Communication in relationships
Everyone says to have a good relationship you need to communicate, but what
is good communication and how do you get it? This tip sheet will explore ways
that you and your partner can talk to each other, especially when there is
disagreement, and how to talk about boundaries and come up with relationship
Components of Communication
Any healthy relationship needs a good process for negotiation. Effective
negotiation can help both people in a couple feel equally part of everything,
from conflict resolution to decision making. Negotiation, when done well, will
maintain the esteem of both partners and protect their interests. Both partners
will get at least some of what they want.
A great way to kick-start good negotiation is The Really Listening
The Really Listening Model has three sections that are equally
applied to each partner.
Partner 1: Communicates his or her point of
view and needs without interruption
Partner 2: Summarises back to partner 1
what was said
Partner 1: Makes any corrections
This process is then
repeated with roles reversed.
Part of the negotiations might be exploring each other’s personal boundaries
and determining the boundaries for the relationship. For instance, each partner
might disclose their ‘Deal Breakers’ - the ‘no-go zones’ individuals have with
regards to relationships. These might include anything from a partner smoking
to cheating or religion. Each partner determines where these non-negotiables
are for them.
Once the deal breakers have been discussed and accepted, the next step is to
determine the boundaries placed on the relationship. These boundaries need to
be specific, agreed upon by both partners, and applied to each partner equally.
An example might be how long each partner is allowed out at night without the
other partner. Clear boundaries make it easy to determine when a partner is
crossing a line, such as one partner spending the whole night out while the
other was home in bed when the boundary agreed upon was home by 3am.
Using the skills of negotiation to discuss boundaries and rules in a
relationship can lead to a relationship agreement. This may sound too clinical
and unromantic but clear rules and boundaries are a good foundation for a
healthy and happy relationship. An agreement doesn’t necessarily have to be in
writing, but a clear and direct verbal agreement means both partners agree and
understand the rules.
What might be included in a relationship agreement? Topics that typically
come up in relationship agreements include finances, living arrangements,
relationship status, monogamy, safe sex, how to deal with conflict, individual
friendships or going out individually. Setting aside some time, particularly in
a new relationship, to work out a relationship agreement can be an effective way
to protect your relationship from typical pitfalls.
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