I spend a lot of time with my friends Edward and Alena since we’re all on the same triathlon club. They have been married for several years and are in their 30’s. A common conversation involving the three of us goes something like this:
Alena: Hey Ron, I saw this guy on TV riding his bike and he went as fast as 50 mph. It was amazing!
Edward: Actually it was 52 mph.
Alena: How do you know?
Edward: I was there in the room with you when you were watching it.
Alena: I thought you were reading?
Edward: I can do more than one thing at a time you know.
Alena: Well, 50, 52, whatever.
Edward: Well there’s a difference of 4%.
Alena: Who cares? Either way he was going really fast which is the point.
Edward: Yes, but 52 mph is faster than 50 mph, so you should just say 52 mph.
When I first started to spend time with Edward and Alena I thought “Wow, they are going to kill each other!” But the amazing thing is they aren’t at all. Literally seconds after having the above conversation they’re just as close as they were prior to the conversation. Absolutely no harm is done by the exchange. It’s just how they communicate with one another. In fact, when I shared with them this passage they told me that I could easily swap their names in the dialog and have it still be accurate -- further evidence that their communication styles are very similar and compatible.
Since I’m on the outside of this conversation, I find it fascinating and entertaining. However, if I were either of them, this type of exchange would make me crazy. However, for Edward and Alena it works. And like all of The Four Factors that is what matters – that you find someone with whom you are compatible for each factor.
I do believe good communication is a fundamental component to a healthy romantic relationship. Without it we don’t feel understood by our partner and can feel distant from him or her. Additionally, resentment can build up and ultimately chip away at things that did previously work in the relationship.
The definition we’ll use to evaluate the Communication factor is:
Communication is the ability for you and your partner to converse based on self-awareness and a willingness to be vulnerable, such that you both feel understood as a result of the communication.
To prove communication is a necessary component of a healthy relationship, imagine a relationship where you would answer “Great” to the factors of Physical Attraction, Personality and Values, but together you and your partner can’t communicate well with one another. That is, you’re not able to share personal thoughts and feelings with one another in a productive manner. Initially, you love being physically close to your partner, his or her personality energizes you, and your values work well together. But as time progresses you feel more and more distant from your partner. Physical interactions can become more perfunctory or perhaps even filled with resentment or even worse anger. Your partner’s personality, which once energized you, now may start to drain you. And while your values may still be compatible they are overshadowed by the building resentment. Ultimately the relationship will be unhealthy since you’re interpreting your relationship interactions through a lens of not feeling understood. Perhaps of all the ways for relationships to fail, poor communication is the most common.
I believe the purpose of good communication is to feel understood by the other person and that there are some common approaches to achieve this goal notwithstanding the interesting approach of Alena and Edward.