Communication and Relationships

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Post by InkAndComb on Thu Feb 19, 2015 3:22 pm

Hey everyone!  My SO and I got in a bit of a tiff, and I realized that lately our communication styles have been...clashing.  I need an outside perspective.

Has anyone had a healthy romantic dynamic going on with an SO, only to start noticing certain things becoming...less healthy? I'm talking about invalidating behavior, poor listening skills, lack of empathy, etc.

I don't know how this started coming about, but I feel like we used to be very receptive to each other and honest and frank and considerate. And now, as I'm working on my listening skills (ADHD related so not just me being a jerk, I swear!), I find that his are...lacking.

I feel like I'm getting forced into the "caring girlfriend" role too; whenever there is an issue, he will NEVER start the conversation. If I calmly start a conversation, before I can even say anything, he's rolling his eyes and sighing and acting exasperated.

I understand that sometimes people behave this way,but he didn't used to be this way when it came to important discussions; we would both be jittery or tense, maybe a tad defensive, but we'd sit and talk it out. Now I feel like the wife from mrs. Doubtfire almost.

Has anyone been able to bounce back from bad communication habits? Does anyone have any tips? I can elaborate more (I had a huge post written up but it felt too rant-y so I deleted it...). Also, has anyone actually gone to couple's therapy? What were the results (helpful vs unhelpful?)
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Post by Caffeinated on Thu Feb 19, 2015 3:46 pm

I have a couple of thoughts on this topic.

First, my take on a situation where one member of a couple used to be willing to talk about the relationship and is no longer willing to do so, is that the person may be in the process of emotional disengaging from the relationship, either in preparation to break up or because they're considering whether to break up. The only good thing about that circumstance is that it's one that you'll mostly see when the person is a decent human being who is in the emotional bind of not wanting to say things they don't mean (ie things that indicate the relationship is a healthy and going concern), but not being ready to say the things they think they might mean (ie that the relationship is ending). This was how things were with my ex for a couple months before we split up. He was kind of distant and evasive because he was still figuring out for himself if it was really over, and didn't want to jerk me around or lie to me. Sorry to be so negative.

Second, I do have a tip for having difficult conversations in a relationship. I've found with my husband that if we sit face to face and talk about things that are bothering us, we end up reading each other's negative facial expressions and getting more upset and more sensitive and it escalates the situation. What we do instead is we snuggle up together in bed and talk about things. Instead of reading negative facial expressions, we're feeling the positive of affectionate physical contact. I find that it makes it easier to be open and vulnerable, and helps take the sting out of critical remarks.
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Post by Dan_Brodribb on Thu Feb 19, 2015 6:10 pm

I'd like to hear a little more about what's going on for you, InkAndWater.

I know one thing I noticed for myself as my communication skills improved is I would be more aware of other people doing it badly. It was always there, I just noticed it more.

I've also noticed as a 'trained' communicator, one of my more embarrassing tendencies is to make uncomfortable subjects about the other person's communication skills: "OUR problem is YOU aren't communicating right about MY issue."

I'm starting to believe being a good communicator is more than listening and speaking skills. It's also about finding ways to work with someone who doesn't have that skillset. Furthermore, it includes recognizing our limitations--understanding that in sometimes communication either isn't going to happen or isn't enough and if that's the case, we have choices to make rather than wasting our energy beating a dead horse.

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Post by LadyLuck on Fri Feb 20, 2015 2:42 am

I'm starting to believe being a good communicator is more than listening and speaking skills. It's also about finding ways to work with someone who doesn't have that skillset.

THIS 100% THIS. I've noticed the same pattern with respect to my brother - In the last 3-4 years I've taken opportunities to get out, socialize, plus get seek out and practice specific advice on improving social skills. My brother has mostly stayed shut-in, and now whenever I interact with him I can't help but notice all the little ways he acts disrespectful towards those he's talking to, and when its me, its obviously extra infuriating, and I don't handle it well.

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Post by InkAndComb on Wed Feb 25, 2015 10:53 pm

Dan_Brodribb wrote:I'd like to hear a little more about what's going on for you, InkAndWater.

I know one thing I noticed for myself as my communication skills improved is I would be more aware of other people doing it badly. It was always there, I just noticed it more.

I've also noticed as a 'trained' communicator, one of my more embarrassing tendencies is to make uncomfortable subjects about the other person's communication skills: "OUR problem is YOU aren't communicating right about MY issue."

I'm starting to believe being a good communicator is more than listening and speaking skills. It's also about finding ways to work with someone who doesn't have that skillset. Furthermore, it includes recognizing our limitations--understanding that in sometimes communication either isn't going to happen or isn't enough and if that's the case, we have choices to make rather than wasting our energy beating a dead horse.

You hit the nail on the head.  I took the posts I saw into consideration and have been away from the boards due to 1. we ended up talking (big talk) and 2.  School life  :/

So it turns out my SO wasn't very aware about things like invalidation, or certain ways of listening/communicating (on reflection, being in therapy has really changed how I structure my communication and receive others).  I think I was extra sensitive to a lot of the ways he was communicating because of this.

In addition, during our talk I realized something else; my SO takes it as a personal flaw/issue if he is angry, irritated, or bothered by something I did.  What I mean by this is, he feels like he "doesn't have the right to be mad" because I have stuff going on/am irritated myself.  When I told him that he has every right to be mad at me, or irritated, or occasionally not want to be sharing company with me (we just moved in 6 monthes ago, I suspect this has something to do with that), he seemed relieved and opened up more about things.  I also found some resources on how to phrase things and be a better communicator (we are both looking at this, I definitely have stuff to work on too).

We both confessed we were afraid that we were losing the other partner due to not seeing eye-to-eye;  Caffeinated you were right, he said he was afraid I was going to ask him to leave, so he was preparing himself for having to move if I asked it of him.  When I told him that I was afraid HE was going to say the same thing, he realized we needed to talk more about our fears/concerns/negative emotions as well as the good times.  

Sorry for the huge delay in response, I hope nobody got too worried or anything.  We are doing really well and communicating better (and working towards the area we are weaker on).
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