Communication is key, they say. But what they forget to mention is that unless you’re communicating from a clean place, your communication could just add more problems to the relationship. Something I think all of you have experienced once or twice.
Today, I want to share with you a quick checklist you can go through before communicating with your partner. This list will help you clean your own issues up first so that you then can bring the topic to your partner from a clean place.
Note: This won’t in any way guarantee or control your partner’s response to what you are bringing to them. But it will make sure you are showing up as your best self, which is all you can and should control anyway, right?
1. Why this conversation?
Before you have this conversation, I want you to get clear on why you want to have the conversation. If you don’t like your reason for having it, odds are you’re not quite ready yet. And more often than you might think, we have pretty crappy reasons for having conversations with our partners.
- To feel better
- To make them feel better
- To change them/what they do
- To get revenge
- Because it feels aligned with who you want to be
- You wish to share your thoughts and feelings
- You want to share a boundary you have
- You want clarification on something you don’t understand
Now, communication might result in you feeling better or your partner feeling better… it might even result in your partner changing their behavior. And all that is great. But it’s a bad reason to have the conversation. Why? Let’s check out the next point.
2. Pick YOUR result ahead of time
This one might sound a little confusing. What I mean by picking your result ahead of time is making sure that you go into the conversation with a goal that you can achieve. A goal that is in your control. Very often, we go into conversations with goals that we aren’t in charge of. And then when our partners don’t play along we get upset and deem the conversation unsuccessful.
Bad results to aim for:
- Them changing their behavior
- Them apologizing
- Them understanding you
- Them agreeing with you
- The two of you being more connected
Good results to aim for:
- I show up as the person and partner I want to be
- I share my thoughts and feelings from a place of peace and love
- I deepen my feeling of connection to my partner (see how this one doesn’t require their participation for you to be successful?)
- I respect and honor my own thoughts, feelings, and boundaries and choose to share them with the person I love, instead of holding back out of fear
3. Understand yourself ahead of time
It’s very important that you are coming from a place of emotional adulthood when you communicate with your partner. That means that you are taking full responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and you aren’t blaming any of it on them.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What story am I telling myself about this situation?
- Can I see that my feelings are coming from my thoughts?
- What other ways could someone interpret this situation?
- Am I taking responsibility or blaming?
Example of blame:
“When you ignored me all evening that made me feel very unloved and sad.”
Example of emotional adulthood:
“Last night when you played computer games for 4 hours I was hoping that we could watch a movie together. When you took a break and made yourself a snack I thought you were done, and when you went back to playing I started having thoughts about you not wanting to spend time with me. These thoughts made me feel unloved, disappointed, and sad.”
Same facts in both versions, very different stories and ways to communicate.
4. Decide how to feel
Your emotions fuel your actions and behaviors. So how you feel in your body is going to determine how you show up and speak during this conversation. Everything from your body language to the words you say and how you say them will be determined by the emotions in your body.
So before you have this conversation, make sure you decide from what emotion you want to be having it. Then once you have picked your emotion, practice activating it beforehand by thinking thoughts that make you feel that way.
Hot tip: You might think love is a bad idea because it will make you do or say things you don’t want to do or say. Or agree to things you don’t want to agree with. But I want to offer you that love is always a good idea. Love for yourself first, and love for your partner second. Love never makes you do things at your own expense.
5. Don’t have a manual for their response
A manual is a list of criteria or expectations that you have for your partner’s behavior in order for you to feel the way you want to feel. You are basically saying “my partner needs to say this and that, understand me and make me feel loved in order for me to feel good about this conversation.” You are putting your emotional life in the hands of your partner’s response.
Here is a golden rule I would like for you to follow: If you cannot accept or hear any response from your partner when you bring this up to them, you are not ready to have this conversation.
Your partner has to be free to respond in any way they please without you punishing them for it. That doesn’t mean you have to like or agree with their response. But as long as you think that there is a right or wrong way for them to respond, you’re still in emotional childhood.
Allow your partner to respond how they wish and then you get to decide what you want to think, feel, and do in response to that.
Saying that “communication is key” to all relationship issues is a huge disservice in my opinion. Most people are not capable of communicating from emotional adulthood and therefore just end up fueling the problems in the relationship. Handing over responsibility for your emotions to your partner is never a good idea, no matter how kindly and neutrally you say the words.
If you follow these 5 steps before communicating with your partner, your conversations will be a lot cleaner and less dramatic, you will get to show up as the girlfriend you want to be, and… to be honest… probably half of the conversations you want to have will become superfluous after going through this process. And you can spend your time having conversations that the both of you enjoy.