“Communication problems” seems to be the catch-all phrase for every relationship problem, and is often sighted as the main cause of the collapse of many relationships.
I’m the first to admit that we relationship counselors, therapists and coaches are partly responsible for this.
To better understand “communication problems” in a relationship, it’s imperative that we look at some of the definitions of communication.
1. an act or instance of transmitting
2. information transmitted or conveyed
3. a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behaviour .
4. personal rapport
5. a technique for expressing ideas effectively (as in speech)
In a layman’s language, communication simply means the ability to transmit information effectively and efficiently.
Put it this way, communication seems so easy, natural. But why is it a problem in many of our relationships?
We could go technical on this, but I have a much simpler explanation. Human beings are complicated.
Depending on how we were raised and how much personal inner work we’ve done, we each have what is our “normal” way of transmitting information. Much of the time, the majority of us do actually manage to connect with someone; not because we necessarily have good communication skills but because connecting with other human beings is a human need. We need it, we seek it and we do our best to make it work — not connecting effectively or efficiently, but connecting nonetheless.
During this time, many of us feel things are going well, the relationship is great, and we “love each other ” very much. Then slowly, we start having “communication problems” (yelling, banging doors, throwing stuff, silent treatment, pretending there is no problem, avoiding anything that might lead to a confrontation — and everything in between). It’s not pretty, effective or efficient.
Most relationship “experts” and “advisers” will tell you that you need to learn communication skills and be a better communicator. And so off you go learning to say “please”, “thank you”, “I love you”, “you look great”, “I appreciate you” etc. You study “listening skills” and learn how to better communicate your wants, needs, feelings, and emotions — and that sort of thing.
There is nothing wrong with trying to be a better communicator or making someone you love “feel good”, it’s all part of being in a healthy loving relationship. But as some of you reading this may be finding out, just being a better communicator is not enough. And some of you have tried everything the “experts” told you to do to improve communication in your relationship, and the other person even acknowledges that the communication between the two of you has improved, BUT… something is still missing?
That’s because saying “please”, “thank you”, “I love you”, “you look great”, “I appreciate you” and listening and affirming is not enough when you are trying to emotionally connect and build a long term emotional bond with someone.
Building a strong emotional bond goes beyond “good communication skills”. Building a strong emotional bond is about emotional vulnerability.
In other words, without emotional vulnerability, you can not truly emotionally connect with another or form a strong intimate bond with them.
Why is Emotional vulnerability so scary?
I like how Lisa Fritscher, a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics, describes emotional vulnerability:
“Vulnerability is a state of emotional exposure that comes with a certain degree of uncertainty. It involves a person’s willingness to accept the emotional risk that comes from being open and willing to love and be loved”.
When you’ve been hurt by a breakup, accepting emotional risk doesn’t come easy. Many of us become cautious and want to make sure that we maintain emotional power in our interactions. So we hold back and shy away from anything that will put us at the emotional risk of being emotionally exposed again.
But it is the very act of holding back and unwilling to put ourselves through emotional risk that ensures that our interactions are surface level and not emotionally connecting.
But instead of recognizing where the REAL PROBLEM is, we wrap it up in “communication problems” and continue with the same fear of emotional vulnerability that got us where we are in the first place.
We still fear to make the first contact or call first because the other person might not respond/answer, and we’ll GET HURT.
We still play silly mind games because we fear the other person will exploit our feelings for them, and we’ll GET HURT.
We do “No Contact” because, hey! we don’t want to GET HURT.
If you want to know what truly loving someone is and feel truly loved, you have to get comfortable with being vulnerable. For example:
— Reaching out knowing that you might not get a response.
— Not knowing what the other person feels about you.
— Showing you care even when the other person doesn’t return the gesture.
— Letting the other person make their own decisions and choices even when those decisions don’t favour you etc.
— But most of all, you have to get comfortable with knowing that sometimes the people we love the most don’t love us back (and letting them go).
It’s a mindset reset, and for some a completely different ways of existing and relating. But until you allow yourself to be really vulnerable, you will have a hard time emotionally connecting.
Will you get hurt? Possibly!
— Experience deep love and get hurt OR never feel really close to anyone and still get hurt?
— Take the risk and contact your ex OR not contact them at all and for the rest of your life wonder what might have been?
— Tell your ex you want them back OR pretend you have moved on and have them think you have when you haven’t?
— Learn “good communication skills” OR learn to connect more effectively and efficiently?