We had a habit of putting important conversations off. “We’ll talk later,” was what he often said to me. But I had texted him earlier that day: “We need to talk tonight.”
Later that night, my boyfriend came into the room sensing a fight, ready for me to scream and yell. But instead of arguing or acting defensive, he sat down in the chair across from me and asked, “What do you want to talk about?”
It surprised me, in a good way.
I have come to realize that when there is no longer communication in a relationship, that relationship is like a ticking time bomb. It eventually explodes. You end up with so many things that have built up—whether they be emotional, physical, or just everyday needs that aren’t being met—that you reach your breaking point.
We all have to have the glue that holds the relationship together and that’s love, but sometimes love just isn’t enough. A relationship needs a lot of things beyond feelings of love. Things like trust and security, commitment, being on the same page, having similar life goals, the ability to be yourself, and the willingness to communicate. That last one—communication—is what I’ve been learning lately.
In past relationships I’ve struggled to share my feelings and needs. I’ve let low self-esteem tell me that I don’t deserve to have a voice in my relationships. But recently I’ve been trying to practice my own advice and work to overcome my fear of communicating openly in relationships.
Doing so has made me realize just how harmful a lack of communication in romantic relationships can be. The damage often looks something like this: you get angry about something, but don’t want to deal with it, so it festers. Instead of talking it out, you start overthinking and coming up with ridiculous conclusions that make you begin to resent your partner without realizing it. Then you start to nitpick his or her every flaw instead of seeing the good in the person.
But the thing is that none of this is fair to anyone, because when the communication stops how is your partner supposed to know what’s going through your head? No one can read minds. And it’s not right to expect someone to.
With that said, communication should be a top priority in any relationship. Even if you don’t really feel like talking, it’s best that you do. Bottled up feelings are never good for either person. If there’s no communication and you reach the boiling point you’re not going to care what happens next and will be tempted to give up on the relationship, even if you love each other.
That’s the point my boyfriend and I were at when he first walked into the room that night: we loved each other but we had let ourselves get complacent and had let distance creep between us. I had been so afraid of losing him, and that had kept me from bringing up the things that I knew we needed to talk about.
But I got to the point where I realized that not talking was also a kind of losing him, because it made us emotionally distant. We needed to talk about the issues in our relationship so that we could work to mend them. I knew this, and it gave me the courage to send him that text. I wasn’t afraid anymore, I wasn’t going to let fear rule my relationship.
We picked a time and place to talk, and I had enough time to think about what I wanted to say and to cool down beforehand. And although my boyfriend thought that I might, I did not scream and yell, and that set the stage for a good conversation. We shared what was bothering us, agreed to work on things together, and straightened out some misunderstandings. For example, my boyfriend had been assuming that I wanted him to buy me gifts and take me on expensive dates, but I was able to explain to him that that is not my love language. I’d much rather have his time and attention than his money. We also talked about my jealousy issues, and I let him know some specific ways that he could make it easier for me to deal with my jealousy.
Since that conversation, we’ve both been trying harder to love each other even better. I’ve been receiving sweet texts and phone calls from him throughout the day. I see him trying. He sees me trying. But if we hadn’t chosen to talk to each other about the difficult things, our relationship—even though we love each other—could have become like that ticking time bomb.
Picture: Flickr/ Love is in the subway