Giving your partner center stage will mean a more intimate connection for the both of you
For many years in my marriage, I approached discussing problems or concerning issues with my husband in the completely wrong way. If I was upset at him for something he did or didn’t do or if I felt we needed to discuss something important, I began my conversation the minute he walked in the door. And I was usually halfway through my emotional monologue or my pressing issue before he even put his keys away.
Many times what I had hoped would be a productive conversation turned into a full-fledged fight. Why? Because I hadn’t thought deeply enough about how or when I was approaching him for conversation. I hadn’t even given him time to make the transition from work to home, and I later realized my immediate desire to get things off my chest in so forceful a manner was both unthoughtful and insensitive.
For example, I realized that when I approached my husband in this way, I was being selfish. I was so busy thinking of myself and my concerns at the moment that I never considered what my husband needed at that same time.
And what did he need?
He needed what most people need after a long hard day at work. He needed to change into comfortable clothes, pull out a cold beer, and de-stress and unwind for a moment. So now I let him do these things and simply state respectfully that whenever he is ready, I need to talk. No anger, no frustration in my voice. Just a statement.
And I learned that by showing him this simple kindness, he was much more receptive to my message because he appreciated the fact that I had considered his needs first before burdening him with my own.
And this lesson of giving first and receiving later is one of the most essential lessons I have learned in my marriage, and it is a factor that can improve your communication with your partner as well. Because the truth is that in life as well as in marriage, you often get what you give, and if you give love and consideration first, it will be reflected back to you.
So when you have a concern or problem in your relationship try a bit of selflessness and see what a difference it can make. Here are some helpful ways to do this when communicating with your partner.
Have you ever had conversations on dates where the person across from you could barely wait for you to finish your sentence before he or she proceeded to interject his or her opinion or advice? What about serious conversations with ex-lovers who proceeded to distractedly check their phone or continued to watch their favorite Netflix series the whole time you were talking? Then, when they were alerted to attention by your sudden silence, they immediately stopped their scrolling or paused the television to give you their opinions or thoughts, assuming you would listen closely when they were obviously only half-listening to you.
Remember how that made you feel?
You do not want to do this to your partner. It immediately weakens the effectiveness of the conversation and dampens the increased intimacy that this one on one communication can produce. How?
Your partner’s attempt to connect with you by speaking of his or her feelings and concerns is marred by the fact that your insensitivity and half-hearted efforts to listen have made him or her feel devalued.
And even if you have important words to say or possible solutions to the problems your partner shares with you, the likelihood is that he or she will not be totally focused on your words because he or she will be too busy dealing with feelings of hurt and anger you have caused by not giving the kindness of your full attention.
The truth is that no one wants to listen to others when they feel that his or her words were not listened to first.
So, when your partner comes to you to talk, let him or her express themselves first. Don’t immediately proceed to jump to conclusions or tell your partner you know what he or she is going to say.
Just let him or her have center stage. Listen with full attention. And for God’s sake, don’t even think about what you will say next. Because guess what, you can tell when others aren’t really listening, can’t you? Well, so can your partner.
And when you listen, really listen. Listen to his or her eyes and what feelings you see there, listen to body language, listen to when he or she pauses and when he or she begins to speak again. If you do, you will learn volumes.
Why is this such an important step towards intimacy and enhanced communication in a relationship?
When a person sees that you are being respectful enough to give you his or her full attention, he or she is much more likely to give you the same courtesy. Especially if you decide to let him or her voice their concerns first. This small act of selflessness is one of the main ways to ensure that valuable communication can take place.
And when your partner is talking, listen to not only what he or she is saying, but try to discern the feelings and motivations behind the words themselves.
Before responding, seek out your partner’s “why” first
What a person is saying is usually much less important than why he or she feels compelled to speak the words. For example, if your partner comes to you saying that you never go out and do things together as a couple anymore, the “why” may be that he or she feels they are no longer attractive to you or that you are losing interest in him or her. Your partner may feel alone or ignored and his or her words are hints to let you know that he or she needs more from you to maintain a sense of satisfaction and intimacy in the relationship. He or she may also fear the initial connection you had as a couple has been lost.
So first listen to the words your partner says and then reflect on his or her “why.” Again, do all this first. Before you speak.
If you wish, you can even ask them their “why.” But be aware, many times a partner may be embarrassed or shy about telling you his or her “why” because he or she feels it makes them look needy or insecure. So, unfortunately, you may be left to decipher the hidden message behind your partner’s comments.
And if you have a hard time uncovering your lover’s “why,” try to imagine yourself coming to a person with the same issues with which your partner is coming to you. As a matter of fact, if you ponder your past failed relationships, you will likely remember times when you have had the same issue with another partner or maybe even with a friend or parent.
Another “why” you may want to think about when listening to your partner’s words is his or her experiences. For example, if your partner expresses the fact that he or she feels you need to spend more time together or states a fear that you have lost interest in him or her, recognize that this may be backlash from a past personal relationship and no reflection on you. Maybe his or her last lover cheated and he or she needs extra reassurance of your feelings. Maybe it is the fact that his or her parent abandoned him or her as a child.
And understand that no matter how hard an individual works to overcome the demons of the past, the fact is its impact will forever color a person’s relationships with others.
So, don’t take offense when your partner may express that you are not doing something they need or insinuating that you are not fulfilling your part of the relationship. This may simply be his or her past haunting him or her.
And whatever you do, don’t throw the person’s past back in your partner’s face. Don’t say he or she needs to get over the past because I’m betting my last dollar that no one wants that more than him or her. Be compassionate first. Make your main priority to reassure them. Accept the fact that these are your partner’s feelings and that he or she needs validation from you to overcome doubts and fears that his or her past will repeat itself in the relationship with you.
But don’t simply assume it is his or her past that is the reason for concern. I’m sad to say that you, my friend, may be the main one causing his or her feelings. This means you should investigate what role your behavior plays in your partner’s insecurities or fears as well.
Ask questions first
Don’t just let your partner talk first. Ask questions. This not only lets him or her know you are truly listening, but it also shows that you want to fully understand the problem in order to find a resolution for him or her and the relationship as a whole.
For example, if your partner comes to you telling you that he or she feels you no longer find him or her attractive, ask him or her questions about his or her concerns. And ask lovingly, not accusingly.
You may ask questions such as “Why do you feel this way?” “What things am I doing to cause these feelings?” “What can I do to fix this situation?” “What do you think we can do as a team to overcome this issue?”
Likely, most of these questions will also help you divine his or her “why” or reason for coming to you to talk in the first place. And by asking these questions first before you respond, your partner’s fears will be lessened because he or she will see that you are truly invested in strengthening the relationship.
The bottom line
Famous writer James Baldwin says that “love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war, love is a growing up.”
And the first step in “growing up” is to understand the importance of giving to others and sometimes prioritizing another’s thoughts and feelings over your own.
But the wonderful thing is when we put our partner’s needs first, we receive much more than we give. And that is what true love is, a cycle of giving and receiving powered by deeds of selflessness and self-sacrifice. A cycle where each person ends up more fulfilled and a union ends up more rock-solid than ever before.
So by giving first, you receive blessings a thousand times over. And so does your relationship with the person you love.