By Alexandra Davis. Read more about Alexandra here.
From my own past personal experience and my work with clients, I see communication as one of the biggest areas for improvement in intimacy. When needs and feelings go unspoken, especially over long periods of time, fertile ground is created for misunderstanding and feelings of hurt between the two precious people in a relationship.
Examples of what commonly results from not communicating our needs and feelings are: resentment, a feeling of being misunderstood, the belief that our needs are not being met by our partner because he doesn’t care, and very commonly- a feeling of “not being seen” by the very person we want to feel closest to.
Communicating our needs and feelings clearly is actually a skill that many of us never learned, but you can learn! Instead of communicating needs and feelings clearly, many women: hold them in until they brew into anger and release in an emotional outburst, stay silent for fear that expressing their needs and feelings will push their partner away, and express their needs and feelings as demands instead of declarations of clarity.
Take a moment to tune in to your own patterning- how do you tend to suppressor inappropriately express your needs and feelings? If you can, also tune in to why you tend to suppress or inappropriately express them? Do you suppress because you are afraid that you will be disappointed with the response that you receive from him when you tell him how you really feel? Or were you taught through your upbringing that it is inappropriate and burdensome to others when you speak up? What behavior was modeled for you in this department by your own mother or mother figure?
Now that we have discussed a few of the ways that no communication, poor communication or demanding communication can take the place of clear communication and why, let’s outline some good guidelines for clear and respectful expression. And when I say respectful, I mean respectful to your partner (not accusatory or demanding) AND, very importantly, I also mean respectful to yourself. To listen to our body and heart when they tell us what we truly need and feel, and then to communicate this to our intimate partner, is an act of honoring our self that grows our beauty as women every single time we do it.
1. Don’t assume. Don’t assume that your partner knows how you really feel if you have never expressed it with absolute, clear statements. Because we tend to be highly intuitive, women communicate a lot with one another through body language, passive implication and even tone of voice. Many men are not strong interpreters of these passive signals and they shouldn’t have to be!
2. Get clear about the need or feeling that you want your partner to understand. Before you bring it to the table with your partner, get clear on what your core need or statement to him is. Make sure you are simply preparing to express your own feelings or a need that wants to be fulfilled, and that you are not actually getting ready to off-load your feelings by accusing him of something. Okay: “I realized that after you told me you didn’t want to attend my sister’s graduation party with me, I felt disappointed and also concerned that my family isn’t a priority to you. I’d like to know what is true for you around this so that we can discuss it and both of our needs can be heard and hopefully met.”Not okay: “You don’t care about me or my family because you didn’t even want to attend the graduation party. I need you to show up for events like this, otherwise you clearly don’t value me or this relationship enough!”
3. Say it! These guidelines are great preparation for you to say what you need and feel with clarity and with room for your partner to respond in a way that is true for him. If you are expressing yourself clearly and without a tone of demand, and you consistently feel that your requests are neglected or that your partner is dis-interested in hearing them, it is probably an issue that good communication will not fix. Some men (and women too of course) are unwilling to listen to, appreciate, honor and acknowledge the needs of their partner or other people in their life. As difficult as it may be, I encourage you to ask yourself if this is the type of person you would like to spend your life with.
In many ways, these guidelines only scratch the surface of healthy communication in relationship. But, if you follow them you really will avoid many of the traps that lead us to feel un-seen and un-heard, and possibly hurt or even resentful. You will also start to feel the transformative effect that clear communication creates in partnership, which is increased intimacy and the wonderful knowing that you are supported and loved.
I cannot over-state how poor communication can cause distrust, resentment, and a trepidation to speak honestly between partners. Especially when a man has been exposed to emotional outbursts, accusations and demands from his partner, will he grow guarded and distant from the woman who desperately wants him to come closer. One time that you can express your needs clearly and with spaciousness for him to respond truthfully, and you have already gained a large amount of his trust and intimacy back. Two times, three times that you can do it, and you are truly beginning to build a relationship that can hold deep intimacy, trust and security.
I had a perfect personal experience this past week where I lapsed in these communication guidelines and I saw and felt the results, for both myself and the person I was communicating with. We both felt hurt and un-heard and frustrated at the end of our conversation, and afterwords I saw how I started out with clear statements and then let my emotional reactions take over and steer the conversation. I remedied the situation with a sincere apology and clear statements that took responsibility for my own experience and left lots of space for my communication partner to have and share his. I share this personal anecdote to say that changing the way we share our needs and feelings takes practice and discipline, but it is immeasurably valuable and the results actually bring us closer with our loved ones rather than push us apart.
Alexandra Davis is an intuitive guide assisting women and men to find clarity about confusing or painful topics and life decisions of all kinds. She specializes in sessions where people can bring any of their life questions or challenges to the table- even the supposedly shameful and vulnerable ones- and receive clear and beautiful answers. Sessions are one hour and available by phone and in person. For more information read here.
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