Relationships For Dummies
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Communication builds emotional intimacy. You become close to your partner by sharing thoughts and feelings with one another that you don’t share with anyone else, and you do that sharing through verbal and nonverbal communication. Then to stay close, you must continue to share through healthy verbal and nonverbal communication. Communication bonds you together and keeping you closely bonded, day after day, month after month, year after year.

Quality #1: Respect and good faith

When you respect your partner, you understand that he or she is not just an extension of you, but a completely unique individual with thoughts, feelings, and desires that are totally different from your own.

Instead of assuming that there is one correct set of beliefs — yours — that any sane person would agree with, you understand that there are usually many perspectives on any topic. Just because your sweetie holds a different point of view doesn’t make that opinion “wrong” or less worthy of consideration than yours.

So when your mate voices an opinion that disagrees with yours, don’t immediately shut it out, or assume that he or she is irrational, crazy, or saying something just to bug you. Instead, take the information in good faith. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt, listen carefully and supportively, and try to understand where he or she is coming from.

Quality #2: Appreciation and caring

When you appreciate your partner, you delight in his company. You care that he’s happy, and you show it by being emotionally supportive in your words and actions. When resolving problems, you sincerely want your mate to be satisfied by the compromises you draft together. You don’t want to win everything at the expense of your partner’s happiness.

People tend to be on their best behavior when they first meet someone. For example, they remember to praise their partner and show affection. But as time goes on, they become more and more used to one another, and they forget to talk about their positive thoughts and feelings for one another. They forget to mention all those endearing thoughts and ­feelings that once drew them close.

Quality #3: Honesty, loyalty, confidentiality, and trust

You and your partner must communicate honestly with one another. But you don’t have to say everything, and you may decline to reveal information to protect another person’s confidence or because you just don’t want to share the information.

Closely related to honesty and trust, confidentiality is another essential ingredient in good communication. In order to share your intimate thoughts, feelings, and experiences with your mate, you need to feel safe that he’ll keep those secrets to himself, and you need to keep his secrets sacred as well.

Of course, sharing the information in a professional relationship with your psychologist or therapist is fine. Sharing some of it with a close friend who helps you process events in your life is also OK — provided your friend also keeps your confidences and tells no one else. Often a close friend can let you talk aloud and help you figure out what to do in difficult situations.

If you want to stay in love, treat your partner like the person with whom you have the strongest connection. Look out for each other, make one another a top priority, and show each other steadfast loyalty, honesty, confidentiality, and trust.

Quality #4: Best friends

In a healthy relationship, partners are best friends. Similarly, to communicate well, you need to speak to your partner in a manner that shows you consider him or her to be your best friend. Yet some people show less tolerance for their mate’s opinions and statements than they would a stranger’s. They tune their partner out, and save their best communication habits for company instead.

Well, if you want to alienate your lover and get closer to the company, go ahead! Otherwise, you’d best treat your partner — your closest friend — even better than you would a stranger, acquaintance, or a less intimate friend.

Practice your best communication attitudes and skills on the one you love most. Encourage him to share his thoughts, opinions, and feelings with you, and remind yourself often that sharing those innermost ideas and feelings will keep the two of you emotionally and psychologically bonded.

Quality #5: Owning and sharing your feelings

To communicate effectively, both partners must take responsibility for their own feelings. Each person has the right to feel as he or she feels, even if that’s not the way someone else might feel in the same situation. You have the right to feel the way you feel just because you feel it. Good communication involves acknowledging your feelings and sharing them with another person.

Quality #6: Determination and perseverance

For any relationship to last and grow, you and your partner must be committed to making it work; you need to be determined. Similarly, to communicate well together, you also need to be determined and persevering.

People tend to learn their communication patterns from their parents at a very early age. Because most people don’t communicate perfectly, everyone has to continually work on his or her communication to improve it. Understanding and exploring communication can be great fun, though, because good communication has direct relevance to your life — and you can experience the fruits of your labor relatively quickly to boot.

Quality #7: Positive attitude

Both partners need a reasonably optimistic attitude toward life and their union to make the relationship thrive. Similarly, to foster good communication, they need to feel reasonably confident that they can amicably discuss and resolve whatever problems come their way. Their statements to one another must be more positive than negative, so they’ll feel upbeat and excited around each other — and look forward to more sharing and communicating.

If you think positively and treat problems like challenges to be overcome — rather than insurmountable obstacles ruining your life — your mate is more likely to discuss issues and share his or her feelings with you. And you’re both more likely to feel calm and confident, rather than anxious and irritated.

About This Article

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Dr. Kate Wachs is America's only Psychologist-Matchmaker. She runs The Relationship Center™ in Chicago, the only full-service introduction and counseling center of its kind. She has helped millions of people through matchmaking, counseling, and her media appearances.

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