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The Strength of Words:
How Developed Communication Improved A Relationship
        For over a year, Amy Lloyd has been at the center of my world. Since October 26, 2002, not a day has gone by that the image of her face hasn’t come into my head. But, as with most relationships, ours has had a number of problems. In an attempt to minimize these damaging flaws in our partnership, we have made several steps toward improving the communication between us.

        Our road to better communication started off very simply. The first step was to realize we had a problem communicating. In the beginning of our relationship, whenever a problem arose, Amy and I would typically wait silently for the other to address the problem. When neither of us spoke up, tension grew between us and the problem escalated. The lyrics to a popular song helped us to realize that by not talking things over, we were only damaging our relationship. The song points out, “Cold silence has a tendency to atrophy any sense of compassion between supposed lovers.” Applying these lyrics to our own relationship, we were able to identify our problem and work toward solving it.

        The next step was to understand our problem. It wasn’t enough to simply know it existed; we also had to know how frequently the problem occurred, and what the cause of the problem was. Now that we knew what the problem was, it was not so difficult to understand the nature of it. After making some observations when our communication began to break down, we found that it was not something that happened regularly – usually no more than once a week – and typically started as a miscommunication that led into a lack of communication.

        Once we began to understand why our communication was lacking on certain occasions, and what those occasions were, we were ready to work on fixing our communication problem. To do this, we followed several pieces of advice, and tried many methods of our own. In time, we began to notice which of these methods worked, and which did not.

        One of the first sources I thought of to use in helping me reach my goal was the Bible. Of course, the Bible is a very broad source, and looking up information in it can be tedious and time consuming. So, I went to the next best thing, which was The Bible Promise Book. This book has an easy-to-follow index which I used to quickly look up advice on relationships. I found several passages in this book, which quotes the Bible directly, that helped me understand that I needed to have patience and always be open to give and receive thoughts and opinions. This has helped me to be more willing to listen when Amy has something to say, and to be patient with her when I do not agree, or when I have something to add. Before reading these passages, I would sometimes not want to listen, or I would interrupt what she was saying before she could finish. Getting past these things made our communication much easier.

        The next place I looked was in a book about maintaining a healthy relationship, which was entitled Rekindled. In this book, a plan was laid out for making the best of a relationship, and keeping peace between partners. This plan was split into four categories, each with several points on how to make the best of a relationship.

        The first category, entitled “Blessing,” made the point of speaking well of your partner, and responding with good words in every situation. This was difficult to do, especially when I was frustrated with her or when I disagreed with her. I found that I would respond negatively when I didn’t like what she had to say, often by putting the blame on her. By saying things like “No, you’re wrong, this is how it is,” I was tearing her down more than I was giving her my point of view. Through the course of this project, I have become more aware of the way I state things, and try to come across in a more suggestive way than a forceful way.

        Another point under the category of “Blessing” was to express thankfulness and appreciation verbally. This was also difficult, as I was used to expressing my thanks through more non-verbal communication such as a smile or an embrace. I found this point to be valid, none-the-less, since it is often good to hear that you are appreciated instead of trying to discern the message from implicit body language. I have found that this way of communicating appreciation is well-received and often has more positive results than how I had done it before.

        The second category of the plan, entitled “Edifying,” calls for constant support. To do this, the plan says to always build up your partner, saying kind words about her and backing her up when she needs your help. This point has been easier for me to do, since I have typically been supportive of her anyway. Following this practice has brought comfort and security to our relationship, and our level of trust has increased since we know we can rely on each other to stand behind us in our time of need.

        Another point of “Edifying” was to establish understanding. As I pointed out before, one of the biggest causes of our communication problem was simple misunderstandings. This point states that it is good to study your partner, and to know who they are. In this way, misunderstandings become less frequent because in knowing someone, it is less likely that you will misinterpret their meaning. This point has probably been the hardest to do, since really knowing someone takes a lifetime of observation, but we have been working on it, and our understanding of each other is growing by the day.

        The third category of the plan is “Sharing.” This category includes some eye-opening points for Amy and I, since much of what the points call for are things we had never thought to do. Things such as family objectives and career goals were included in these points, and as obvious as they may sound, they were not things that we commonly talked about or otherwise communicated. Doing these things helped bring us positive topics to discuss, and also helped us to better understand each other.

        One of the harder points of “Sharing” was to share innermost thoughts. While this was easy to do at times, a number of our innermost thoughts were very difficult to share. I feel certain that there are still some that have gone unsaid, but it is a goal which we are each working at achieving. Once we have done this, our understanding of each other will be greater, and our communication will be stronger.

        The final category of this plan was “Touching,” which held the points of nonverbal communication which strengthens a relationship. It says that physical contact is an absolute essential in a relationship, because a tender touch tells your partner that she is cared for, it calms her fears, it soothes her pain, it brings comfort, and it gives emotional security. It points out that physical contact should be done often and joyfully, but should not be exclusively sexual. That way, your partner knows that your affection is genuine, and not simply for pleasure. Physical contact has always been present in my relationship with Amy, and has never been strictly sexual, but understanding its importance has helped to give in more meaning than it ever had before.

        Communication is an essential part of any relationship. Be it verbal or nonverbal; personal or casual, it is important that everyone understands its importance. With Amy and I, improving our communications skills has brought us closer than we have ever been, and helped to alleviate the tension of misunderstanding. Because of our effort to reach our goal in better communicating with one-another, we have not only built a better relationship between us, we have also acquired skills to help us improve any relationship.


Sources:
"Schism" by Tool off of the 2001 Lateralus album, produced by Volcano Entertainment

The Bible Promise Book, copyright 1990 by Barbour Publishing

Rekindled by Pat and Jill Williams, copyright 1985, published by Fleming H. Revell Company

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This page last updated 25 November 2003.
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