Dear Miss Meghan,
I’m in a relationship, and trying to figure out how to improve communication with my partner. It’s scary to ask them to talk more, and we already have some jealously/trust issues. Any advice?
This is a pretty common issue that many folks face in relationships. In my experience working with couples who present with sexual difficulties, I’d say that about 80% of the time we are actually working on communication issues. We learn to filter ourselves from saying what we really want to because we are afraid of losing the other person, pushing them away, not wanting to sound silly or be embarrassed, or we don’t trust our instincts.
I also know how hard it is to actually listen to other people talk. So that is the first step: Listen to your partner. Instead of trying to figure out what they are NOT saying, trust in what they are saying. If they aren’t saying how they feel/what they think, that is on them. Pause for five seconds (like, actually count to five in your head) before replying. This gives you both time to process and figure out a response, which is better than trying to come up with a response while the other person is still talking.
Another basic step is utilizing “I” statements. This helps with the trust issue. It does no good to blame each other, so try speaking to how YOU feel, instead of what the other person is doing that makes you feel a certain way. I recognize this feels like advice you got in second grade, but it is still valid advice.
Lastly, let’s address trust/jealousy issues. The only way to prove your commitment to a relationship is by your behavior. If you know what behaviors spark your partner’s distrust, don’t do those things. If you want to do them anyways and think your partner has no reason to not trust you for doing whatever it is you want to do, then maybe you and your partner are not in the same place and should consider finding someone else who is better suited for you. For example, maybe for you talking to an ex online just means nothing, but your current partner thinks it’s a sign that you are not emotionally committed to them. In this situation, you both have different perspectives (neither being right or wrong, just different views). If you cannot talk to reach a compromise, or if you do reach a compromise but the behaviors that support the compromise are not present, then maybe it’s not the best fit.
Try sitting down and having each of you write a definition of “being in a relationship” and a list of behaviors that go along with it: how do you behave when you are in a relationship, and how do you think the person you are in a relationship with should behave? Compare. Listen. Discuss.