Maybe I’m bias, but I believe communication is really what ends up making or breaking a relationship. While this is especially true of relationships with a significant other, this is also true of any relationship. Proper communication with your friends, parents, co-workers, and boss is important, and unfortunately, many people don’t give it much thought.
When I was in high school, I took a class called Friendship to Marriage. The class was designed to teach students how to maintain a healthy marriage. I often get a lot of odd responses when I tell people about this experience because it seems absurd to many that a high school would offer such a class. However, I personally feel that it’s strange that other high schools don’t offer it for two reasons. First, there is a very high chance that over half of high school graduates will be married. Seeing as our divorce rate has significantly spiked in the last few decades, why wouldn’t you want to equip future husbands and wives by offering advice on this topic? Second, this is one of the few classes that I have actually used in the real world. It wasn’t Physics, Biology, or Chemistry. It was Friendship to Marriage. Even if I never get married, I still learned useful skills about how to improve my relationships with those around me.
Trying to talk to your significant other about issues or potential issues is often a hard thing to do. However, its a necessary task to accomplish if you want your relationship to improve. We talked a lot about this topic in Friendship to Marriage, and learned a very simple trick to ensure the conversation goes as smoothly as possible. Below is an example of the script you should use to start this conversation. I think you’ll understand why I consider this a communications Mad Libs exercise. Fill in the blanks with the appropriate words or phrase:
“I feel ________ when you ________ because ________________.
I would really appreciate it if you would _____________.
How do you feel about that?”
Right away you are telling the other person how his or her actions makes you feel. The message is clear and to the point. Then, you continue into the suggestion portion where you give a solution to the problem. This is a great proactive stance that shows you want to work on the issue. Finally, you’re asking for the other person’s opinion. Rather than commanding a change, you are opening up the door for further discussion on the topic. Here’s an example of how it could be used:
Scenario: Dan and Liz are in a long distance relationship together. They are both happy with each other; however, Liz doesn’t like it that Dan doesn’t talk to her every day. She understands that Dan is busy, but she doesn’t think it would be that difficult for him to at least text her once in the morning and/or once at night.
“Dan, I feel bad when you don’t talk me everyday because I would like the reassurance that you think and care about me. I would really appreciate it if you could at least send me a good morning or a good night text. How would you feel about that?”
If you are both working towards the same goal of strengthening your relationship. This conversation should go fairly easy; however, you do have to account for bad days and bad attitudes. If things don’t go as well as you hoped, relax and give it some time. You never know what type of external stressors could be playing a role. If things don’t seem to be getting better after awhile, however, you may want to consider further troubleshooting.