What it means to have “good communication.”

My partner and I have good communication.

I think.

What does it really mean to have “good communication”? It’s something you always hear from relationship experts.  Communication is the key to a healthy relationship.  But how do you know if I’m actually communicating in a way that’s healthy?

My partner and I check in with each other each day. I compliment him regularly, and graciously accept his.  We communicate about what we want for dinner.  He tells me when I’m ticking him off, I tell him when the joke has gotten old.  Up until recently, that’s what I had always assumed was good communication.  We’re talking, right?

To let you in on a little side of my life, my partner’s family lives in Alaska, and we are all the way in Minnesota. Makes getting together rather difficult.  Family is really important to me, and I have gotten it in my head that we needed to go visit them this summer.  So every week I’d ask my partner if he took work off yet so we could go, and every time he’d tell me, “not yet.”

We’re communicating, right?

But not in a healthy way.

This continual loop caused me to build up resentment. I just couldn’t understand why he couldn’t ask his boss.  Ask!  That’s all I wanted.  It’s not like I was looking for a guaranteed a one way ticket to Alaska for the rest of our years.  I just wanted him to ask his boss for a few days off.  He didn’t see it that way though and I didn’t know that.

But how was I supposed to know that he felt insecure at his new job and valued his professional life too much to ask for time off? We talk about how our days have gone, we talk about our feelings, but apparently they were just surface level.  If I had known it wasn’t him being careless of my feelings, but rather his feeling of insecurity overwhelmed him, I would have let it go.  His sanity, his mental health is so much more important to me than taking a summer trip to visit family.

I should have asked, “why?” I should have asked, “How can I help you ask for this time off?”  I should have dug deeper.  That’s what it means to have healthy communication.  I am my partner’s partner, but I want to be his life partner.  I want him to be able to turn to me when his feelings get overwhelming.  I don’t want to be the source of frustration.  I can’t just expect things to magically work out, we’re both human, we both have feelings and insecurities, but I never asked about his.

Communication is hard; there are so many levels to it. In theory, you can be communicating every day, but that doesn’t make it “good.”  Communication requires asking the tougher questions.  Good communication is about digging deeper.  Next time you are frustrated in a situation, communicate with each other what the source of your feelings is, instead of assuming.   Ask, “why” and be ready to follow through with your end of the conversation.

Good communication is healthy communication. And healthy communication is below the surface.






4 thoughts to “What it means to have “good communication.”

  1. This was a most excellent topic and I was so excited to read it. However, it coukd have been much more detailed and given more examples of situations where communication fails in relationships. Sometimes it’s not about negative feelings or the “why” someone won’t make a decision. Daily good communication as you stated on the beginning, is more than “how was your day?, fine. How was yours”. This surface shallow style of relational communication is why most married couples can’t communicate about the difficult subjects. I would like to see this topic be given many more examples so that married couples can see themselves in at least one. A second comment is that it was one sided. A wife didn’t understand her husbands reasons for. It taking time off. There should have been an example of a husband not understanding his wife’s reasoning.

  2. My husband and my communication is very basic. Small talk. I hate it. I am a deep thinker and like to know the little details of a person. I like to know what makes everyone tick. My husband on the other hand, he could care less. He is just fine with very basic interaction with everyone. Including family. I have tried to discuss this obstacle in the past. I told him I hate small talk. I got a strange look. He had never heard of the expression “small talk” and didn’t know what that meant. I tried to explain it. He tells me, well that is just who I am. Take it or leave it. He might as well just said I don’t care how you feel about this subject, just shut up. He refuses to work on the communication. I have been at my wits end for quite a while. He then tells me a girl at his work that he has gotten close to, “just gets him. He can talk to her.” He doesn’t understand why this makes me extremely upset. ?? Really? He can talk to another woman(whom he has a slight crush on by the way) I don’t know how to fix this communication problem of ours if he is not willing.

  3. not only should you be a good listener, you have to be able to articulate your feelings. I know from personal dealings that if a person clam up and don’t really know how to express themselves or just think its week to show emotions that cause problems for the strong commutator in the relationship and that’s when frustration and resentment sit in.

  4. Hmmm, communication… I suppose there is a lot more for this word call COMMUNICATION than just seen on the surface. We all get into a relationship called marriage coming from all walks of life and in this journey, we carry valuable baggage’s and excess baggage’s. As we navigate through different stages and facets of life I suppose we have to intentionally understand each other’s background and emotions related to what we bring to a marriage. A friend of mine who is a marriage counselor narrated a very interesting experience he had counselling a couple. When they came to him the complaint was that the husband doesn’t flush when he uses the toilet. Initially the wife assumed that he forgets, or he is careless, as this action of his continued they started arguing and, in the process, insulting each other and to the extent that their relationship was falling apart. When my friend started having sessions with the couple together and individually the husband had a very sad story to share. When he was very young something like 10 or 11 years the family went on a picnic close to a waterfall, when the mom and dad were chatting he and his younger brother were playing adjacent to the waterfall and suddenly the brother fell and drowned. He grew up with this guilt and always thought he was responsible for the death of his brother. As a result of this experience whenever he hears the sound of water from a cistern or similar it triggers a flash back and revisits the tragedy, hence the reason not to flush. Ever since I heard this story I really want to get to know more of my wife and her experiences despite us being married for 27 years.

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