When it comes to struggling relationships, there’s one thing you’ll hear exasperated couples saying over & over again:
“We need to sort out our Communication Problems!”
This, my friend, is THE biggest BS you will ever hear (or repeat for that matter). Communication Problems are not the problem and in this article I’ll explain Why.
To start off, when it comes to Relationships, there are 2 things that are you need to know:
- We learn by example (ergo we copy).
- What we ‘think’ is the problem, is not really the problem.
What have these things got to do with Communication?
Let’s look at each point in turn.
Point no 1 comes with a raft of issues. Particularly because there is not all that much good information about how to have a great relationship in society at large…
May I refer you to Exhibit A. This is the accepted story of: You meet, you fall in love and if you are ‘well suited’ you’ll get on and everything will magically and automatically be fine. (Full disclosure: Even I, as a well educated and intelligent woman, fell foul of this particular nugget of widely-accepted wisdom!).
Now before we get deeper into this, I will say that not all relationships can or should work. I am a hopeless romantic and I love nothing more than a great Love Story. However, over the years I have tempered this tendency towards wanting everything to be of fairy tale proportions with a healthy dose of reality.
You know what I realised? Sometimes we just choose badly.
Even if we think we love someone. Even if we think they are right for us at the time.
Why? Because we meet people where we are at. If we don’t believe we deserve better, we’ll simply never get it. And this is absolutely said with love – I have THE t shirt in this particular area! This is why, whilst you do need to learn how to love each other, you also need to learn how to love yourself. Because in life you will only ever get what you truly, deeply believe you deserve.
(If this idea triggers you, spend a little time observing people who are successful in any area of their life; maybe it’s money or health or love. If they have great success it’s usually underpinned by an unshakeable, ingrained belief in this area that they deserve the goodies!)
A Great Relationship is based on Love
Back on topic though, a great relationship always has a foundation of love (that’s ofc non-negotiable). If you are blessed to have found that special certain someone, whose subconscious recognises your subconscious as being a perfect match, then nature will ensure that you fall in love.
(Note here that Mother Nature does this just to ensure you 2 get together NOT because it’s going to be all gravy forever! There is an ulterior motive here and something we’ll go into in another blog post!)
Know for now that just because you were wildly in love at the beginning of your love story it doesn’t mean that you will remain in love; OR that you will not experience any problems. In fact, it actually means quite the opposite in most cases.
So the most important (and more empowering) message that we need to be spreading around is actually this:
Relationship problems are not a sign that your Love is doomed.
Far from it.
It’s just a sign that you need to be open to new ways of relating. That you might need some upgraded information or skills. That you weren’t born just knowing how to be in a Relationship!
We’re not born knowing how to do anything in life. We learn it all. Yet at no point does someone sit us down and tell us how to be in a committed relationship. We’re supposed to dust off our crystal balls and just ‘know’.
Or, worse still, (and more likely) we follow the example of our parents (or those we grew up around, or society at large) who will most likely have just learnt from their parents, & so on & so on…
In fact, the nature of attraction means that you will predictably manage to attract someone who is the absolute opposite to you in many fundamental ways.
Yes, even if, when you are in love, you feel like you 2 are ‘the same person’ – again, Mumma Nature is back at her old tricks here!.
So you are practically destined to rub each other the wrong way. And this has nothing to do with ‘Communication Problems’. It has far more to to with Safety & your Subconscious (More on that shortly).
We actually need to learn how to live together in a way that doesn’t mean just copying what our parents did…
And the great news is that there is tonnes of scientifically proven, expert advice out there in order to help you do that. The advice of your friends & family is highly unlikely to fall into that category though!
So here’s a new belief to consider:
“You can have an amazing relationship long term even if it’s not ‘perfect’. You just need to learn How.”
For me this is a far more empowering & realistic viewpoint than just copying what Society at large is doing.
Because poor communication is not at the root of our problems in Love. It’s far more often the beliefs we have around relationships and our (often very unrealistic) expectations of them. It’s also the fact we’ve not been taught how to live together; because we’ve most likely been told that we should just magically be able to do that!
Settling for less-than-average (& putting up with quite a dead relationship) when you can have a great one makes no sense. Equally expecting nothing but perfection is the remit of wishful thinkers or daydreamers. I’m not bashing daydreamers here; I’m a Pisces so I can wholeheartedly say that I love to live in my own little world – it’s cloudlike & fluffy and I LOVE IT in here! However, when it comes to Love we must be realistic. (Yep, as a die hard romantic it hurts me to say that but I am all about getting you results!)
Now on to point 2: What we ‘think’ is the problem, is not the problem.
I often use a handy visual of an iceberg to illustrate this point because apparently on average 7/8ths of an iceberg are hidden under water. What you can see above the surface is literally just ‘the tip of the iceberg’.
