A couple came into my office insisting that their problem was communication. Otherwise translated, this really means…”He doesn’t talk!” As I proceeded with my standard in-take routine, it appeared to be quite clear that he could talk …in fact, he was quite talkative. So much for this being a communication problem!
Often the fundamental problem is not necessarily communication, but rather it is the lack of time spent together as a couple. In many cases, couples spend less than ten minutes a week talking together. Some men may play golf four to eight hours a week. Contrasting that with ten minutes of talk-time with his wife, it would be safe to say that his golf is going to improve but his marriage will be handicapped. Women may opt to become a supermom and may spend more time in the car per week with their children than they spend on their marriage over several months. Imagine how successful a dating relationship would be if only ten minutes were dedicated to the experience each week. For some people, dating occurs at a time life when they are full-time students and may even be working at two jobs to make ends meet…and somehow life never seemed to get in the way of those long talks over coffee. Coupling takes time. Perhaps, given everyone’s busy schedule, it is necessary to enter your partner’s name in your daytimer and to be as careful and thoughtful with this time slot as you would be with an important work responsibility…and then, maybe, you are making important progress towards building a marriage.
Quality time as a couple is time spent without conflict. Remember when you talked on the school steps for hours, missed dinner, and returned home to find your parents about to call the police to search for you? You were talking about your struggles, fears, wishes, and dreams and you were being heard. Conflict was not part of this conversation even though you were discussing issues of challenge in your life. It seems that at this early stage in your life you were demonstrating an expertise in communication without the assistance of a course or a self-help book. You seemed to intuitively know about the four major rules of communication… listen to the person; be present exclusively for the person; respect the person’s views; and most importantly, dedicate some time to the process of connecting with the person.
Time spent connecting as soul-mates also includes developing the sensual part of a relationship. Sensuality is the power behind sexuality. A man who provides those tender supportive touches…a woman who calls just to say that you are missed… are well on their way to experiencing real intimacy. In a relationship it is important to never forget the power of wooing…rather than taking love for granted. Wise partners know that talking and sharing good times are powerful aphrodisiacs.
In order to allow these conflict-free connections to work, couples also need to set aside time that is about the business of being married or raising a family. Just as business meetings need notice of topics to be addressed, couple/family business meetings need some advance notice on topics. Also, good business meetings are time limited – keeping your meetings with time limits will allow for better co-operation and better solutions. Conflict will undoubtedly be a part of these meetings – this is a sign that both parties are sharing their best ideas. Listen carefully in conflict and appreciate the value of democratic decision-making as opposed to a dictatorship. Remember that conflict is reduced if everyone feels heard.
Friendship in a relationship is like gold…like platinum… it’s the real thing. Being a friend to your partner is not a skill to be developed, rather it is an attitude that needs to be protected and explored throughout your life together. Friends obviously like doing things together – have FUN and relaxing together. They are also interested in learning about activities that are engaging to their partner…just because you are friends. With respect to making your partner a project…keep in mind the definition of friendship that came from that old wise cowboy, Will Rogers, who said that a friend is someone who is glad to see you and doesn’t have any immediate plans for improvement!
Relationship issues are seldom communication problems …the element that is conspicuously absent is the gift of time spent together and the nurturing of the relationship.
Originally published in the ‘Tri-Cities News’ as a voluntary contribution to the community from Arthur Rathgeber.
The contents of this article are the property of Willow Grove Counselling, Inc. and further reproduction is given through written permission only. Copyright © 2012