It’s well-known that clear and respectful communication is essential to any relationship. This is true in our homes, our workplaces, our classrooms and our congregations. And it is nowhere more important than in dating and marriage relationships.
Sitting for hours and just talking is one of the joys romantic relationships bring, but we know that communication in relationships isn’t always so pleasant. Conflict will arise, and we ought to know how to manage it when it does.
To begin, recognize that conflict is not necessarily a bad thing.
Knowing the kind of pain that conflict causes, you might be the kind of person who avoids it. Patience is a virtue, after all, and there’s no sense in making a big problem out of a small one.
This is a well-meaning approach and, for much of the time, it works. But it doesn’t really resolve problems — it just bags them up and saves them for later.
In such cases, big blow-up arguments are merely symptoms of deeper problems that have been allowed to fester. Burying your problems in such a way can create the silent killer of resentment, which relationship theorist John Gottman says kills more relationships than any other single factor.
So you don’t want to bottle up your frustrations, but you don’t want to take it out on your significant other, either. The answer is to talk about it.
Here are some things to consider as you seek to improve your communication:
1) Be respectful, of course. This is more than avoiding brazen insults — you should love them, not just tolerate them.
2) Focus on the problem, not the person. More likely, that problem is about things or behaviors, rather than the person.
3) Be sure to clarify meanings. You could say “So if I understand correctly, you’re saying that…” or something similar. This allows you to avoid misunderstandings.
4) Listen. You should listen to your significant other the same way you listen to the Spirit after or during a prayer. When your mind is calm and your heart is open, new things will be revealed to you that you did not know before.
5) When planning to have an important conversation, consider having it in a place that is simultaneously public and private, like a booth in a restaurant, a park bench or a library.
Such a setting allows you to talk privately while also preventing shouting matches and the like. If you feel your temper rising, being in a public place should help you keep it in check.
Taking this approach allows you to avoid problems that don’t really exist and enjoy the happiness that really does.