Conflict is one reason that relationships break up, and solving conflict is all about avoiding the communication mistakes that can hurt the bond you have built with your partner.
A study in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences found ‘The most satisfied couples were those who did not avoid discussion of relationship problems and who rated their partners high in EI [Emotional Intelligence].’ Emotional Intelligence is your and your partner’s individual ability to detect someone’s emotional state based on verbal and non-verbal cues.
When your partner says, ‘You seem angry,’ they pick up on your facial expression, body language, and the fact that you are giving them the silent treatment. We do this often in a relationship, but we rarely think about it as a skill. Women tend to have higher Emotional Intelligence than men do, and they also perform more of the ’emotional work’ of the relationship.
Emotional work is the conversation and actions that people undertake to maintain a state of dynamic harmony in their lives. Doing ’emotional work’ means checking in with your partner’s emotions, asking how you can help them feel better, drawing them into a discussion about feelings, or checking their level of anxiety (fear), anger, or sadness.
Let’s examine some of the most popular communication mistakes that may be hurting your relationship and how to correct any damage that’s been done so far.
Don’t Let These 6 Communication Mistakes Hurt Your Relationship
1. Shutting down
Avoiding talking, giving someone the silent treatment, turning your back to them, or telling them that you don’t want to talk is a way of refusing to solve the problem. It’s okay to let yourself cool off if you are experiencing emotions like anger and you are worried that you won’t say anything kind.
When your anger, fear, or sadness get the most of you, you are more likely to hurt your partner’s feelings in communication, which solves nothing. Instead of shutting down all communication, let your partner know that you’d like some time to cool down or think about things before continuing the conversation.
2. Taking things personally in the relationship
This one is tough for anyone who does not have a strong sense of self-love. When your partner says they hate it when you cook cabbage, it has nothing to do with your effort to cook them a healthy meal, so don’t take it personally.
Everyone has their preferences, and they have a right to ask you to do things their way. However, so do you. You have every right to make your home stinky with cabbage, whether or not it’s your favorite vegetable.
So whose rights are more important? Neither of yours. That’s where the divine art of compromise comes in. When you feel hurt by your partner’s words, look inside rather than blaming them for hurting you. Words can hurt, but only if you let them break you.
3. Making assumptions
Making assumptions is one way that people take things personally. When your partner says, ‘Oh for the love of Pete!’ as soon as they come home from work, we can make all sorts of assumptions. Did I do something wrong?
Again, let’s avoid unnecessary hurt feelings and ask your partner what’s wrong or if you can do anything to help. Maybe they had a frustrating day and just tripped over their shoelaces. You’ll never know unless you ask.
This quote by don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, says all you need to know about making assumptions and taking things personally:
‘The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth! We invent a whole story that’s the only true for us, but we believe it. One assumption leads to another assumption; we jump to conclusions and take our story very personally. Then we blame others and react by sending emotional poison with our words. Making assumptions and taking them personally creates a lot of emotional poison, creating a whole big drama for nothing.’ Your relationship should be a drama-free zone.
Filtering is a type of mind game that you play with yourself where you only hear the words that you want to hear, be they positive or negative. Make sure you are not tainting your partner’s meaning with your desires.
You’ve already made up your mind that what your partner said was bad/good. You made a judgment call as soon as they began. That’s unfair, and you wouldn’t want them to do that to you. Wait, give them the benefit of the doubt, and suspend judgment indefinitely.
6. Waiting for your turn to talk instead of listening
You cannot listen clearly if you are rehearsing what you want to say in your head while your partner is talking. Active listening is a gift that you give your partner. Even if it pains you to keep listening about what the cat did today, listen like your life depended on it.
Turn your body and head toward your partner. Make good eye contact, mirror their facial expressions (match their excited face by raising your eyebrows with interest, etc.), ask questions after they are done talking, and make sure that you understood them perfectly, sum up what you heard them say. NOW, it’s your turn to talk.
15 Other Relationship Mistakes Every Couple Should Avoid
Communication issues aren’t the only relationship mistakes couples make. Relationships aren’t easy as they take work and constant learning. If you know the common mistakes, you can recognize them and address the issues.
