Is Communication the Most Important Element of a Healthy Relationship?
There is a lot of relationship advice out there that suggests communication is one of the most important areas you should work on. You will be encouraged to be completely open with him about everything and to tell him exactly how you feel about a situation.
Recently, I saw an article where a woman wanted advice on how to address her wild past with her boyfriend. She was encouraged to find the right time and tell him everything because secrets in a relationship can be damaging. Another article on secrets to a happy marriage suggested checking in on your husband by calling him every day at work to see how his day is going. The one which elicited the greatest gasp however, was where a man suggested, in yet another article on how to know if your man is ready to settle down, that you should ask him if he's been to any weddings lately and see how he reacts. If there is a door nearby, he'll be glancing eagerly in that direction after a question like that!
Communication is one of those words that has a slightly different meaning for everyone. We all have our own personal, subjective dictionary. If I asked a group of people what communication means to them, each one would tell me something slightly different. One person may define communication as telling someone how you feel, the next person might say it's about being grammatically correct and not using obscenities or slang, while another person might say it's your actions that are the best communicator in relationships.
Communication should not be used as a means of controlling your partner.
Here is where the advice is lacking. Many people go into relationships not consciously trying to change another person but do it in subtle ways through "communication". We think, if we tell him we don't like how he behaves in certain situations or criticise how he dresses, he will change and behave the way we would like him to, or wear an Armani collared shirt instead of that T-shirt you don't like. Before you know it, he's being hen-pecked on everything. This one little comment you needed to make, opened the flood gates to more and more comments or "discussions", which surely won't hurt because he needs to know what you want from him, right?
The most effective communication in a relationship comes from the best of your inner self, or your higher self. If it's a judgement or criticism , don't say it. If you want him to behave differently, worry about your own behaviour first. He's his own person, not an extension of you. These kinds of conversations build resentment and result in a loss of intimacy in the relationship.
Every so often there are things that come up in a relationship where you do need to sit and discuss, but it's a matter of picking your battles and deciding just how important this issue is. He's more inclined to listen if you haven't been hen-pecking him about everything for the last six months, or worse, ten or twenty years!
The purpose of dating is for each of you to check each other out over a period of months and across many situations, so you can decide if this is the person for you. It's not an exercise in producing your clone, or the male version of you. You have to accept him the way he is. If there are deal-breakers that are not acceptable to you, don't fight against them or hope that he will change at some point. You need to take him the way he is. So if you don't want those things, maybe it's time to walk away and find your Mr Right?
What would I have suggested to the ladies seeking advice in those articles?
The lady with the wild past - The past is the past. Unless there is something vital that will impact your relationship, keep it to yourself. It's none of his business as he wasn't there and had nothing to do with him. Sometimes we crave to be accepted warts and all to our own detriment, telling our partners things that really are not necessary. Just be the wonderful woman that you are, let the past stay in the past and live a good life, in the now.
The lady who is considering calling her husband every day at work, just to say hi. - Don't do it! He's busy and trying to work! It will annoy him eventually. You can ask him how his day was over dinner tonight.
Don't ask your boyfriend if he's been to any weddings lately - Let him bring up any topics related to marriage, otherwise he's likely to head for the hills! You will be pressuring him unnecessarily. If you've been dating for years and he hasn't proposed, it might be time to move on and start dating others.
Whatever communication means to you, don't let it overshadow your focus on the present moment. Mastery of communication is indeed one of the most important elements of a relationship but you need to do it in a way that allows the relationship to take its natural course. Don't try and force things along or make them the way you want them to be. In turn, he will appreciate the beautiful person that you are and it will inspire him to be a better man.