There's a lot of talk about communication in relationships. And I get it's important, so important that one of my couple friends seems to treat it as a separate activity. "We've been communicating a lot recently." or "We're working on our communication." is a regular refrain. But what are they doing? Communication means a lot of things. I mean, there's talking obviously. Some people will say that the key is being honest, because the only benefit of communication is when you're communicating truthfully. Which is a hundred percent true, honesty is an undeniably integral part of communication. But others will say communication is all about trust— trusting that your partner will respond with compassion and respect. Plus, there's the willingness to share things you've maybe never shared before. With so much going on when we talk about communication, what's the bottom line?
Some people might disagree with me, but from the point of view of someone who sometimes has trouble communicating their feelings, there's something that underpins all these different things people think are synonymous with communication: being brave. I know that might sound like a self-centered view of communication, but for the nervous amount us the idea of sharing and being open means the potential to look foolish or feeling vulnerable. So committing to being honest about how we feel requires a lot of courage.
For example, look at how PsychCentral talks about communication, when discussing how important it is in a relationship:
"Being open means talking about things you may have never talked about with another human being before in your life. It means being vulnerable and honest with your partner, completely and unabashedly. It means opening yourself up to possible hurt and disappointment. But it also means opening yourself up to the full potential of all a relationship can be."
In a way that sounds amazing, right? But for some of us it's also scary. Like effing terrifying. Luckily part of being brave in your communication means saying "This is hard for me, but I'm trying." and trusting your partner will understand that and respond in turn. Even listening to the other person's point of view in an argument and accepting it without getting defensive can take a lot.
There are so many facets of communication— listening, perspective, compassion, honesty— but if all of it feels a little overwhelming, you're not alone. Being open is a brave step, and a larger one for some of us than others, but definitely a non-negotiable in a relationship. And the braver you are the better your communication will be. So pluck up your courage and open up.
Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our new podcast, I Want It That Way, which delves into the difficult and downright dirty parts of a relationship, and find more on our Soundcloud page.