When I was younger, I felt a need to express whatever was on my mind just to make sure my partner knew what I was thinking and feeling. This was especially true when I was frustrated, upset or angry at them. I believed in the myth that communication was key! It always improved the quality of a relationship.
What I’ve learned the hard way over the 60+ years of my life is that “positive” communication can deepen the feelings between two people. “Negative” communication, however, can be damaging and create barriers to intimacy, especially if it is a large part of the communication that’s going on in a relationship.
When people have critical or judgmental feelings for each other and spend the majority of time expressing them, it doesn’t clear the air and bring clarity. Instead it can act as a wedge that drives people further apart. One famous relationship expert, George S. Pransky, wrote, “Communication is a pipe through which feelings pass. If the feelings are positive, the relationship will be uplifted. If they are negative, the couple’s level of closeness will drop.”
Many of my clients who are experiencing ‘challenges’ in their relationships don’t realize that it’s positive feelings and a sense of appreciation and goodwill that brings closeness between couples. Not More Talk! And these good feelings can be expressed in many more innovative ways than through just talking.
It’s as if there is a relationship bank account. Feelings are the deposits and withdrawals. When there is a lot of goodwill and positive feelings toward each other, deposits are made. Communication and actions expressing ill will (frustration, anger, irritation, criticism) are withdrawals. As a matter of fact, there is no such thing as a productive discussion that alienates people!
A rule of thumb I suggest to my clients is that if they or their partner are in a bad mood, to hold off on any deep conversations. Wait until both of you are feeling calmer and more objective.
If you’re still bothered by the issue after calming down, then bring it up preferably in a composed, non-confrontational manner. Focus on how your partner’s behavior or comments made you feel. Then let them know how a different approach would make you feel better.
If you find that after 5-10 minutes things are not getting better, and are in fact getting worse, then just STOP THE CONVERSATION and try again later. Talking an issue to death will not make things better, and will most likely intensify feelings of ill-will.
I wish I knew this nugget of wisdom two marriages ago!
Troubled relationships are one of the most common reasons why a client comes to see me. If you’re having difficulties in your relationship and can’t seem to make things better, then give me a call to schedule a 30-minute complementary consultation to see how I might be able to help. Contact me TODAY or call 415-819-8769. For more information about my services go to JoyReichard.com.