor, therapist, trusted friend, clergy. We attempt to diagnose a problem. Is there really a problem? Could all that is missing be that connection element in the relationship? Saying "I love you," does not cut it. Could it be as simple as making a woman feel like she is heard, appreciated and safe? Could it be as simple as making a man feel like he is a provider and protector? Yup! Our brains are wired to be this way--and even if we find ourselves in non-traditional roles, say the woman is the main breadwinner, and the man is a stay-at-home dad or is currently unemployed....think creatively how to make the other person feel what they need to feel connected in the relationship.
It really is as simple as making the other person feel connected. Guess what? DON'T FOCUS ON TALKING! Or pouting, or slamming doors, or happily acting like everything's ok.
Often the results of talking things out end in further frustration and alienation. In no way am I saying don't discuss big and small issues with your partner. What I am saying is that if you or your partner do not feel CONNECTED to the relationship, then trying to talk about ANYTHING is not going to work at making you feel loved, valued, or heard. That spark that flared with your partner at the beginning, the one where you felt like you were falling head over heels in love--it will not come back unless you nurture your CONNECTION with your loved one.
Why am I advocating to stop talking, and instead focus on connecting to keep your relationship alive? When you focus on connecting, then you are focusing on your relationship and keeping it fresh. The topics, life events, illnesses, job promotions/losses/changes...all of these "things" will constantly be ebbing and flowing in your life. If you feel connected to your partner, then you can face these "things" together. If you get stuck in trying to merely communicate both verbally and nonverbally about what is and isn't going right in your life it can get downright crappy. Why not focus more of your energy on reigniting the spark? First you may ask why has the spark fizzled in the first place? More brain chemistry reasons. Basically, your in a different love phase. Before you were falling in love, you were infatuated with the person. After two years the chemicals in your brain normalize and now you have to focus on staying and keeping the love alive. Another reason the spark has fizzled is becausen outside stressors, whether they are positive or negative, are being allowed to take up all your energy and time. If you make a concerted effort to keep your connection in your relationship--that spark and knowing that the other person gets you, honors you, respects you, notices the small things--alive, then there will always be a place in your life where you can let your guard down and rest so that you can face the rest of the world and what that requires.
If you stay connected to your partner, then all of those skills on communicating assertively (no passive, aggressive or passive-aggressive type communicators here, right?) will fall into place and help keep your relationship healthy. If you're not there yet in your ability to communicate compassionately and honestly--the best thing you can do in your relationship is focus on connecting. It's a daily job. Once you both feel connected, then you can work on communicating and negotiating conflicts. Now that's one of the basic definitions of a relationship: relating to another person in a give and take fashion. And, guess what? It is as simple as saying, "honey, thank you for taking out the trash it lets me focus more time on making a yummy meal for you!" Or, "sweetheart, I know you've been working long hours, and I get frustrated that you keep missing dinnertime, but I wanted to let you know that I appreciate what you are doing for our family by providing for us." Even more simple..."I'm proud of you and how hard you work." Or, "Thank you."
Do you ever wonder why you seem to be saying one thing, and the other person seems to be hearing something entirely different? Find out why, and what you can do to help change this phenomenon.
Did you know that if you start practicing active listening, then chances are because your partner feels like he or she is being heard--your relationship will begin to dynamically improve?
Active listening may also be known as effective listening. Both are used to describe the skills you use when you are listening to another person. These skill sets are divided into different ways you can repeat information back to the other person in the conversation to let them know you have heard what they said, you agree with what they have said, you heard them and are digesting the information, you heard them and you disagree with what they have said.
Pick one of the following scenes and test your listening skills!
Other future topic areas:
Check back for more information on the differences between women and men--and how you can remain close by being mindful and NOT evoking our basic social animal response of FIGHT or FLIGHT!