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Effective Communications in a Relationship (C)2000

As a factor of importance in any successful loving relationship (regardless of the type), effective communication remains the cornerstone for maintaining and fostering trust, growth, understanding and intimacy. Without it, relationships grow unsteady, fears and self-doubt thrive and the very foundation of the relationship deteriorates. Eventually, couples drift apart and a self-sustaining frenzy of isolation, despair and hopelessness replaces the bonds of hope and future promised.

Any relationship is a constant, complex and interactive challenge of focus, effort and teamwork. Left to happenstance, the intricacies and often-subtle nuances borne of familiarity and complacency are overlooked--or even ignored--and a subtle deterioration of communication begins the eroding process that can forecast trouble.

Many professionals will point to communication difficulties as the singular primary factor serving as the genesis for a failed relationship. “I didn't know he felt that way” “She never told me this was bothering her” “He/she won't talk about it” are typical examples of broken communication. The net result is that one or both parties are left in the dark, unaware of the other's feelings, or left to assumptions that are often either wrong or misguided. Since we know that for every action (or inaction) there is an opposite and equal reaction (or non-reaction), poor or ineffective communication soon leads to a downward spiral that begins to influence every aspect of the relationship. And this, for intents and purposes, is the truth for the most basic elements of a relationship.

When a relationship evolves in to a full-time commitment (i.e., marriage), new sets of rules, hierarchical structures, assumptions, expectations and intricacies are added. Compounding the complexities of what is already an often-challenging task, true communication between two human beings,  those who embark on a marital choice often wrongfully assume that this choice will automatically help avoid the pitfalls befallen upon those who did not make "the commitment."  Many assume that marriage is a self-fulfilling prophecy that portends an automatic abiding trust and intensely deep level of communication to all that embrace its glimmer. Sadly, many find that this simply is not the case.

A relationship is a choice made as a result of (hopefully) careful introspection and deliberation. Our choices are intended to fuel other aspects of our soul as the result of an evolving cognizance about who we are and what we desire out of life. They offer no guarantees, no promises, and certainly nothing grander than any other choice made by anyone else. They are simply stand-alone byproducts of our experiences intended to serve our own needs and purpose. We can use these products as an adjunct to our relationships to enhance or modify our interactions. They are tools to be used for a purpose, but require additional effort and actions to be made to work. Just as a rake or a hoe left standing in a corner will never create a garden, simply adding a lifestyle choice to our relationships will never guarantee panacea.

To be used properly, tools require both skill and knowledge. When this is accomplished, the tools can enhance and augment the process. Communication is the primary tool essential to make any type of relationship work, regardless of the type. Unfortunately, learning to communicate EFFECTIVELY is not an easily learned process. In spite of claims to the contrary, a loving relationship does not automatically create effective communication. In fact, it is not uncommon to see cases where the relationship itself actually creates a barrier to effective communication. By the very nature of the relationship, a partner may feel uncomfortable with communication that may involve criticism or discomfort with some element of the relationship. Conversely, the other partner may feel inhibited in expressing feelings that may be construed as evidence of such things as doubt, concern or lack of understanding about the relationship. We sometimes assume that our partner automatically knows our feelings. In reality, our statements-or lack of statements-as well as body language and actions, may be interpreted as something entirely different.

Webster's Dictionary defines communication as

Main Entry: com·mu·ni·ca·tion
Pronunciation: k&-"myü-n&-'kA-sh&n
Function: noun
1 : an act or instance of transmitting
2 a : information communicated b : a verbal or written message
3 a : a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior <the function of pheromones in insect communication; also : exchange of information b : personal rapport <a lack of communication between old and young persons>
- com·mu·ni·ca·tion·al /-shn&l, -sh&-n&l/ adjective

Webster's defines "effective" as:

Main Entry: 1ef·fec·tive
Pronunciation: i-'fek-tiv, e-, E-
Function: adjective
Date: 14th century
1 a : producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect

Combined, one might say that "effective communication" in a relationship is the act of transmitting information to one's partner in a manner that produces a decisive or desired effect. In order to be able to do this, however, the communicator must first be fully aware of their own thoughts and feelings.  Only then can the begin to attempt to share with their partner.  The words communicated must match the feelings inside.  Thus, partners that successfully communicate so enable themselves to clearly and concisely exchange ideas, feelings, attitudes, needs, desires and wants, freely and in a manner that is both understood by the partner this is shared with and results in either a decided effect or a desired effect. It must be kept in mind though, that the "desired effect" may differ from the "decided effect." The partner receiving the information may choose to act upon it differently than the person providing the communication desires. However, so long as the free exchange of information continues, both partners cease to act in a void. The resulting shared understanding provides a foundation for creating solutions and mutual awareness based on the trust that one will always be made aware of the motives and needs of the other.