1. Not Being Appreciative of the Little Things
The little things in life mean more than anything else, but it’s easy to ignore or become accustomed to them. Don’t waste your time and energy obsessing over the big things because the minor aspects can add to so much more.
Remember that only appreciating big acts of romance will lead to disappointment. You may go a while without anything extravagant occurring, and that’s okay, as long as you embrace the little things while you wait.
Improve your situation by saying thank you when your partner does something for you. Make a conscious effort to notice acts of kindness and consideration.
2. Not Having Fun Together
A healthy romance requires having fun together and making time for play. You must be friends with your partner, and you must take time to enjoy each other’s company. The more you have fun together, the happier you’ll be.
3. Relying on Your Partner for Happiness
It isn’t your partner’s job to make you happy, so don’t rely on them for it. Your partner should be there to learn and share life with you, but it’s up to you to find happiness. Learn to make yourself happy, and you’ll notice a drastic improvement in your romance.
4. Not Setting or Enforcing Boundaries
One problem is not having boundaries in your relationship. Tell your partner how you want them to treat you and things that make you uncomfortable. Likewise, your partner must have the opportunity to set boundaries, too.
Boundaries help keep the peace in your romance and encourage respect. Once you set them, make sure you both enforce them. If you let the boundaries slip, it can create tension and a lack of trust.
5. Not Prioritizing Your Partner
When you think about the essential things in your life, your partner should rank near the top of your list. You don’t have to decide who or what is most important to you, so long as your lover is amongst the ranks. Not prioritizing them is a mistake because it shows you aren’t thinking about where they fit into your goals.
6. Losing Affection and Romance
Humans thrive on human contact, and it’s essential to a healthy romance. When you experience contact with your partner, your brain releases hormones that encourage loving feelings.
If this is a problem for you, create some new habits. Kiss goodbye, hug whenever one of you gets home, and hold hands whenever you can. These habits are just starting points for reintroducing affection and romance.
It’s easy to become complacent and stop making an effort for affection. However, it’s a huge mistake that could interfere with your relationship. Make a change soon so that you can refocus and embrace your romance.
7. Not Making an Effort
Relationships aren’t always easy, and you must make an effort if you want it to work. You won’t always agree with your partner on things, and you’ll sometimes have arguments. Additionally, you’ll sometimes have to do activities you don’t want to do.
If you promised your partner you’d go somewhere with them, make an effort to go. Likewise, do things that would surprise them and bring joy to their day, even if it takes a little work. These little things mean so much and can make or break your romance.
Another way you can make an effort is by refraining from criticism. Find other ways to express your feelings without making your partner feel bad. You can discuss things without hurting their feelings, but it’s all about making an effort.
8. Making Promises You Can’t or Won’t Keep
Making unrealistic promises is a mistake. You’ll eventually break those promises, damaging the trust you’ve built. Stop making these promises, and avoid blanket statements you can’t guarantee.
Don’t promise your partner that you’ll make everything better when you don’t know if it’s possible. Instead, tell them that you can try your best to overcome issues together.
Similarly, don’t promise to hurt your partner because you may mistakenly say the wrong thing. Hurting their feelings can make them think you don’t keep your promises if you had made the promise. Unless you’re sure you can fulfill it, don’t make a promise.
9. Believing Things Will Be Perfect
Many people expect their relationship to be perfect, but it’ll never happen. Nothing is ideal in life, and you can’t expect perfection from your partner. Please don’t get mad or frustrated when things don’t go the way you’d hoped because it’s all a part of life.
Look for progress instead of perfection, and communicate with your partner when you have a problem with something. Holding your significant other to an unrealistically high expectation can cause intense issues.
10. Lacking Independence
Many people get lost in their relationships, forgetting who they are. You both must remain independent, even as you become closer. If you don’t do things separately, it causes co-dependency.
If you’re co-dependent, you won’t know what to do if your partnership ends suddenly. It can also make you feel trapped and like you don’t have any other options. Some signs of co-dependency include not being able to run errands alone or consulting your partner for even minor decisions.
Do things without your partner, including spending time with friends and working on your hobbies. Don’t abandon your personal goals, either. You both must have a life outside of each other.
Sometimes you must learn to do things alone. If that’s the case for you, take some online classes, sign up for events, and do other things to foster your independence.