No, communication is not everything

08/15 relationship guides often say something like "Communication is the be-all and end-all". Or: "Communication is everything in relationships". I'll tell you something today: that's not true at all! At least not with this absolutist claim to truth. It is incredibly important in relationships of all kinds to communicate and to do so in a way that is clear and understandable, but also emphatic and open to other perspectives. But, here comes the big BUT, I almost fell off my chair myself when I read the really enlightening passages on this in a book by renowned couples and sex therapist David Schnarch. 

In "The Psychology of Sexual Passion", he describes how many couples who complain about communication problems don't actually have a problem with the fact that they don't communicate with each other, but rather that they don't stop communicating with each other at all and thus fall into a pattern of interaction that is the real problem. The sometimes years-long attempt to exchange messages that the other person should please finally accept is grueling and often leads to separation or divorce. Crap! So how can it be better? Should I stop talking to my partner? But I want to get my way and I want to be right! What is this author thinking ... !!! 

Okay, wait a minute. Because here's the thing: unfortunately, communication is no guarantee that satisfaction and intimacy will prevail in a relationship - if the other person doesn't like your message. If he or she simply doesn't want to hear it and really doesn't want to accept it. "If communication is working well, it doesn't necessarily mean that your partner sees you the way you want to be seen," writes Dr. Sex Therapist Schnarch. According to him, "Communication is not working" can usually be translated as: "I refuse to accept this message - send me another one! How dare you see me (or this particular situation) like this!". 

At this point, many guides offer great tips such as using "I-messages", using non-violent language, affirming each other and taking turns to reveal something about yourself. These tips are all good and correct and please continue to apply them. 

But another but: they alone do not help if you have a clear difference. David Schnach has the following advice for anyone who doesn't want to lose intimacy and closeness in a relationship despite having different views: true intimacy only arises through "conflict, self-affirmation and one-sided revelation". What he is getting at is that if you are constantly waiting for or demanding that the other person always wants the same thing as you at the same time - be it physical closeness, the realization of other wishes or simply verbal confirmation - this creates a push and pull vicious circle. 

The importance of communication in relationships is of course still high. But let me tell you: "as long as the partners are dependent on mutual affirmation, the person who has the lesser need for intimacy will always control the level of intimacy in the relationship."

Therefore: communicating what you want to your counterpart is absolutely important. No one can read your wishes from your eyes. And for a good balance in the relationship, it is just as important not to lose yourself in expectations, but to be with yourself. Put yourself in a position to deal with your own desires and emotions independently and regulate them. Showering your partner with demands or accusations doesn't help you or your partner. 

Schnarch argues that many couples have problems in their relationship because they focus too much on communication and understanding instead of developing independence, self-regulation and self-development. He argues that true intimacy only emerges when both partners are strong and independent individuals who are able to open up around each other without sacrificing their own identity. Communication can be an important part of this intimacy, but it alone is not enough to create a deep and healthy connection.

Does that mean that I should accept everything without contradiction? No, of course not. Nor does it mean that you should avoid conflict. Rather, it is an inner attitude that enables a type of communication that works without pressure or coercion. For example, if the other person simply doesn't want to talk and you try to force it on him or her anyway, the person will feel cornered and won't say anything. On the contrary, the person will probably fight tooth and nail against ever having to say anything again, flee or loudly try to escape the situation. 

Communication alone cannot always resolve conflicts if it is not accompanied by an inner attitude of independence and self-regulation.

If you accept that you are not getting what you want at this moment because you have adopted the inner attitude that you and your identity are not at all dependent on having this conversation, on receiving confirmation from outside, then it will be easier for you and the other person to find another moment when it is more possible to exchange ideas. And last but not least, your open attitude is also a good indicator of how interested your partner is in the relationship with you overall. Someone who doesn't react at all, even after a little time to think about it, may still really not want to and then this person no longer needs to be persuaded. 

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