Have you ever stopped and looked at your partner – this person you love with all your heart and felt… utter confusion? What is this ‘stuck’ feeling? What is this slight disdain? What is this gap between what you want in your relationship and what you are currently getting?
Often people will describe such a juncture in a relationship as standing on opposite sides of a divide. You’re waving to each other, but you’re not aligned.
The gap is COMMUNICATION. And language is the tool we use to breach this valley.
It is an odd happenstance that, the longer we are in a relationship with someone, the less we think we ought to have to communicate our needs. From a basic standpoint of accountability, surely it is the individual who is responsible for seeing that these personal needs are met?
If you are lucky enough to have a partner that keeps trying, count your blessings… and if you are brave enough to be the partner that keeps trying, congratulations! This is LOVE.
To experience greater meaning in your life and relationships, to deal with the transitions and changes, and to clarify where you are heading, it is imperative to know and understand two things:
Firstly, that in every relationship you are 100% responsible for your communication, both its meaning and the response you get.
Secondly, that despite the fact that there are two people in your relationship, with similar values, you both have completely different drivers. Drivers govern the things that we do without thinking and often they are the reasons we make decisions (without actually realising where they come from). Let me give you an example.
Imagine, it’s a Saturday night you and your partner are arguing in the kitchen about where to go out for dinner… he/she wants to go to the same old, same old, Thai place around the corner from where you live and you… sick of the same place all the time, filled with sheer frustration yell out “Why do we have to go to the same place all the time? Why can’t we try something different for a change? Don’t you get bored going to the same place all the time?” (If you are chuckling right now, you know exactly what I mean). What happens next? Either an argument; or a stalemate.
It is quite obvious that there is one person in the relationship who likes familiarity, who is motivated by and not comfortable with change. The other loves trying new places, people or experiences, one who is motivated by variety – the kind of person who will become bored when things are repetitive.
In another example, there might be one person who has a tendency to focus on others, attending to others needs, feelings; is nurturing and may often neglect their own needs and become frustrated when their partner seems to attend to his/her own needs, and is preoccupied with their own thoughts, feelings, beliefs, ideas, wants and needs.
Once again, it is clear to see the very different drivers here – one person focused on self, the other focused on others.
What can we do to overcome this? How can we possibly change these unconscious drivers of behaviour?
The first step is recognition. Once you understand your drivers and your partner’s drivers, then you can start to bridge that gap in your relationship from where you are now to where you want to be.
Fifteen years ago, before I understood the power of unconscious communication, I used to get exceptionally frustrated with my partner, especially at times when we’d talk. My partner has a very high attention to detail – small and specific information is very important to him – So we’d have conversations and he would take a really long time to get to the point.
I recall hearing myself saying “Gosh… he can waffle on.” You might find this funny, or maybe you can relate to the story. But I used to find it so annoying and I’d get so frustrated to the point where I would just ‘switch off’. Rude! I know … And thankfully this quickly changed once I understood our different drivers. He is detail-oriented and I am a ‘big picture’ person. It made it so much easier for us to actually have a conversation once we worked this out. Now, he tries not to give me too much detail, and I try to add more detail in when we’re talking to each other.
In a healthy relationship, there are two entities to be considered. You each have your life, your history, your education, your story, your strengths and weaknesses, your achievements and your failings, your beliefs and values and your needs and wants for your life.
Dr. Phil once said, ‘Can you wake up every day and ask yourself, ‘What can I do today to make my partner’s life better?’ The sentiment is beautiful. But the reality, in relationships is that this is actually a three-part question.
If you can wake up in the morning and ask yourself what you can do today to make your own life better, the life of your partner better and the life you have together better, then you are well on your way to creating the loving partnership you crave and deserve.
If you can see that the way forward to is to communicate effectively and lovingly, then you’ll have the kind of relationship you deserve.