Communication in a couple essentially means sharing yourself with your partner and sharing is always a two-way street. You cannot share about yourself and close yourself up when your partner wants to do the same. Now you might say, “I don’t do that!” But every single time you’ve responded with “Oh, that’s not such a big deal”/“This is hardly anything compared to what I’m going through”/ “Okay, what’s done is done, move on”, you’ve unconsciously shut down their line of communication. And this is just one of the many unconscious communication mistakes we make when connecting with our partners. Read on to discover some more!
1. Focusing only on verbal input
True communication includes both verbal and non-verbal signals. However, after living with our partners for some time, we start overlooking the non-verbal cues they send us, and tend to zero in on the verbal communication coming from them, especially during an argument. If you just finished a huge argument with your partner and are seething with anger, just take a deep breath and try to think back over a few days – leading to the build-up of the recent argument.
Was your partner giving you some non-verbal signs that he/she was craving more closeness, or wanting to talk, or trying to share something going on with him/her? They could be anything from coming to sit by you when you’re working, trying to hug you from behind, striking up a conversation about work, etc.
Related reading: Body language and its role in healthy relationship
2. Mind reading
How many times has it happened that your partner started to explain something and you said “I know what you want to say…”? This is the cognitive error called “mind reading” where a spouse assumes he/she understands what the partner is thinking or saying. Never forget that you and your partner grew up with different lives before you met each other and for everything where you have a perspective, he/she probably has a different one. When you say that you ‘know’ what they are going to say, you basically make them feel like they harp on the same things repeatedly, and that you’re too closed-minded to even give them a chance to present their point.
3. Over-compensation for imagined ‘attacks’
This draws from the mind-reading point above somewhat. Sometimes in an argument, or even in a normal conversation, something strikes us and we presume that our partner is taunting/rejecting/invalidating something about us and we lash back with vehemence at this presumed attack on our identity. This leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts and the partner indeed ends up saying what we feared they were saying in the first place. To avoid this, the moment you feel your defensive hackles rising, stop yourself and calmly ask your partner, “I feel like you’re trying to say xyz…is that so?”
4. Mistaking emotions for convictions
Human emotions are instinctive, often biological, responses to our interpretations of events. They are intense but fleeting and if we let them guide our behaviour, sometimes we end up with regrets. The same principle applies to interpreting what your partner is saying when he/she is emotionally charged.
One of the common mistakes we make in communication is to assume that his/her emotional verbalisations are his/her permanent attitudes and beliefs. To counter an explosive response from yourself, ask our partner, “Is this what you’re FEELING right now, or is this what you normally believe?”
5. Letting others speak for you
The most damaging communication mistake you can make with your partner is to allow your parents or well-wishers to intervene on your behalf! Trust us when we tell you, no matter how much your parents love you, they can never put themselves in your or your partner’s shoes. You will only end up making your partner feel cornered and targeted, which will manifest itself as bitterness and resentment or withdrawal in the future. Studies on communication between couples say, “It is important that both partners realize that their relationship takes precedence over that with their parents and that communication with parents should never include negative information about the partner, since it should be taken up with the spouse.” Words to live by, we say!
While there are a lot of nuances in the delicate balance of communication between a couple, if you can just keep these five pointers in mind, you can establish an unshakeable bridge between you and your partner! Happy communicating!