"We just need better communication..." and other lies we convince ourselves of
“We just need better communication.”
“I know I need to forgive and trust him… I just don’t know how to do that after everything we’ve been through.”
“We need to do better at giving each other the benefit of the doubt.”
These are the things I hear couples say all the time when I ask them how their relationship could be better.
If this sounds like something you’ve said, here’s the hard truth…
Working to develop new communication skills or giving your partner the benefit of the doubt more often isn’t going to improve your relationship.
The reason it doesn’t work is because these common issues are really symptoms of a much bigger problem that’s lying below the surface of your relationship…
You lack emotional safety.
What’s emotional safety?
Emotional safety is the sense of security you feel about the bond you share with your partner.
It’s the trust (or lack thereof) you have in them that they’ll be there for you, even when things get tough.
It’s the confidence you have that they’ve got your back, that they’ll be there to comfort you when you’re hurting, and celebrate with you when you succeed.
So when you’re having your regular disagreements over the bills, the dirty dishes, what time he gets home from work, or how much time she spends on social media… well… that’s not really what you’re arguing about.
I’ll let Dr. Sue Johnson explain:
Most fights are really protests over emotional disconnection. Underneath all the distress, partners are asking each other: Can I count on you, depend on you? Are you there for me? Will you respond to me when I need, when I call? Do I matter to you? Am I valued and accepted by you? Do you need me, rely on me? The anger, the criticism, the demands are really cries to their lovers, calls to stir their hearts, to draw their mates back in emotionally and reestablish a sense of safe connection.
IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP UNSAFE?
If you want your relationship to last, you should be seeking to cultivate that sense of connection and emotional safety in your relationship. Here are some warning signs that your relationship might be at risk of lack of emotional safety:
You Feel Constantly Misunderstood
Whenever you’re hurt, your partner tries to convince you of all the reasons your pain is unfounded. They rarely apologize, the get defensive when accused of doing something wrong.
You feel alone in your pain, and never get any validation for your hurts, fears, or worries.
You Feel Lots of Resentment
You are constantly making bids to connect with your partner, and they get ignored or turned down. You don’t feel like you can rely on them to pull through and deliver when the stakes are high.
You Feel The Need To Snoop
You are constantly wondering where they are and who they are with. Maybe it’s because they’ve lied to you in the past. Or, maybe it’s because you’re insecure from being taken advantage of in past relationships.
You believe it’s normal to spend all your time together as a partnership, and look through each other’s social media and texts. You think having friendships outside your relationship is unhealthy and a threat to your marriage.
You have a hard time forming your own opinions, pursuing your own hobbies, or cultivating any of your own interests. You’re scared that if you disagree on something important (or not important) that it will result in a big argument, or stand as proof that you’re not “meant-to-be.”
You take on your partner’s preferences and opinions because it just makes things easier, or because you don’t have the tolerance to develop your own.
You Can’t Communicate How You Feel
Whenever you share your feelings they are either ignored, misunderstood, or dismissed. You have a hard time speaking up because when you’ve done so in the past, it’s results in an argument, or you getting defensive, or you feel the need to apologize for having feelings.
You Keep Secrets From Each Other
You’re afraid that if your partner knew everything about you, you would no longer be worthy of their love. They would look down on you, be disappointed with you, judge you, be angry with you, punish you, or simply… leave you.
You Aren’t Kissing… Let Alone Having Sex
You can’t remember the last time you made out. You flinch at your partner’s touch. You try to connect with them, and you’re just met with excuses, rejections, and dispassionate touching. Any sex you have feels devoid of any emotional or spiritual connection.
You Feel Constantly Defensive
You always feel the need to explain your decisions, your emotions, and your shortcomings. If you run out of excuses to defend yourself with, you cross-complain, and point out all the flaws your partner has to make yourself feel better about your shortcomings.
You Feel Alone
You feel more like roommates than lovers. You feel more regular gratification and fulfillment from interactions with friends and strangers who make you feel good about yourself than you do with the person you’re supposed to be in love with. You’re starting to feel depressed and lonely in the relationship that’s supposed to provide you with the most connection, affirmation, and love.
Do any of these resonate with you?
If you answered yes, you’re likely struggling with a lack of emotional safety in your relationship. If you’re disconnected, unable to trust, worried, stressed, or anxious - it’s not “communication” that needs to be fixed. It’s not that you need to give your partner the benefit of the doubt more often.
It’s that you need to create a more secure bond with your partner.
Want some strategies to create strengthen the bonds of emotional safety in your relationship?
Here are 3 great resources:
Today’s podcast (at the top of this blog post) will give you some awesome tools and strategies!
The Emotional Safety Challenge is a 7-day deep dive into how to create more emotional connection and safety in your relationship… especially if you’re feeling disconnected right now.
This amazing Emotional Safety Checklist from Maggie Reyes at Modern Married. It’s a free download that will give you 7 power questions you can ask yourself regularly to help you create more safety in your relationship.
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