3 Tips for a better communication the relationship for more understanding and a deep connection
In the intensive work with couples, we experience again and again that there are many aspects that are important for a fulfilling relationship and sexuality.
One aspect that is particularly relevant is communication.
Both in bed and outside.
Communication is the foundation of connection.
Through open communication we show our partner our inner world.
The beautiful aspects we like about ourselves, but also those we judge ourselves for.
Healthy communication helps us build understanding and closeness, and it is often the first step toward intimacy.
But communication can often be a challenge and the reason why we are disconnected and annoyed with each other.
If we are often triggered in everyday life and communication does not work, it can lead to many conflicts. Therefore, it is important to draw one’s attention to this topic.
Intimacy starts with communication
Many couples long for more passion in their relationship and also in bed. However, many do not understand that in a long-term monogamous relationship, the foreplay for the next lovemaking starts again immediately after the act.
Communication plays an essential role in this. Any contact with the partner can increase the passion and depth in our relationship or distance us even more from each other.
Most people don’t care about how they communicate. They act and speak as they have mostly learned from their own parents and are being controlled by unconscious patterns.
Therefore, the first step to greater connection and intimacy is to become aware of current patterns and unhealthy habits. Because only then is change possible.
Appreciative communication that creates closeness can definitely be learned.
We all have the opportunity to design communication in a relationship in such a way that it is good for us, for our partner and that it connects us with each other.
When we have found a way of communicating in which we can let ourselves go as well as feel safe, we can communicate openly and honestly about everything. The passion can then increase more and more over the time. It also helps to get to know each other more deeply and it therefore strengthens the connection.
Challenges in communication
When working with couples, I notice again and again how often people talk past each other.
Every person and every couple has their own habits and dynamics in this area.
Of course, it is most difficult when it comes to a topic that is extremely triggering for one or both partners.
If we are not mindful in these moments, our emotions and automatic protective strategies can quickly take over.
These are the moments when we resent ourselves or our partner afterwards… for what we said or did.
It is important to keep reminding yourself that these habits and patterns aren’t done to hurt the other person on purpose.
They once had an important protective function. And they still serve us well in certain situations (in which the other person may not always means well to us).
In the relationship, however, they lead to separation – instead of the desired loving togetherness.
We dissociate, disconnect, criticize the partner, attack, raise our protective walls, defend ourselves or withdraw and completely disconnect.
A common dynamic I see in couples fighting is that one gets angry and louder, but the other shuts down completely and withdraws.
It is easy to see here that there is a fight for connection.
The one who expresses their displeasure hopes for an emotional reaction from the partner. Translated, this call means: “I’m not feeling well with the situation right now. I wish to connect with you. I would like to solve the problem together.”
However, the other person who withdraws usually only feels attacked by the anger and is therefore unable to respond.
This reaction protects them from injury.
They shut down, go out of touch and go quiet.
However, this only provokes the other to become even louder.
This often ends in a vicious cycle in which both patterns continue to intensify.
In our communication, we were also trapped in such a pattern for a long time.
When I was triggered by Meli, I often withdrew and went into my “cave”.
I cut off all contact and was emotionally absent.
This in turn drove Meli crazy.
It usually got worse until Meli was so desperate that she burst into tears.
Because of her sadness, I was able to soften up again and play the role of the “savior”.
This pattern repeated itself over and over again until at some point we talked about it, brought awareness into it and were then able to transform it.
For me, the process was to recognize when I felt the impulse to “close up” and make a conscious decision not to do so.
By staying in touch with Meli and sharing my process with her, there was no more disconnect as there used to be.
The connection was maintained, Meli was relieved to hear from me and we were able to sort things out much more quickly.
Other patterns in couples can include both partners attacking each other, or both partners retreating.
The challenge here is that no understanding can arise between the two.
Both are so caught up in their patterns, their own pain, and their protective strategies that they are unable to see the other.
In these dynamics, both cannot really hear, see or understand each other.
Unfortunately, most of us never learned how to communicate in a truly understanding way.
In the course of our lives we can have learned either positive or negative communication habits from our caregivers.
The habits we have learned mostly come from our childhood.
They are patterns that we have unconsciously adopted because they have been shown to us day after day.
So when we catch ourselves criticizing, shaming, or defending ourselves and withdrawing, we know there is a pattern at work that is keeping us from connecting and understanding.
As soon as both are aware of the dynamic, it is important to recognize and break through it, even in conflict situations. And then choose a different path.
