Ask any therapist, counselor, relationship advisor, dating show guest, or advice columnist how to have a successful marriage and they’ll tell you “communication.” But what – perhaps ironically – is not always communicated is what “communication” really means. Many take it literally, as though it means a successful marriage is about talking to your partner. As long as you have conversations, you’ll be happily married forever.
That is not what we mean when we say communication. Communication is not how often you talk. Rather, it’s about the cognitive understanding that you have with your partner regarding how each person talks, what each person means, and more. That is especially true when it comes to emotions.
Why Communication is More Than Words
Imagine if you spoke only English, and your partner only spoke another language, like Hebrew. The two of you could talk to each other all day, but neither of you will understand the person’s words. Talking is not communicating. Talking is just talking.
However, even in that scenario, you’d be able to see the way your partner looks at you when you talk. You’d be able to hear how their voice and inflections change. You’d be able to analyze their body language. There are many ways that you could communicate without knowing what the other person is saying.
That understanding of your partner is another component of communication. It’s also where some partners struggle. Listening to our partner doesn’t just mean hearing their words, but also taking a step back to see what they are trying to tell us and why.
Emotions Can Lie or Be Misconstrued
Often, in couples counseling, we see examples of this when couples communicate emotions. Where one partner may hear and see their partner angry, the other partner may simply feel like they’re expressing passion. Where one partner may take certain habits to be dismissive, the other partner may see themselves as trying to cool down or take a step back.
So, in situations like this where you’re trying to work on your communication, it becomes important to stop focusing on how YOU perceive what your partner is saying and how they’re communicating, and instead try to identify what THEY are thinking, what their experiences are, and how to better understand their communication style. It’s important to understand why each person perceives the experience in the way they do and then bridge the gap by discussing the differences rather than holding onto preconceived assumptions.
Closing the Communication Gap
Different people have different cultures, backgrounds, upbringings, and experiences. Those can all affect a person’s communication style, and change how they are able to put their emotions into words. You only know your own reality, and your own perception, so if you can also learn your partner’s ways of thinking, feeling, and communicating, you can reduce conflict and achieve a happier marriage.
Learn more about couples counseling on Long Island by contacting Long Island Psychology, today.