A friend of mine was talking about her marriage and said: “I feel like we’re just sharing a house. We don’t talk anymore!”
It’s completely normal for long term relationships to go through seasons where we feel close, and times when we feel distant from one another, and there can be lots of reasons; a new baby, stress, illness, boredom are just a few.
It’s important that we recognise the signs when a relationship is starting to drift and do something about it, because we can. We can improve our connection and grow in intimacy and trust as we communicate at a deeper level.
There are different kinds of communication, each with a purpose.
1. Small talk: “Nice weather today.” “How are you?” (If you’re British then you’ll know that no one wants the answer, the polite response is always: “I’m fine!”)
This is superficial conversation, non-sharing and sometimes cliche. It has its place, but you won’t get to know a person if all you share is small talk.
2. Facts: “I paid the electricity bill today.” “Liverpool beat Crystal Palace.” “The boss has asked me to work late again.”
This level of communication means sharing what you KNOW. It’s part of everyday living to pass on information, but it’s also impersonal.
3. Opinions: “I think your mother is a wonderful person.” “I think TV soaps are a waste of time.” “I have a great idea, let’s get a new …”
Sharing what you THINK provides a way towards greater understanding and requires a degree of trust.
4. Emotions: I’m feeling excited about …” “I was upset when I didn’t get the job.” “I feel very happy when you…”
You’re sharing how you FEEL and this opens the door to your inner world, requiring greater trust. It’s really important to talk about feelings to share your authentic self, and to build a deeper relationship.
5. Transparency: “I’m hoping to be put forward for promotion, but I’m not sure how I feel about the extra responsibility.” “I’m struggling a little with my eyesight and it’s making me feel insecure about getting older.” “I feel uncomfortable talking about the credit card bill, because I know I spent more than we agreed.”
This level of sharing is at a deep level of personal insight …soul to soul. It takes openness and trust; you might say you are on ‘holy ground’! It can feel vulnerable but it also grows a real kind of intimacy when you bear your heart at this level.
Each level of communication requires different degrees of openness and trust.
It’s normal to function at levels of small talk, facts and opinions as we go about our day to day living. But if we only talk at a shallow level we’ll end up with a shallow relationship. Obviously we wouldn’t talk at the level of emotions and transparency all the time, but if we never share openly we won’t really get to know the real person and they won’t get to know us.
It takes courage to be more open and vulnerable, but it’s worth it. Talking more deeply will grow mutual trust, respect and real intimacy.
REFLECT & CONNECT
- What is your usual level of communication?
- How emotionally ‘safe’ do you feel sharing your opinions and feelings?
- Is there a trust issue preventing you from talking transparently? What could you do about that?
Talk about as a couple:
- What can we do to give ourselves the time and space to have quality communication as a couple?
- Are there things that might help you to open up more? (Asking HOW and WHAT questions can be more helpful, eg “How do you feel?” “What do you think about…?”)
- What would help you to grow greater openness and trust?
How to build good habits in your communication? Toucan Together’s Communication Module helps you discover your good habits and empowers you to tackle any bad ones. The module sets up really positive communication, develops listening skills and deeper sharing with your partner.