The same is true in Relationships. What we see happening in our daily interactions is far from the whole picture.
Let me explain: In Your Relationship you have external ‘Symptoms’ of how things are going (this is the visible bit of the iceberg).
When the going’s good your external symptoms might be: happiness, appreciation, passion, harmony and lots of lovely sex.
When the going is tough you’re more likely you’ll get things like anger, hurt, mistrust, crossed wires, blame, contempt, avoiding each other (physically or emotionally) & poor communication.
The thing is we think all these ‘Symptoms’ are the cause of our problems.
When couples have problems, they might go off to see a Counsellor to stop them fighting for example but the fights are simply a result of something deeper; something under the waterline. If you don’t fix what’s below the line the problems above it will only ever come back.
Solving the fighting doesn’t solve the deeper issue. Just as giving you better ways to communicate in a bid to solve your ‘communication problems’ will also not help.
The trouble is, we all tend to concentrate so hard on all the negatives that we can see in our Relationships. This just results in us overlooking the fact that we’re focusing on the symptoms in our Relationships; not the causes of our issues.
What’s underneath it all then?
In a Relationship that’s exhibiting negative symptoms, the underlying truth is that the Couple don’t have a Safe Emotional Connection.
What does that mean?
It means they won’t feel like they can rely on each other; they won’t feel like they have got each other’s backs; they might not even feel like they can be 100% themselves or totally honest with the other person; usually because they keep getting told they need to change or that they are in some way not ‘good enough’ for just being themselves.
When any or all of this is true for you, it adds up to a persistent feeling that there’s something ‘off’.
And the really mind-blowing thing is that something as seemingly small as one of you not doing household chores can be the trigger for you feeling this way.
Well, let’s use use the classic example of taking the rubbish out. If you ask your beloved to take out the bins (or ‘trash’ for my North American readers) and they do it right away, then you feel seen, supported and like you can rely on them. It gives you wider signals as to who they are as a person.
Should they ignore your request then it feels like the opposite is true: Unseen, Unsupported, Unreliable.
If this happens only once in a while then this is probably no big deal because we tend to look for consistency of behaviour in our romantic partners. However, if it happens all the time, it sends a big message which says ‘I am not bothered about helping you out. I am more interested in my own needs and happiness than yours. I’ve not got your back.’
Yes, this might sound dramatic. However, if you live with someone who refuses to help you and you struggle to articulate why that is so upsetting (you’ve probably had lots of arguments about it but you’ve not yet been able to express why it bothers you so much) this is Why.
There’s another reason too. We seek in our Adult Love Relationships the same thing that we want from our Parents when we are infants: We want someone who will ensure our survival in the world.
Our brains have developed over millennia to focus on the task of keeping us alive and a big driver behind why we want to be in a relationship is the evolutionary drive to stay alive. One of the most effective strategies for Survival is not being alone.
We need to know that the person we have chosen to live with is there for us; that they are our Team mate; that they have our backs – always.
So it actually only takes something small for your brain to go on high alert and ask:
‘Has this person really got my back? Am I safe?’
Once your brain starts questioning & it decides there’s something up, it’s like a dog with bone. It will not rest until it gets answers (even if there’s actually not much wrong at all) and so, very unhelpfully, it gets you behaving like a crazy person.
Why? Well, when you don’t feel 100% safe with your partner you can very quickly go into fight or flight mode. Parts of your brain actually disengage in this state and you can behave in ways that are not entirely ‘like you’. You feel insecure and irrational; you’re more irritable & so you start fights OR you feel upset so you withdraw.
The upshot of this is that You behave in a way that also triggers your partner.
In response to your actions, they also feel like something’s ‘off’ and so they also go into fight or flight and then they start behaving in ways that are not ‘like them’.
As you might imagine, this then results in you both triggering each other and, what started off as a slight sense that something might not be quite right, can quickly escalate into a full blown relationship hurricane.
In short, You don’t behave in a way that gets you good results in your Relationship which prompts your partner to do the same and this can happen ad infinitum. Unchecked, it sends you spinning down into a black hole of Relationship destruction.
Working on your ‘Communication Problems’ won’t solve this at all.
Because fundamentally, just cause you can talk to each other, doesn’t mean you feel any safer together. You’ll still trigger each other even if you are communicating.
Working on your Safe Emotional Connection however, redresses the balance. It means you can work your way out of this downward spiral without self destructing.
You’ll also find when you do this that your ‘Communication Problems’ simply disappear…!
Would you like to stop working on your Communication Problems and start creating a Safe Emotional Connection? If so, take a look at our Relationship Training. This 8 week programme was designed specifically to help you to Save or Repair your Marriage.
Not only that, we want your Relationship to be better than ever; so we equip you with all the tools to move you out of recurring problems and into your very own Happily Ever After. We help you to fight for your Marriage out in the Real World.