My partner and I have good communication.
What does it really mean to have “good communication”? It’s something you always hear from relationship experts. Communication is the key to a healthy relationship. But how do you know if I’m actually communicating in a way that’s healthy?
My partner and I check in with each other each day. I compliment him regularly, and graciously accept his. We communicate about what we want for dinner. He tells me when I’m ticking him off, I tell him when the joke has gotten old. Up until recently, that’s what I had always assumed was good communication. We’re talking, right?
To let you in on a little side of my life, my partner’s family lives in Alaska, and we are all the way in Minnesota. Makes getting together rather difficult. Family is really important to me, and I have gotten it in my head that we needed to go visit them this summer. So every week I’d ask my partner if he took work off yet so we could go, and every time he’d tell me, “not yet.”
We’re communicating, right?
But not in a healthy way.
This continual loop caused me to build up resentment. I just couldn’t understand why he couldn’t ask his boss. Ask! That’s all I wanted. It’s not like I was looking for a guaranteed a one way ticket to Alaska for the rest of our years. I just wanted him to ask his boss for a few days off. He didn’t see it that way though and I didn’t know that.
But how was I supposed to know that he felt insecure at his new job and valued his professional life too much to ask for time off? We talk about how our days have gone, we talk about our feelings, but apparently they were just surface level. If I had known it wasn’t him being careless of my feelings, but rather his feeling of insecurity overwhelmed him, I would have let it go. His sanity, his mental health is so much more important to me than taking a summer trip to visit family.
I should have asked, “why?” I should have asked, “How can I help you ask for this time off?” I should have dug deeper. That’s what it means to have healthy communication. I am my partner’s partner, but I want to be his life partner. I want him to be able to turn to me when his feelings get overwhelming. I don’t want to be the source of frustration. I can’t just expect things to magically work out, we’re both human, we both have feelings and insecurities, but I never asked about his.
Communication is hard; there are so many levels to it. In theory, you can be communicating every day, but that doesn’t make it “good.” Communication requires asking the tougher questions. Good communication is about digging deeper. Next time you are frustrated in a situation, communicate with each other what the source of your feelings is, instead of assuming. Ask, “why” and be ready to follow through with your end of the conversation.
Good communication is healthy communication. And healthy communication is below the surface.