Have you ever been in a situation where you observed a couple and it was absolutely cringe-worthy how they were talking to each other?
Every time I’m in a situation where I observe a toxic back-and-forth exchange I am reminded that if you aren’t communicating in the right way it can be detrimental to your relationship.
This can seem like conflicting advice to what we have always been. After all, the general messaging around communication is that it is crucial to keeping you and your partner together. In part, it is true but what needs to be conveyed is that there are also bad ways of communicating.
Let me provide you with a few examples of how your communication could be damaging your relationship.
#1. Being passive-aggressive instead of explaining how you feel
Months ago I was at a friend’s house and a few of us were enjoying dinner. There was a girl named Molly there who came with her boyfriend, Jacob. Molly was hilarious, albeit a little over the top and loud, but extremely entertaining.
We had never met before but I instantly picked up on the awkward tension between Molly and Jacob. It became even more apparent when Molly had a couple of drinks and began talking about all of the things Jacob had done recently that upset her. She phrased her complaints in a joking way but it was easy to see that she wasn’t joking at all and Jacob was becoming more and more withdrawn.
If you are upset with your partner they may not know if you don’t communicate it to them. Making little jabs and jokes is only going to build resentment in your relationship, as no one enjoys being with someone who is passive-aggressive.
#2. Putting words in your partner’s mouth
Early on in my relationship my partner and I were hanging out when I off-handedly mentioned that he didn’t like one of my friends. After I made the comment he stared at me and said, “I never said that I didn’t like your friend… why would you ever construct those words out of thin air?”
Instead of asking how he felt about one of my friends, I just assumed he didn’t like her because he was a little quiet and withdrawn the day that he met her. The reality is that he had a rough day and work and didn’t feel chatty.
This is something I would have known if I had expressed my confusion as to why he was so quiet and asked if everything was okay. Instead, I just put my own spin on things and didn’t give him a chance to explain his side of the story.
#3. Keeping score and verbalizing it
When a couple keeps a tally they are damaging their relationship and causing resentment and a sense of rivalry.
There is nothing more exhausting than trying to keep a score and using it against your partner when you are frustrated. It’s never going to be even. Relationships are going to be a balance of giving and taking and there will some weeks when you are giving more and others when your partner is giving more.
When I think about the healthiest couples I know they all have one thing in common. None of them keep score and they do kind things for each other simply because it’s a partnership, not a competition.
#4. Shutting your partner out when they upset you
Perhaps you are furious, or you simply just want to be left alone. That’s understandable especially if you are someone that needs to process things after an argument/disagreement.
However, even that feeling is something that should still be communicated. It’s perfectly acceptable to take time to yourself and walk away from an argument if it’s for your own good, but that doesn’t mean you can simply ignore your partner.
Stonewalling is what it means to shut someone out completely and is a top indicator of divorce. There are various reasons why someone might use it as a coping mechanism but it will most likely destroy your relationship.
Communicating is hard and no couple is going to be perfect at their dialogue. However, by ensuring that you are communicating in the right way and not saying or doing things that will damage the connection with your partner, the closer you will become in the long run.