The most common question I get when I work with couples is "How can we improve our communication?"
I struggled with this myself in the early days of my marriage and mostly blamed my wife for our many misunderstandings and disagreements. What I didn’t know at the time was that it wasn’t our ability to talk with each other or to understand each other that was the problem. The problem was that I didn’t understand my role in our interactions.
In my 25 years of conflict-resolution work, I've come to believe that working on communication to fix a struggling marriage is a waste of time. I believe it’s a distraction from the real issues that exist in the marriage.
The mistake that many people (even experts) make is to try to fix the marriage by working on communication. This actually often makes things worse. How effective do you find working on anything with someone you don't feel connected to or even like? The answer is probably "really, really not effective." That's why the priority should be, instead, to restore the feelings of connection with your partner.
- When the deep feeling of connection exists, communication conflicts are minimal.
- That sense of deep connection is what allows couples to feel understood and heard.
- When you feel intimately connected with your partner, other challenges feel less catastrophic and are more easily resolved.
So, how do you do that?
In my experience, the key to restoring the glue of connection is to get back to your natural role in creating connection. You might think of it as the sexual chemistry you experienced earlier on with your partner or the feelings of being in love.
When this feeling doesn’t exist, neither does the feeling of being deeply cared for. You already know what happens when you don’t feel deeply cared for.
A tell-tale sign of lost connection that I often hear is, "I love them, but I’m not in love with them anymore." That relationship will have lots of communication challenges. Unfortunately, you cannot talk your way back into those feelings of connection.
You can only do that by changing behaviors back to what you naturally demonstrated at the peak of your intimate connection. This looks like treating your partner, 10 years down the line, the same way you did 10 days into your relationship. It might sound ridiculous, but that may, in fact, be the problem.
You've won the prize, but that doesn't mean it's time to get complacent. The best relationships are the ones where both people choose each other, every single day, and act accordingly. That's how you keep your relationship in the honeymoon phase your whole life. And yes, it's actually possible.
What we do and fail to do is always reflected in the outcome of our relationships.
Want more insight into your relationship? Find out the things you should always be selfish about in your partnerships and the questions that could keep your marriage from ending.