How to improve communication

Submitted by Naomi on
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Hi everybody, İ have been with my boyfriend for 1.5 year and now the 'pink glasses' started to fall off. While İ still consider him a great match for me, İ realize more and more how bad at communication we are. İn my previous relationship İ didnt have any problem with communication, but my boyfriend admitted that he has never been used to communicating openly.

İ miss it so much! Usually when İ try to talk to him about improving something in our relationship, althought İm trying not to be judging or accusing, he takes it too personally and thinks that İ criticise him and doesnt want to talk anymore. Do you have any advice what to do?

Focus on what he's doing right

Whenever he does something that's even faintly in the direction you think would help the relationship, affirm it by saying, "I love it when you...."

See this:

My husband uses this technique on me with great success. Mosking

Also, remember daily bonding behaviors: These can be employed without any discussion whatsoever, and they are surprisingly effective over time.

Talk is Cheap, Communication is Hard

When a woman tells a guy, “We need to talk,” he thinks, “Oh shit, what have I done now.” In a guy’s mind any statement approximating “We need to talk” is usually followed by stuff we don’t want to hear; “I missed my period”, “You’re such a jerk”, “I want to break up” or “Why don’t you like … (Fill in name of relative, friend or body part)”. I am only being a little facetious, because when you corner us with wanting to communicate, especially emotions, we normally shut down. You need to learn how to communicate with us, and then we will usually open up.

Freedom and Marnia both had good suggestions. Ask more questions, guys like to answer questions. My girlfriend lives in fear that someone will ask me a question about how something mechanical works or a sports question, I am good for an hour at least. So the trick is to ask your boyfriend the right questions so you can get a discussion going. If you ask, “Why are you such an incommunicative bastard”, that isn’t going get anywhere. That is simply a statement disguised as a question. You need to really ask a question and not be accusatory in anyway what so ever. Questions regarding beer or sex are usually pretty good for most guys.

Telling him when he does something close to right is good also. This really works with sex; even after a guy has had sex with a bunch of women the only thing we learn is that we don’t have a clue. Women are just not that predictable to men, we like it when you tell us we have done something right. But be honest about it. Don’t tell a man you like back massages if you don’t, because believe me you will be getting back massages. Men are very literal, women are not.

A comment about men being literal and women being somewhat less so; just look at our sex organs. Everything men have is right out there to be seen. If a guy is turned on you can tell, it’s called a boner. My girlfriend has looked down there occasionally and asked “Don’t you ever think about anything else?” Now women’s parts are all hidden, even the clit is under a little hood. We don’t know what the heck is going on in there; there is this cavern and down in there somewhere is all of this baby making equipment. It’s hard for a guy to tell when a woman is turned on just from looking and women can fake an orgasm, no nasty cum squirting all over the place. So if we aren’t too eager to bare our souls to you, maybe you can understand the mystery that you present to us.

I think I may have Marnia fooled because she thinks I am a naturally good communicator. What I am good at is thinking something through and then responding, so I generally can write a response better than I can discuss it in general conversation. So for me to communicate very openly with my girlfriend initially was a little difficult. We both had to get on each other’s frequency and then things worked out. I also had to feel safe in talking with her intimately. Women seem to be able to blab about anything, most guys I think tend to be a little more cautious, especially when dealing with girlfriends. Now we can talk about anything; I know things about women’s periods I thought I would never know—actually maybe I wish I didn’t know some of those things.

You said, “In my previous relationship İ didn’t have any problem with communication, but my boyfriend admitted that he has never been used to communicating openly.” There are two very telling statements in that one sentence. First, communication was good with your old ex-boyfriend but presumably there was a problem since he is an “Ex”. So that may teach us that good communication is not everything, it can’t overcome other problems in the relationship. The other option is that the communication with you “Ex” was not as great as you thought—you need to answer that one yourself, none of the rest of us were there.

The next part of the sentence is that your boyfriend admits to you he either doesn’t know how to or isn’t comfortable with opening up to you or anybody else. That is really big that he can tell you that, he is communicating that much with you. Now since presumably you are the communicator in the relationship, you need to make him feel safe enough to open up to you. Maybe Marnia’s bonding behaviors would foster feelings of intimacy that you need to communicate. Talk when naked, we like to talk in bed holding each other or taking a little break during sex. But you need to pick your topic carefully; “Did you fill the car up with gas” would likely be a giant mood killer. However relationship questions or how does he feel about Karezza, those are both pretty intimate and probably would be good in a safe environment where both of you are equally vulnerable.

Our own road to communication was somewhat rocky at times. There were problems, hurt, a break up, getting back together; the normal crap most couples go through. The thing is it is easier if you love the other person and can talk stuff out. We still have issues at times—I have been told they are usually my fault. The only way communication is going to get better is by communicating, so start talking with him and let us know how it goes. You may want to show your boyfriend this thread; it would be a good way to start the conversation.

Amen, Maso, Amen!!!

I can't speak for all men, but I can confirm that what Maso said is true for me too.

A particularly important point is about "safety." If you want me to "open up," you have to create a safe environment for me. If you ask me a question, and you want an honest answer, you have to be prepared to react calmly to whatever that honest answer might be. If I feel like I'll be punished for saying something, I'll try to avoid saying it, as best I can. I'll try to find a "diplomatic" answer, rather than saying what I really think.

"Punishment" isn't necessarily something really overt like screaming or scolding; it could be more subtle, like judgments - telling me I'm wrong for thinking a certain way. Punishment is anything that would make me regret saying what I said.

although often crudely done

there are a lot stand up comedians going on about the begining of what Maso wrote. .“We need to talk,” he thinks, “Oh shit, what have I done now.” In a guy’s mind any statement approximating “We need to talk” is usually followed by stuff we don’t want to hear;
there is a lot of wisdom implied in the countless of comedy sketches... whether they are exaggerated, cliched, tasteful or not there is a therapy and wisdom in getting the gist of something. laughing is one approach.... but in general a curious look at something - just shooting the breeze on a general semi-related topic can yield great results. The asking of questions approach Marnia thought of strikes me as a way of creating a flow. when we think of research, or problem solving we tend to think of :
a question, followed by a theory or hypothesis. however sometimes conversation NOT AIMED at anything can yield a result (answers) to things we hadn't even realized as questions yet - as well s something that may have been on your mind for a while....

while you sound very sincere in not wanting to pressure:
You may note the in following... "I talk to him about..."
i'm 'trying' not to be judging.

likewise I mention these things out not to attack your methods.but flow can happen in communication with less mandate or purpose. that's a hard concept as it stops just short of asking us not to not to care so much!