If you spend even a little time reading up on what makes a relationship work, you’ll come across a lot of advice on improving communication. Happy couples have good communication, right?
Well, yes. But are they happy because they have good communication, or do they have good communication because they’re happy?
A recent study from the University of Georgia[i] confirms that good communication and romantic success DO go hand in hand. But good communication seems to be a side effect of relationship success, not the reason for it.
Think of it like this.
If you’re fit and healthy, you likely exercise and eat right. While being in shape makes it easier to choose to hit the gym, you don’t work out because you’re already in shape. Rather, being in shape is one of the results of regular exercise and a smart diet.
Good communication happens when there’s already a special foundation built on something deeper than just conversation. To go beyond mere communication, you need a unique and powerful kind of intimacy.
Psychologist Douglas LaBier calls this level of romantic intimacy “Radical Transparency.”[ii] Radical transparency happens when two people are able to really be themselves around each other, totally open and honest at all times.
If you want to take your relationship to that level, you’ll need to do two things.
1. Good Communication Requires You To Be Open About Yourself.
This happens on two levels. The first impression level, and then a deeper level.
It’s important to put your best foot forward, especially at the beginning of a relationship. But casting yourself in the best possible light should never involve deception.
Here’s an easy example. Don’t use a picture from 10 years ago on your dating profile.
At a deeper level, being open about yourself means being candid about what you really want in this life, but also the ways you’ve failed to live up your dreams. It’s just more relatable than painting a perfect picture of who you are.
Here are some examples of what I mean:
- What’s something you want to achieve that you haven’t succeeded with yet?
- What is one character trait you want others to see in you even though you willingly admit you’re not there yet?
- What’s something you want to go after in life, but you haven’t yet because of the way fear holds you back?
Talking about those things will also encourage him to share the same kind of stuff with you. When he does…
2. Be Receptive As Your Guy Reveals Himself To You.
This is the other side of the coin.
It feels good to be heard and to be validated. Guys may not talk much about their feelings, but they want acceptance and validation just as much as you do.
And the whole thing is cyclical. Just like being open with him will encourage him to open up to you. Being receptive when he shares, will encourage him to be receptive toward you. This is radical transparency in action.
It’s painfully easy to miss important opportunities to be receptive.
For example, if he gets excited about his new smartphone, you might be tempted to roll your eyes and say, “Boys and their toys.” But that’s not being receptive. Instead, be the person he can share his passions with, both great and small. Especially when he reveals the “little boy” that is still a part of who he is.
Good communication is important. It certainly plays a vital role in maintaining a successful relationship. But it’s not a romantic cure-all.
The real secret to relationship success is radical transparency. You should be able to be yourself around your guy, and he needs to be able to be himself. Not only that, but you both need to accept and validate one another.
Master that and good communication will follow every time.
[i] Lavner, Justin A., Benjamin R. Karney, and Thomas N. Bradbury. “Does Couples’ Communication Predict Marital Satisfaction, or Does Marital Satisfaction Predict Communication?” Journal of Marriage and Family 78.3 (2016): 680-94. Web.
[ii] LaBier, Douglas, Ph.D. “Good Communication Alone Doesn’t Improve Relationships.” Psychology Today. HealthProfs.com, 18 Oct. 2016. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.
Very powerful information. Thank you! It’s a great opportunity to be honest, feel free and share glimpses of yourself in the beginning, but the most important part is the glimpses of truth from and about the man you’re sharing with. Those gems make the world go round! Listening is priceless. Too bad I missed my chance to continue that! Always open to another though. The hardest part for me is getting to the vulnerable spot of what I want to be that I’m not yet, or wanting to achieve but haven’t and sharing the fear that I won’t accomplish my goals. Those are tall orders!
Hi Debbie, I know what you mean about not yet achieving your goals and worrying that you never will achieve them. You do not say how old you are, and that is important.
I am now almost 69, and do still have dreams and goals, but I keep constantly telling myself that I am now “too old” to be able to achieve them. I KNOW that that is a terrible mind-set, as I am still pretty healthy, very active and have quite a bit of energy (when I’m not feeling depressed!), but it is hard to get motivated to start a new life. I have been separated and divorced almost 9 years now, and that did knock the stuffing out of me. Although it did bring out the fighter in me, and I got a good settlement, but left me feeling insecure, vulnerable and prone to depression. I feel totally alone now. It would be nice to have a partner in life to help me achieve my goals. Not necessarily a romantic partner (although that would be wonderful), but a “partner” who understands what I want, agrees with what I want and is willing to work along with me (and me them, of course) to achieve that. A really good friend or a sibling or son or daughter, who I can trust, would be good, but I don’t have any of those who are willing to “pitch in” with me. I have lots and lots of ideas for the future – keep coming up with ideas all the time, but I would need to sell up and move to release the money. Going it alone is very, very scary – you need someone to bounce ideas off, and be there for support. SO, out of all that, I would say to you – JUST GO FOR IT. Dream big and try to find the strength and energy to put your dreams into motion. You only live once, and we do not want to get to age 90 and sit there in the nursing home, regretting that we did not have the guts to follow our dreams. A good start, I find, is to create a “spider chart”. Get a huge piece of paper, and pin it on the wall – draw a circle in the middle of it with you inside the circle – the spider’s “body”. From there – every time you have a thought or idea or relevant comment (no matter how silly you think it is) or information, draw a “leg” on the spider and write down your idea. You’ll soon find that the spider has numerous “legs” and you have all the thoughts and information there in one place, which can’t get lost. This helps you to concentrate your thoughts. A wonderful book I found empowering is “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” by Susan Jeffers. Believe in yourself. You can do it. GIRLPOWER!!
Best of luck. Have a wonderful life – with no regrets!! Lorna
Lorna, you’re right. I’m a hospice nurse. The number one thing, people nearing the end of life regret, is not taking chances. Just going for it, as you say.
Don’t stop living, until you’ve stopped breathing.
Thank you, Joyce, it is good to get feed-back and know that someone is reading my comments. I just need to take my own adivce and “go for it”. But it IS scary. However, I really do not want to get to the end of my life and regret not doing all I could and follow my dreams. Tomorrow I will do something about putting my house on the market, and see where that goes. And create my “spider chart”. What a wonderful sentiment you share with us here. I will try to do as you say and “not stop living until I stop breathing” – that is one I will certainly remember. Sometimes the Angels are just out there quietly putting things in place for us with gentle reminders to have the courage to “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. Thank you, Earth Angel. Lorna x