In the case of very deep-seated patterns, it can also be helpful to seek professional support in the form of couples therapy or couples coaching to become aware of and transform these habits.
Concrete tips for successful communication in the relationship
1. Creating a safe space through vulnerability
The first step is to create a space together in which both feel safe.
This space is created through an attitude of respect, calm and curiosity.
It’s about not taking what’s being said too personally.
It’s about being able to deal with the pain without having to hit back immediately, i.e. not retreating or counterattacking.
It’s about not making any judgments about what is said, but rather creating a space in which everything can simply be there.
It often helps to remember that we are actually on the same “team” and are not fighting each other…
… that we actually have the same goal and that we both long for love, connection and a happy relationship.
… that we actually love each other and only want the best for our partner (even if that is sometimes not quite so recognizable 😉
And one of the most powerful tools for connection, trust and safety is actually one’s own vulnerability.
It is about recognizing and sharing the more vulnerable emotions behind the anger or emotional coldness and distance.
Instead of scolding my partner because he hasn’t taken out the garbage yet again or because he could “do something” around the house, I can share that I’m pretty overwhelmed with kids and work right now, that I feel tired and exhausted and that I do not have the strength to take care of the household by myself.
Instead of criticizing my partner because he always wants sex and can never get enough, I can share how frustrated and desperate I am about my own lack of desire and how I stand in my own way with all my thoughts and self-doubt. And how much I wish I could enjoy shared intimacy.
If I manage to show myself with these deeper feelings and have the courage to admit my own vulnerability, then it is usually much easier for my partner to approach me and open up as well.
2. Really listening and giving the partner my full attention
The second important point is to really listen to your partner.
It often happens that when we are talking to our partner, we are not there with our full presence, but are perhaps preoccupied with ourselves or other thoughts.
This can also be a protective strategy to avoid engaging with the topic at hand.
If we don’t listen, we signal to our partner that what is said is not important to us. This can often reinforce old wounds from childhood in the other person.
In order to create a deep connection through communication, however, it is important to…
… really be present and give your partner your full attention.
… let him speak and be curious about what he wants to share.
… try to understand what the partner’s inner world looks like at the moment.
… see the good reason why he is thinking this way and maybe even to have empathy and compassion for his processes.
It is also worth introducing separate speaking times so that everything can really be said without being tempted to immediately say “yes, but” or interrupting the partner in other ways.
If we can then repeat and summarize in our own words what the partner has said, he can really feel heard and understood, or he can eliminate possible misunderstandings straight away.
3. Talk about your own wishes and needs instead of criticizing your partner
Perhaps you have heard of the famous “I-messages”.
The point is not to complain about everything that is wrong with your partner and what he supposedly does wrong, but instead to talk about your own wishes and needs.
We have already touched on this a bit with the topic of vulnerability.
It is often so much easier to whine about what’s going wrong in relationships and sexuality than to clearly formulate what we want instead.
It is often clear that the touch does not feel good or that foreplay does not arouse much desire in me, but what should my partner do differently? No idea!
At this point, it is important to take a close look and to research (together).
What is it that I actually want or that I really need???
Focusing on identifying and communicating your wants and needs not only increases the likelihood that both of you will actually get those needs met, but also helps you get to know yourself and your partner better.
A final point that is important for me to mention is the distinction between wish and demand.
The difference lies much less in the wording (demands can be “packed into nice words”) than in the inner attitude.
If I formulate a wish and my partner fulfills it, I am usually grateful and can also express this gratitude.
If my partner can’t or doesn’t like to fulfill my wish, that’s okay too.
However, when I make a demand and my partner doesn’t meet it, I get angry, start criticizing, pushing, manipulating, or I withdraw offended.
If my partner fulfills my request, I see it as something taken for granted, which I no longer need to pay attention to.
Desires usually lead to more connection in the relationship.
Demands, on the other hand, usually only lead to more distance.
Most people love to give gifts to their partner and to fulfill his or her wishes. But few take pleasure in meeting demands.
Therefore, the inner attitude makes a big difference and it is always worth questioning from which point of view I am asking my partner for something…
So if you want more connection in the relationship and want to improve communication between you, it is about…
- Creating awareness of existing patterns and habits in order to change them bit by bit
- Always making sure to create a safe setting in which both have the feeling that they can open up and show vulnerability
- Give your partner your full attention and really listen
- To express one’s own wishes and needs and at the same time give one’s partner full freedom to fulfill them or not