Why Is Communication the Essence of a Relationship?
Communication. We hear a lot of people in relationships dissatisfied with their communication. Why is that? I read a study that said the average couple spends only 30 minutes together a day, and of that 30 minutes, not even half of it communicating. Is it because we have nothing to say to each other? I got to thinking, “What is the reason for this lack of meaningful conversation?”
In the Loving Relationships Training, The LRT®, we spend a whole section on communication. We also do a lot of work on clearing the blocks to communication, such as anger, resentment and non-forgiveness. Many people think that “anger” is a form of communication, but in fact, it severs communication. The root of communication is communion, or joining in one mind, or sharing something in common. Anger stops this sharing of well being. So we spend a lot of time with our clients and with our students to get them over these blocks.
The Negative Results of Anger
You would be surprised how people defend their anger. We ask them, “What would be your fear of giving up anger and conflict forever?” Many people say they would not feel heard, or they would feel too vulnerable or defenseless without the option to get angry. But it is just the opposite. We say, “Anger is a defense, and defenses actually attract more attack.” Anger is no real solution. Anger just adds to the problems, and breaks the flow of true understanding and compassion.
Anger is usually an indication that your Personal Lie is being activated. Please see our last post on the workings of the Personal Lie. And when this happens, communication is broken. When things do not go the way you would want, it is always more productive to restoring your feelings of well being to say, “The thought that is activating me now is ______________.” When you take responsibility for the thought, and get out of “blame” or “defense,” then you have a chance of changing the thought that caused the upset in the first place.
A Course in Miracles says very early on, “I am never upset for the reason I think.” This is lesson #5. And the upset is usually caused by a thought being activated from the past, like your Personal Lie. And this is the real source of the frustration, hurt, or upset. Not the “thing” which is activating you.
Once you do actually take full responsibility for any “upset,” then you can do the shift out of the thoughts causing it. Let’s just say a person’s Personal Lie is “I am wrong.” A situation comes up in which their partner tells them they are wrong about something. They get angry at their partner, but it is actually the feeling of “being wrong” that is upsetting them the most, not their partner at all. Their partner is just “activating” their negative thought about themselves. This is why we say, instead of being angry, “I am feeling activated about this situation. The thought making me feel activated is ________.” And 99 times out of 100, this activation is related to the deep-seeded Personal Lie.
What do you do to communicate without anger or upset?
First, a couple has to make an actual commitment to a relationship free of conflict. This is an agreement you make together. It is like a vow. We have taken a “vow of happiness” as well as a “vow for a conflict-free relationship.” We just do not argue about anything. We listen. And when we have a matter in which we do not agree, we listen even more. We have devised what we call “The Eight Minute Process.” In this process you sit across from one another in a quiet setting. It could be a restaurant in which there is carpet on the floor and a quiet atmosphere. Or it could be in a comfortable part of your home, with no distractions. TURN OFF THE TV!
The rules of the “Eight Minute Process” are these: One person decides to go first in talking for eight minutes straight. Set the time on your phone so you don’t have to look at the clock. For eight minutes, the first person expresses everything they are feeling without any blame. Avoid using sentences that start with “You.” Like don’t say, “You did this and you did that.” Blame is the tone of these kinds of statements. Say instead, “When this happened like this, I felt this way.” You are taking responsibility for your reactions. Also, practice what many communication experts, such as Marshall Rosenberg, call “Non Violent Communication.” It is something like this: 1) I observed this happens in our relationship 2) When this happens I feel this way 3) What I suggest and need to happen is this. This is not blaming or angry. It is just an expression of the solution, not the problem.
NOW, the person listening cannot interrupt or put in their two cents. They cannot be planning their “rebuttal,” nor rolling their eyes, nor invalidating what their partner is saying. They JUST HAVE TO LISTEN, and take it all in and hear what their partner is saying. This is as much an exercise in Conscious Listening as it is in Non Violent Speaking. Once the first person has talked for eight minutes, the couple switches. Now the listener is the speaker, and the speaker is the listener. When both have had their uninterrupted “eight minutes” of being heard without any anger, then the couple can have a discussion.
Both parties have to adjust to the thoughts and feelings of their partner. This is a way of making changes without upset and blame attached to them, and a way of eliminating anger completely from your relationship. And, I might say, this is a real form of Communication, because it is a deep connection of Spiritual Intimacy you are creating between yourselves. And this Spiritual Intimacy is what Communion is all about, and consequently what good Communication is all about.
My theory why couples spend so little time communicating.
One theory has to do with Life Purpose. There is a difference between pursuing a busy career and establishing your Purpose in Life. A couple is together for the evolution of their souls. This is a Purpose, not what career choices they may happen to make. Yes, it is important to include your career in that Purpose, but your Life Purpose transcends all other concerns. Your Life Purpose is to be happy, and fully using your potentials to create a life in which you are serving your own happiness, while you are serving others to be happy as well. This is a real Purpose. Your Purpose is to bring Joy to yourself, your mate, and to others, right NOW~! If two people in a couple are not fulfilling their Life Purpose, communication gets stuck in pressure and resentment.
Another theory I have about why couples don’t communicate more is that they have had bad experiences trying to do it and then they give up. There is a world of difference between a criticism and an issue that needs attention. A criticism expresses negative feelings or opinions about the other’s character and personality. That is called a “harsh start up” by Dr. John Gottman. A harsh start up escalates into defensiveness and and argument. Statements that merely present an issue that needs attention he calls “soft start ups.”
Issue that needs attention: There is a leak in the roof still. I was hoping you would make that a priority? What can we do to fix it?
Criticism: Why can’t you ever remember anything? What is wrong with you? Why didn’t you fix the roof?
Communication becomes no fun and so people avoid it. What if you would talk to your mate just like you talk to your best friend? Or even better, how you would talk to an honored guest? If the communication can be made to be pleasant, then the couple looks forward to talking in the future. If is is always risky that one is going to get criticism, they just avoid the whole thing.
I think blame is off the track and sets people back also. What a difference it would make if the person starting the communication would say, “I know I have a part in this too (since they say you are the one you live with,) so how can we solve this together.”
My theory is there is too much negativity in people’s communication and that is no fun either. When couples start out together in the romantic period they communicate with so much love, adoration and fondness. They both are in the vibration of Joy. It is healing and feels good and makes you want to communicate more. Happily married people like each other, and communicate sweetly. Once people start having contempt, resentment and negativity, communication becomes something they want to avoid.
True communication is the essence of a relationship because it brings you both more clarity and more JOY!
TRY THE EIGHT MINUTE PROCESS if your are stuck. I guarantee it will get your communication UNSTUCK~! You may like to make the theme of your first “8-minute process” all the things you actually appreciate about your mate. See what comes out of you. You will be pleasantly surprised, I bet.
You may like to join us in BALI, DEC 3-13 for the BALI QUEST. Markus and I can help you get clear on your communication. We really appreciate all the wonderful people who have been with us on the BALI QUEST before. THANKS to them, we are inspired to go every year December 3-13.
Sondra Ray in Bali