It’s well documented that to build and maintain a long-lasting relationship, you need solid communication skills. But for so many, “communication” means to speak, and not listen. People wrongly spend their time waiting for their turn to speak instead of listening to their partners. And if/when they do listen, they don’t work to connect; they look to determine who’s right.
And therein lies the challenge for so many. If things aren’t discussed in an open and transparent way, resentment will build. Real and imagined slights will create disconnection and contempt. People stop listening to each other. They stop learning about their partner and themselves. They grow, but in separate directions—fueled by fear, judgment, and a refusal to give their partners the benefit of the doubt.
When it comes to creating and maintaining a connection, listening with the intent to understand is not only needed… it’s required. And with active listening comes other requirements that create trust and connection:
1. Honesty. Being honest is something disconnected couples struggle achieving, usually for one main reason: They don’t want to be judged. And it’s not just with their partners they are fear judgment, but also with themselves. Looking at your own lackings is HARD. But being open to evaluating yourself creates room for self-improvement, as well as seeing your part in things with your partner. You have to speak your truth, and let go of the outcome.
2. Vulnerability. When things get tense, becoming defensive can be a natural reaction. But defensiveness will not only create even more distance, it will cloud the actual issues that are separating the couple. Couples looking to build a long-lasting connection need to trust that their partner isn’t going to weaponize statements, feelings, or situations; that “winning” isn’t the goal of a discussion.
3. Acceptance. Disagreements are normal. It’s how those disagreements are handled and repaired that make the difference between connection and contempt. Acceptance demands only one thing: the notion that both people are speaking their truth and see things as they see them. What’s needed isn’t convincing the other that one is “right” and the other is “wrong.” Acceptance allows for each person to be right with a discussion and negotiation to fuel understanding instead of deciding who is ultimately right.
Communication is great. But if you aren’t willing to really get real with your partner, it won’t matter what you say. Sometimes love’s biggest enemy isn’t what is said; it’s what is NOT said that kills a couple’s connection.