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Why does communication feel so hard in my relationship?

why does communication feel so hard in my relationship?

We all know the comfort of a loved one clasping our outstretched hand and the loneliness when it's not taken. This simple gesture beautifully mirrors the essence of communication.

The Metaphor of Holding Hands

When one person extends their hand, they are initiating a conversation, inquiry, or invitation. The response is crucial—the other person can either reciprocate, symbolizing connection and safety, or withdraw, indicating a lack of it.

Examples of Reaching Out:

  • "Hey, can we discuss the disagreement from last night?"

  • "Did you have a chance to call your mom today?"

  • "Would you like to watch a movie tonight?"

Ideal Responses:

  • "Of course, let me wrap up what I'm doing, and I'll be fully present."

  • "I didn't manage to, but thank you for the reminder."

  • "Sure, and I'll make popcorn!"

When Communication Goes Awry

Sometimes, the response isn't ideal. For example, Partner A might ask to discuss a disagreement, and Partner B responds defensively:"Why are you bringing this up again? I thought we had settled it."

This response fails to cultivate a sense of safety for Partner A and by looking at partner B's perspective, we can understand that they lacked a sense of safety too. Perhaps Partner A's approach felt accusatory or critical (perhaps a finger being pointed instead of a hand reaching out), leading to Partner B getting defensive. This pattern perpetuates a cycle of Partner A feeling neglected and Partner B feeling inadequate, regardless of the specific topic. Perception often shapes our reactions more than the other person's intent does.

Breaking the Cycle

To improve communication, consider how you perceive and respond to each other's attempts to connect. Here are a few steps:

  1. Reflect on Intentions: Before starting a conversation, think about your intentions and try to express them kindly.

  2. Be Mindful of Responses: Notice how your partner responds. Are they feeling safe and understood?

  3. Create a Safe Space: Foster an environment where both of you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings.

  4. Practice Empathy: Try to see things from your partner’s perspective and validate their feelings.

Communication can be challenging because it requires vulnerability and understanding. By thinking of communication as holding hands, we can better appreciate the need for safety and connection. Being curious about our own and each other's perceptions can help us communicate more effectively and warmly in our relationships.


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