The Importance of Learning Your Partner's Communication Style

Jhemmylrut Teng

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Since my partner and I started dating, I have always believed that he gets me — like he has a telepathic ability to read my thoughts and feelings. That is the reason we are compatible, even if we come from different cultures.

However, as time went by, it seemed like his telepathic ability to read my thoughts dwindled. Was he losing his superpowers? So, I took it against him when he became consistent with not reading me.

I felt that he was ignoring my feelings intentionally, failed to understand my silent treatment, and acted stupidly, not knowing that when I said, “okay” or “fine,” I meant, I am not okay, and I am not fine.

One day, in 2017, I had enough, and I lashed out at him. I started recounting all the actions he did that hurt my feeling. I was not merely hysterical, I was historical as I remembered every detail of his actions that annoyed me.

It surprised my partner because he had no recollection of the things I was telling him. His reaction frustrated me even more. So, I told him I need space for a while.

He Was Simply Oblivious

After three days, I reached out to my partner, and I made sure I was no longer emotional and ready to listen. Still, I had my bullet points written on paper — I was that prepared.

My partner gave me a chance to read my written points, and just like the first encounter, he had the same reaction; he didn’t reckon those moments I was telling him.

However, there was one scene that he remembered. It was when we were in a restaurant, and he didn’t sit beside me. Instead, he sat on the couch with his two friends; they are a couple, and my boyfriend was acting as the third wheel. I was sitting across from them, pretending to be perfectly fine with everything. When it was his turn to explain, I listened to him.

He said that he was unaware of his actions, and to his defense, he thought it was not a big deal. He had been single for so many years and having a girlfriend to prioritize was still foreign to him, especially when he’s with friends.

Also, for the longest time, he was the go-to third wheel in their group, and he got used to such a role. Therefore, he was oblivious that his actions could hurt me. He also said that I should’ve called him out and told him, “oi, sit here,” because that problem could have been solved right there and then if I had spoken up.

During our discussion, I had realized that I put heaps of expectations on him in my head, and he was not aware of it. So, whenever he did something that ruins my expectations, he was losing points, not knowing that there was a point system.

He told me then to be more communicative with my thoughts and feelings instead of having faith that he would merely understand. He does not have mind-reading powers.

Our Weekly Meeting

In that conversation, we finally figured our problems. First, I failed to communicate clearly, yet I had many expectations. Second, my partner was absent-minded and has a short-term memory for insignificant events. He then said:

“We need to manage this because it will destroy us if we don’t.”

His words hit me because he was right, we should not make it a habit. Talking about our problems was only one thing, but coming up with a solution to break the cycle is a whole different ball game.

He then suggested:

“We should have a weekly meeting, like a weekly recap. So that when you talk about a certain issue that made me annoy you, my memory is still fresh. Our weekly recap does not have to be all negatives; we should talk about the positives too. How about every Friday?”

When I heard about it, my immediate thought was “ugh work,” because it sounds like a weekly office assessment. But I gave my partner’s idea a try, and it works!

The Benefits of Our Weekly Recap

Since we gave every Friday weekly recap a shot in our relationship in 2017, my partner and I saw the benefits it brought in our communication and understanding.

  • The recap refrains me from being hysterically historical in our relationship, and I stopped counting negative points about my partner, which finally enlightened me that my point system was unfair.
  • My partner became more mindful and aware of his actions. When he was in doubt, he asked and double-checked with me if I am okay with it. He considered my feelings and opinions first before deciding. By doing so, he made me feel that I am not only loved but respected too.
  • It refrains me to use the silent treatment in patching things up.
  • Because of our weekly recap, our arguments never linger for very long. We get to study the root cause of our problem and work on the solutions together.
  • As my partner and I agreed, we don’t only discuss the negatives but the positives too. By doing so, we get to appreciate and compliment each other more.

Sharing What We’ve Learned

According to social psychologist, Steve Duck, Ph.D., in his Meaningful relationship: Talking, Sense, and Relating book, he emphasized the importance of “interpersonal communication” in maintaining a healthy relationship to “avoid partnership dissolution.”

He also argued that it is essential to “acknowledge individuals’ subjective responses on how they communicate and negotiate with their partners.”

Dr. Michele Kerulis of Counseling@Northwestern also supports the idea of having agreeable communication practices with your partner. In fact, she said, “communication is the most important skill to have in a relationship.”

“Communication allows us to voice our basic needs to others and also provides opportunities to approach topics like sex and romance, stress management, and conflict resolution.” — Dr. Kerulis

As an individual, you have your own way of communicating, and you cannot expect that your partner does it the way you do. In our case, the way we manage our communication is like a weekly assessment office meeting. We have to be respectful in raising our points so that the other person will listen to our issues.

Screaming is also communicating, but we try to avoid it

There are several forms of communication out there, and one piece of advice may not be suitable for everyone. Screaming at each other is still communicating but can trigger anger and violence.

That is also why my partner and I do the weekly recap to give our emotions ample time to lay low. So, when we discuss the issue in our meeting, we are more rational. We get to avoid raising our tones that provoke a conflict.

Based on the explanation of Dr. Eliot Cohen of Logic-Based Therapy and Consultation Institute, he said, screaming, yelling, or raising voices, give us the sense to “fight” or “flight” because we feel threatened.

This verbal behavior appears to be based on the evolutionary drive for survival that is prewired.
Similarly, yelling or screaming, or other self-defensive change in intonation or behavior in humans, appears to be based on our survival instinct. Such behavioral responses are largely mediated by the brain’s limbic system, which engages a part of the brain called the amygdala. This emotional center of the brain can determine that an external event is threatening, and can activate the hypothalamus, which engages the “fight or flight” system (also known as the sympathetic nervous system). — Dr. Cohen

Based on our experience, good communication with your partner is something that both of you decide on. Where you can compromise and listen. So, never stop exploring measures that work for the two of you.

Conclusion

Some of our friends, who are aware of our Fridays’ weekly recap, find our strategy insane because it sounds like a job. But maintaining a relationship is precisely a job. Staying in love and committed to one another requires massive efforts from both sides.

Even though we know our partners very well, we cannot read their minds. We need to communicate clearly to avoid misunderstandings that may cause pain, resentment, and confusion.

Our weekly assessment in managing our relationship works for us, but our treatment is not a guarantee that it will work for everyone. However, our way could give you an idea of how to have good communication with your partner.

Having a healthy relationship communication is a shared responsibility. It need not be perfect, but you owe it to each other to be heard and understood.

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I am a PR officer and a professional journalist with a master's degree in international development. I write history, geopolitics, food, and culture. Since I am a member of the API community, I make sure to highlight our stories to promote diversity and create awareness for cultural understanding.

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