1. Communication comes in many forms – how important is verbal communication in a relationship?

There are quite a few forms of communication, all of which we use on a daily basis; often without even realizing it. And we continuously switch around from one form of communication over to another almost seamlessly throughout our day.

Communication can be divided into:

  • Verbal communication or spoken language,
  • Non-verbal communication or body language and facial   expressions, and
  • Written communication and pictures.

In my opinion, it is of the utmost importance to have regular face to face communication interactions with your partner, in other words, Verbal communication. If you have something important or very emotionally-laden to discuss with your partner, it is crucial that you discuss these issues verbally, rather than using a form of written communication (BBM, WhatsApp, SMS, E-mail etc).

The reason for this is quite simple, but often overlooked. Seeing as we as people differ in so many ways, we express ourselves differently, no matter which form of communication we use. If I am extremely excited about something, I might text you in CAPS and add six exclamations after my sentence…but; you might read my excitement, as screaming at you.

When it comes to communication, we tend to derive more meaning from how something is said compared to the actual words being used. In other words, more meaning is derived from Non-verbal communication. Therefore, although Verbal communication is extremely important, it is also crucial to make sure that you check your tone of voice, your body language, your facial expressions…something that is very difficult –if not impossible- to manage if you are using a form of written communication.

2. Some people find it hard to “verbally” communicate their needs in a relationship and expect their partners to “just know” what they want and need – is this even possible?

It is quite a common complaint that I hear from men, more so than from women clients:

“It’s like she just expects me to smell what it is that she needs from me!”

This is a trap that most; if not all, women often step into. But more often than not, it’s not a question of finding it difficult to communicate needs, it’s a belief that, “my partner should surely know by now!? How many times do I need to communicate what I need in this relationship before he actually gets it?”

The bad news for us as women is; the moment you are the one not communicating your needs in a relationship, you are the one withdrawing, and therefore the one in the wrong! Not a message that goes down well in counselling, I assure you.

My roll, through counselling then, is to teach couples a new and effective way of communicating and identifying needs within their relationship.

3. If one partner struggles to communicate – how do I, as their partner, help them express themselves better?

We all have different strengths and weaknesses and therefore it is quite possible and common for one partner to be verbally stronger, emotionally more in tuned with themselves and therefore more capable of communicating needs, desires and wishes.

This has the potential to become a huge problem in a relationship for several reasons. I find that, often, one partner totally takes over. Not in order to be mean, but because he/she is simply more at ease with talking and expressing. This leads to the other partner feeling overlooked, not heard, not important. Often times the more “comfortable” partner, might want to finish his/her partner’s sentences, because the partner is struggling a bit. Again, not trying to be mean, but resulting in complete frustration and withdrawal from his/her partner.

How can you help?

  • Stay quiet. Allow your partner enough emotional room to search and find emotions, thoughts or words. 
  • When he/she is ready to try, check your non-verbal communication. You have to portray the message that you are willing to listen and really would like to understand.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, interrupt your partner or finish sentences!
  • Most importantly, don’t rush to answer with your own opinion, validate your partner’s emotions and make doubly sure that you understand completely what it is that he/she is trying to say before commenting.

4. Some people often find satisfaction in bringing up their partners past failures, every time they get to communicate – how destructive can this get?

Bringing up the past is most definitely not a problem, if and when done right and constructively. The past can then be dealt with, and put away. Remember that we cannot erase the past, it will always be a part of us and has had an influence – no matter how small – in whom or what we are today. We have to understand that the past is what it is and we cannot change a thing about what happened we can, however, change our thoughts surrounding the incident.

Unfortunately cases where the past is dealt with positively are extremely rare. If used as a weapon against a partner, you can be assured that that partner will eventually withdraw to such an extent that the relationship is in jeopardy. Who wants to be in a relationship where your past mistakes are kept like a sword hanging over your head?

The past keeps coming up as an issue in a relationship, if it has not been dealt with sufficiently.

You can read this article: Can “The Past” Between Couples Be Boxed and Put Away for Good? for more information regarding this issue.

5. What effect can lack of communication have on the relationship?

We generally start relationships off with a bang. We love sharing stuff and getting to know each other. Then slowly but surely this starts deteriorating and I often see people who don’t communicate at all anymore. How can you invest in a relationship without spending quality time together? How can your relationship grow and prosper if you don’t share your hopes and dreams with one another?

As life goes on, challenges are faced, conquered or failed and we grow as people. Life throws its punches; left, right and centre and people adapt and change.  If we are not in constant communication with one another often, how do we ensure that we grow together, instead of apart?

If we cannot grow together; we end up as two individuals, co-existing under one roof…comfortable in our unhappiness…