Say What You Mean


The divorce rate in the United States reached and surpassed 50% long ago, meaning that more than half of couples that commit to sharing their lives together seldom do. Despite being well matched and loving each other, couples find themselves in the middle of nasty break-ups fairly regularly. The most prevalent cause for splits barring infidelity, has been irreconcilable differences. To paraphrase, people can not figure out how to live with each other, so they decide to leave each other. This points directly to a lack of proper communication in the common relationship.

Dissolution comes when the arguing starts. At about the two year mark, most couples start to bicker uncontrollably. Anything can start the fights, and once they have started they can carry on for days if unchecked. Most conflicts begin when one of the two parties gets their feelings hurt, feel disrespected, or feel misunderstood and slighted. The initial response to these misunderstandings decides whether or not there will be a conflict. If the person who is accused of hurting the other becomes reactive or defensive, then communication is stifled.

Person 1: Why would you say that to me?

Person 2, response a: Why are you ALWAYS complaining about that? (reactive)

Person 2, response b: I didn’t say anything. (defensive and dismissive)

Person 2, response c: I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings, it was not my intention to do that. I meant what I said this way. (the correct answer, unless you said it intentionally to hurt the other person)

Couples need to clearly state what they personally did wrong, what their intentions were in their behavior, and what they actually meant to say or do. This gives your significant other more insight into you and informs them that you care about their well-being. It quantifies you as a team instead of two people opposing one another. Contradictorily, if you are saying things purposefully to hurt your partner, then you are fighting a hopeless battle with immaturity. Insults are completely counterproductive to understanding your partner and to keeping your relationship. People that want to communicate and cohabitate strive to talk without demeaning each other. Realistic goals and helpful information are lost when given in the context of hurtful statements. There has to be respect from both parties to keep open lines of communication.

Solidifying communication is learning how to talk to your partner, and more importantly how to listen. One of the most inflammatory actions between couples is the need of one person to be heard while being combative and dismissing the words of the other one. Being openly dismissive and condescending ruins relationships. To talk to your girlfriend/boyfriend, you need to learn to actively listen instead of dissecting their words for a quick rebuttal. Active listening is not just nodding and shaking your head after every pause with the occasional “Ok,” mixed in. It is mirroring back and paraphrasing what you heard your significant other say, so that they know that you were listening to them and that you care about their feelings. Always listen before you get any of your points across. When it is time for you to express your wants and needs in the relationship, avoid words that place blame on your partner. You have to realize that in any disagreement, both people have a role. Communication is contingent upon both people realizing their roles in communicating well and detrimentally to the relationship.

With better communication, relationships are more fruitful and rewarding. The pointless arguments that cause resentment and ultimately separation are unnecessary with the proper handling of those tumultuous situations. Conflict resolution and clear messages about your intent are the keys to better communication, and if you use better communcation, then you will have a better life.


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