The Art of Communication: Listening and Understanding Your Partner

understanding your partner

It is a commonly yet bewitchingly odd belief that many of us seem to carry the assumption that our significant other has somehow acquired the superhero-esque quality of understanding their partner by using mind reading. Yes. We know this one don’t we?! This simple, yet oh so chaotic, telepathic tangle. That somehow, without any words being spoken, our partner obviously knows exactly what we mean, what’s going on for us, when we are disappointed or, good heavens, what we need!

I know that I am not alone in having fallen prey to this ludicrous expectation in the past, and the unravelling mess that this then creates. It is a no-win situation for all concerned, and a red lighted siren for trouble in paradise!

To fall prey to the mind-reader mentality requires us to avoid that which is an essential, if not THE essential quality needed in any relationship, that is, the ability to communicate.

Communication.

Deriving from the Latin ‘communicare’ which means ‘to share’. When we share, we offer a part of us, something we have, to another. In relationship, especially with our partner, what we offer by sharing is who we are: our voice, our truth, our feelings, our needs, our fears, our hopes, and our vulnerabilities. In essence, by offering these aspects of ourselves, we end up sharing intimacy with them. Intimacy. Into me you see. Yes, kinda hippy I know, but true.

Vulnerability. Intimacy. Communication. Oh my!

When we share our stories we allow ourselves to be seen. All the fuzzy edges, the frayed threads, the flawed facades, and the fabulous chapters that make up the fullness of who we are. We are imperfect creatures. Exquisitely imperfect creatures. And we all carry a depth of tantalising tales from the trove of our treasured lives.

And yet we also carry our learned patterns of how to communicate with and understand your partner. Some of these may have the faded 70s/80s photo edges of how our parents did it, of how they spoke to one another, and of how they resolved any conflict or issues that arose. Maybe we were one of the lucky ones whose folks were open and clear with each other, having difficult conversations but ones that were open to respecting and honouring the voice of the other? Maybe we had beautiful examples of two grown-ups talking to, not at each other, who listened and responded? Or maybe, what we saw, and thus at a rather young age absorbed, were two people who also hadn’t been taught how to communicate shouting and reacting, or closing down, slamming doors and walking away, or, sadly, hurting each other, emotionally and even physically.

It is a belief of mine that in our ‘civilised’ western world, having shed so many of the rituals that were most commonplace whilst living deeper in community with each other, we have lost the art of communicating. Indeed the words ‘community’ and ‘communication’ share the same root.

One of the most powerful practices I am blessed to have in my life, is the seemingly simple one of sitting in circle with others and sharing whatever one wishes to share. There is something about having a space whereby one can voice and be listened to without anyone responding (unless asked for). We all desire this ‘space’ in our lives, and it is within this ‘space’ that we can most often check in to hear ourselves first, to feel what is going on for us, and then have a place to speak from and express. It is one of the saddest things I feel, when we are not listened to, neither by ourselves, nor by another. Personally I feel that is one of the most painful things we can experience as human beings. And our inability to listen to our own heart, our own feelings, our own needs, makes this desire for our partner to listen to us even more palpable. I believe that most of us do not know how to listen, waiting for the pre-forming sentences to have a chance to perform their dance out of our mouths whilst our partner is still speaking. We then do not really hear them, and that’s a great shame.

What if we brought this practice of sitting together, of creating a space whose intention was for communication, into our relationships? What if we perhaps took a little time to just breathe together, to look at each other, no words, nothing to do? What if we then held the space for each other to talk, to voice, to offer what needs to be said without butting in, blaming or shaming, or reacting in defence? What if we could truly hear each other? What if we could take responsibility for what is arising in us rather than be so quick to throw this at our partner like a piece of hot coal!?

We all have needs, and sometimes we can blur the boundaries of what is expected of our partner. But when we hold back from, or deny, something that wants to be voiced, we cause a rift between us. Often that rift fills up with resentment and sulkiness, and before you know it, one seemingly ordinary incident becomes the catalyst for a momentous volcanic eruption, usually one that completely blind sides our partner! Yes, it is not always comfortable voicing something that you might be unhappy about, or needing from your other, but we may be completely surprised. You know, I do feel that most of us want to be in harmonious relationships, want to make our partner happy and wish for them to thrive and be the best they can be. Sometimes we just need to be shown. And perhaps we might be able to thank the other for their clarity, for their sharing, rather than take it as a personal affront to our ability to be in relationship! Aren’t we all just learning how to do this anyhow?

And there will be more challenging conversations that arise. There will be times when maybe there is no agreed upon resolution to what was communicated. Sometimes we have to brave the uncomfortableness of this, to bear it, breathe it, ride it out, knowing that this is all adding to the deep pool of trust, vulnerability and intimacy that is part of the stitching of the dance between you.

Essentially we cannot be in a relationship if we avoid conflict. To avoid conflict quite simply is to avoid relationship. The way through is via communicating, and hopefully in a way that shows your love and respect for each other.

So let’s put the mind-reading charades down. Give it back to the circus people and the magicians, the stage entertainers and the realm of the impossible. I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing more magical than what happens when we play the game of communication, when we share from our heart.

Thank you for listening.

Image: flickr

An explorer of the creative realm, an artist, poetess and performer, storyteller and spoken word author. Heidi loves to play with words and imaginings, memory and the chaos, wildness, beauty, ritual and sacredness of the day to day. Her intention is to serve the creative spirit, to honour the soul. To make art of life, to turn heart stories into visions, songs, or dances. And to voice truth, with authenticity, integrity, and love. She offers arts as medicine sessions, soirees and workshops. For more info take a peek at her website ForTheCuriousSoul.com


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