“Communication works for those who work at it.” ~John Powell
I’ve been with my boyfriend for three years now. He’s a great guy. We get along well, we complement each other, and we have a lot of fun when we’re together.
Still, despite our mutual desire for a great relationship, we occasionally run into roadblocks, otherwise known as growth points.
Recently we’ve been going through a bit of a rough patch while revisiting unresolved dramas. What enables us to handle these dramas well is our willingness to show up and communicate.
Through our three years together, I’ve learned a few things about effective communication. If you’ve found it difficult to share your thoughts and feelings and work through issues in your relationship, this may help.
1. Schedule a time to talk.
This is most important when it comes to discussing the heavier subject matter of your relationship.
Even though I know this and I follow this rule regularly, an impulsive side of me failed to abide by this rule in one of my most recent discussions with my boyfriend. And I paid the price.
We were lying in bed one night and the topic of concern came up. My heart leaped into my throat and I felt like I just had to say something. I decided to open the can of worms right then and there. He did not like that.
He felt ambushed, which is understandable, right? I didn’t give him the opportunity to prepare. He had no idea what was coming!
He got angry. He closed down. And, in turn, I didn’t feel heard and thought he didn’t care about my feelings.
In reality, I didn’t do what I know is best to do: schedule a time to have a conversation. So, even though I let myself get upset and hurt about it, it was my responsibility to broach the conversation from a different angle. I had to let go of my hurt feelings and honestly examine where I dropped the ball.
If I had scheduled a time to talk, then he would have been more willing to communicate with me. Honoring other people and their feelings allows both parties to fully show up, be heard, and hash things out collaboratively.
2. Know your desires and intentions.
Returning to the same scenario as above: I eventually decided to ask him for an appropriate time to talk. We agreed on dinnertime the next night.
As we sat down and the conversation opened up, I decided to share with him my intention and desire for the conversation, beyond the topic for discussion.
My true intention was to have open, clear, loving, positive, and collaborative communication with him. It’s important for me to be in a relationship in which conscious communication is the mainframe.
I used the analogy that if either of us were unhappy about something and the other person or both of us were unwilling to communicate about it, then that would be like sticking a thorn in our relationship and choosing to allow it to deteriorate. It’s sweeping matters under the rug instead of dealing with them straight on.
By sharing this, he immediately opened up because he knew where I was coming from and that my intention was positive and for the good of our relationship. He could relate to that because he desires and intends the same thing.
3. Be prepared to lead the conversation.
If you plan a time to talk with your partner about an issue in your relationship, be prepared to lead the way.
My boyfriend and I have had several deep conversations over the last few months. So, at this point, I knew it was best for me to be prepared.
In the past, when I failed to gather my thoughts in advance, I fumbled over my words and wasn’t quite sure what to say. I knew what the topic of conversation was, but I failed to produce anything productive, at least, not right off the bat.
4. Take responsibility for, honor, and share your feelings.
It wasn’t until I started sharing my feelings, without blaming (i.e. “I feel angry…”), that I started to feel heard and the conversation felt worthwhile.
If I had continued to hide how I felt and just talked about how to solve the problem, then I would have continued to feel like something was wrong. And when that occurs, the first thing that comes to mind is that this communication thing just doesn’t work. I eventually want to withdraw.
Facilitating communication with another goes both ways. I had to learn what works to open me up, as well as what will allow him to feel safe to open up as well.
Communication is crucial for healthy relationships. We develop intimacy as we learn to navigate each other’s rocky inner terrain, continually allowing the other to feel deeply loved and safer in our presence.
Following these simple and practical steps can make communication much easier—and much more effective.
Couple looking at each other image via Shutterstock