Communication can define a long-lasting relationship or one that ended too soon. In the 80’s Spandau Ballet had a song called Communication and the refrain was “communication let me down”. However, communication doesn’t let us down. We just stop communicating in a productive way. Whether it is that someone in the relationship stops talking or listening the result is the same. People are not heard or understood. The ability to communicate where both partners feel that they can express themselves and be heard without being interrupted can often be a fundamental pillar of good communication and a healthy relationship.
As an intern therapist I worked with couples on communication. Many of these couples struggled to just get their point across without interruption. I remember using a technique where one person would say what they were feeling about the relationship and the other partner had to be silent. Then the second person had to repeat what the first person had said verbatim. Finally, the first partner would say whether or not the second partner had repeated the statement correctly. This was a grueling exercise for me because I had to be the referee with the couple and most couples were only interested in placing blame and not in listening to their partner (or their therapist).
It was not a comfortable feeling but when each partner followed the rules of the session the couple did make progress. The point of the exercise was that it is difficult to hear what someone is saying when you are only focused on your own point of view. You really can’t hear what someone is saying if all you want to do is talk. Take off the metaphorical headphones of your life and listen to your partner, friend, or children. Have that exchange of ideas and open dialogue with your special someone.
In my relationship, I have learned to do a particular type of listening that works well for us. My partner is not someone who is big on things like expensive jewelry or high fashion. She likes small trinkets, books, and mementos. Early on in our relationship I picked up on this and I would go and buy these little items for her. She was always appreciative mostly about the fact that I listened and remembered that she had wanted this item. However, the point here isn’t about what I bought or didn’t buy for her. This is about being heard and understood. This only happens when you are willing to put aside your thoughts and needs in order to listen to someone else. Make the effort to listen to your loved one(s). It is the life blood of a healthy relationship!