You know when you’re first dating a guy, and you find yourself so head over heels in love with them, that your different communication styles don’t seem to really matter. It seems so irrelevant that he’s a cellphone-at-the-dinner-table kinda guy, or that you’re a talk-about-our-feelings-all-night kinda girl, when those early lovey-dovey butterflies are floating around your stomach!
But as time goes on, it starts to become clearer that maybe, finding some common ground on communication styles might be valuable after all. Because as exhilarating and magical as those first few months may be, the reality is that when your relationship grows, things must become more intentional*. At least, that’s how it went for me.
My friends, I will totally admit that Mac and I do not naturally have the same exact communication style. But different communication styles definitely hasn’t doomed our relationship. In fact, in many ways I believe it has made us stronger as couple!
I can say this because while we may communicate slightly differently, one thing we definitely align on is our core values. One of these is respect.
For us, respect in our relationship means acknowledging the needs and boundaries of our partner, and a big part of that is done through communication. In our 6+ years together, we have developed our own unique communication style based on understanding and speaking the ‘love language’ that our partner needs to hear.
I know these tips and strategies may be ‘old news’ to some of you, and may not work for everyone! But these are the communication strategies that Mac and I have employed that make us a strong couple with love that grows every single day. Please know, I am not trying to give you advice … I definitely do not think that’s my place! What I do know is that when I was starting out in our relationship (and even still today!) I loved nothing more than listening to my friends and family share their stories of what had worked for them in building lasting and healthy relationships. With that in mind, here’s what’s worked for us!
We always remember that we are on the same team! Even when we disagree.
You guys…. It is way too easy when you disagree with your partner to see them as your opponent. After all, they see the issue at hand differently than you, and therefore they must want a different outcome, right?! No! Not at all. Throughout our relationship, Mac and I have disagreed a heck of a lot. But one thing we have learned is that even when we disagree in a given situation, it is so important for us to remember that we actually do want the same outcome. That outcome is a positive, healthy, loving relationship. So, with that perspective in mind, we always keep in mind that it is “us versus the problem,” not “us versus one another.”
Give a little to get a lot!
If you’re in a relationship like ours where you don’t necessarily speak the same love language, it’s super important to get to know the communication methods your partner responds to. Once you know their love language, start speaking it! In fact, it can be particularly valuable to make an intentional effort to “speak” all of the various love languages in small ways every day, even if it’s not the primary one your partner responds to. This way, you’re covering all your bases which is always a good thing. This is my way of giving a little to my partner, and in return I have received a lot! It is human nature to desire love … And when your partner feels the love, they will return it tenfold!
If you’re not a person of many words, it may feel a bit unnatural to sit down with your partner and reflect on life, but I truly believe that taking the time to have intentional and meaningful conversations about your life and relationship is paramount to keeping your bond strong. For Mac and I, asking each other simple but valuable questions like: “What was the most stressful thing that happened to you this week?” Or “How could I have shown up for you today that I didn’t?” or “What do I do that makes you laugh?” prompt a better dialogue than a basic “How was your day?” I know this conversation style isn’t for everyone, but if you’re open minded, I urge you to give it a try! Taking the time to truly reflect on our lives together has brought us so much closer over our years together.
Communicate in Action
One thing I have learned about Mac throughout our relationship is that he is definitely a guy of action. By this, I mean he prefers to be actually doing things rather than sitting on the couch diving deep into conversation. Because of that, some of our best talks have happened while we’ve been active or productive as a team. Whether it’s cooking a meal together, going for a hike, or cleaning up the backyard, there is something about being productive that opens us up to really great conversation.
Consider Necessity, Not Just Honesty
Listen up my friends, because this is one I’m continuing to work on every single day. Honesty is imperative in a healthy relationship. There is no denying that. But it’s also equally important that we do not say mean or critical things in the name of truthfulness that are totally unnecessary to hear. For example: If a friend got a haircut that you thought looked bad, would you tell them? Probably not. Because although it may be honest, it’s also unnecessarily unkind. She can likely make her own decisions about her hairstyle without your mean spirited words. I’ve learned that there is no reason o say critical things to someone you love, if the only reason you’re saying them is for the sake of honesty. If there is an important issue at hand, of course it must be discussed. However, criticism for the sake of criticism does nothing but build up walls, which none of us want in our relationships.
And there you have it! I want to emphasize that these really are very simply the communication strategies that have given us an exceptional foundation for our relationship. Every couple has a unique dynamic, and while love may be universal, the way in which we express it is not. Healthy, happy, and positive relationships can be so incredibly fulfilling, and I am eager to share in this experience of growing and strengthening our relationship with each and every one of you!
*Hey look at you, reading the footnotes! I just wanted to add a quick note to say that YES, this post is completely a part of my #WordOfTheYear journey to become more intentional. In this particular instance, I’m talking about intentionality in not just romantic relationships, but communication with others overall!