Communication in Relationships & How Resentment Can Interfere

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“The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred.” – George Bernard Shaw

Communication is a tricky endeavor to get right. It’s very hard to listen to someone else with any accuracy if you are frustrated, angry or upset. Couples should not stay up late to “finish” an argument. Tired and exhausted people only make communication worse.

Drama and intensity only contribute to games and a lack of communication. Insecurities running rampant, clutching at someone else or playing games are all obstacles to communication.

Trust builds on honesty which is the infrastructure to communication. Admitting you were ashamed to own up to the truth is not an ordinary part of the beginnings of relationships. It’s easy to make that mistake in communication because you want someone to think well of you.

Communication requires enough honesty to practice talking about hard things with respect for differences. Communication helps you to see the other person more accurately.

There is a higher probability of success in communication if both people can honestly take ownership of mistakes. Drop the attitude that one of you is right and one of you is wrong. You are both right and wrong. It is only through communication you can untangle the complicatedness together.

What is communication? Make time to talk, and talk, and talk, and talk to soften the differences.

I often ask couples to take 20-30 minutes 3-4 times a week to improve communication with each other. It is very rare for couples to be able to be successful with this small request because we live in such a frantic culture.

Relationships thrive on communication. Communication that is not interrupted, not fueled by too much alcohol and that isn’t simply parallel monologues.

Dialogue seems very difficult to achieve because it requires time for lengthy conversation by two people that leads to understanding the differences.

Communication requires some measure of vulnerability which includes less self-protection and defensiveness.

Many couples ask me what to talk about. Many older couples in restaurants don’t seem comfortable in their silence. Many conversations lack substance and depth.

Here are 80 questions to juice up conversation with someone you love. Think of these questions as only a beginning that you can build upon. Think of these questions as opportunities for storytelling. Fatten up your answers with details to make them interesting stories.

Think of how we feel when someone we love dies and all their stories we didn’t know and now never will. Stories are the stuff of both life and relationships, so make time for them. Intimacy builds on making yourself known, both the good & the bad, to someone else.

80 Questions to Improve Communication:

Use these to add Depth and Vulnerability to Communication

  1. Share some things you’re proud of?
  2. Tell me a value that’s changed for you over the years?
  3. What are you afraid of?
  4. What’s hard for you in your life right now?
  5. What’s been fun for you over the last month? Past year? Over 5 years?
  6. What’s something you’ve learned recently?
  7. What relationship in your life has taught you the most? What did you learn?
  8. Who are your most important friends? Tell me a story about the two of you.
  9. What do you do or what would like to do more for excitement?
  10. What exasperates you?
  11. What resentments with me have you not shared?
  12. Tell me a funny story from growing up.
  13. Tell me a painful story of growing up.
  14. Tell me a growing up story of when you were scared.
  15. Share a growing up story of being really mad.
  16. Tell me a story of how you appreciate your mom.
  17. Your dad?
  18. Something you don’t appreciate about your mom and why.
  19. Your dad?
  20. Your sisters?
  21. Your brothers?
  22. Is there an uncle/aunt/or grandmother/father who is special to you? Why?
  23. What do you like about living here?
  24. What don’t you like?
  25. If you could live anywhere, where would you live and why?
  26. What was your favorite car?
  27. Your favorite job?
  28. What was your worst summer job?
  29. What was your worst job?
  30. Tell me something that was hard for you in another relationship?
  31. What did you learn from a past love relationship?
  32. What are you looking forward to?
  33. If you had one year left to live, what would you want to do?
  34. If you were to be reincarnated into an animal, what would you choose?
  35. Tell me an embarrassing story. (Embarrassment is often a secret delight)
  36. Do you have any heroes or heroines? Or someone you really admire? Why?
  37. What does your checkbook and calendar say about how you spend your time and money?
  38. How do you feel about holidays?
  39. What did you like about holidays when you were growing up?
  40. What didn’t you like about them?
  41. What did you like learning?
  42. What did you struggle to learn in school?
  43. What do you like about parenting or being an aunt/uncle?
  44. What don’t you like?
  45. Do you like being alone or hate it?
  46. Is being physically healthy important to you? When did it start to matter?
  47. What was one of your best birthday presents?
  48. What was one of your best vacations? Why?
  49. If you could visit any other city in the world, where would you go?
  50. Name 5 adjectives you believe fit who you are.
  51. What are two things you don’t like about yourself?
  52. What makes you feel awkward
  53. What’s a favorite movie or book? What makes it special?
  54. Do you have any passions?
  55. What’s hardest for you to deal with about me?
  56. What’s a pleasure for you about being with me?
  57. How was your parents’ marriage?
  58. Describe one of your best friends when you were growing up and tell me a story.
  59. What do you dislike in other people?
  60. What are your dreams for the future?
  61. If you had more courage what is something you’d do differently?
  62. What quality do you value most in your friends?
  63. What do you like about your appearance?
  64. What do you dislike?
  65. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would you change?
  66. What triggers you into feeling negative or depressed?
  67. What small moments make you happy?
  68. Tell me a story about you and money. How well do you handle money?
  69. What do you miss from childhood?
  70. What are three things you find very satisfying about your life now?
  71. Describe a great day for you? What would it be like?
  72. What are frustrations in your life right now?
  73. Are sports/birthdays/pets or animals important to you? Any stories about these topics?
  74. What were the political choices of your parents and how does that impact your own choices
  75. What about popular culture do you most enjoy – music, art or tv, etc.? How has that changed since High School?
  76. How do you comfort yourself
  77. How do you handle stress?
  78. What happens when you don’t handle stress?
  79. What is something you are deeply ashamed of?
  80. Share a regret from High School. Young adult? Now?

An additional 80 questions can be found on my blog. Follow thislink

Stories help you see each other more accurately. Make time for knowing someone you love and for making yourself known. Most times it’s the story underneath someone’s hurt, anger or want that really matters and can lead to understanding.
Links that are Valuable to Improve Communication

There is no doubt technology gets in the way of communication according to this article from the NYT “The Flight from Conversation” by Sherry Turkle

Follow this link to my blog post for interesting research on couples communication

Dr.Keith Sanford is a researcher on communications and he also has a blog

Books on Communication

Communication Miracles for Couples: Easy and Effective Tools to Create More Love and Less Conflict by Jonathan Robinson

Messages: The Communication Skills Book by Mathhew McKay

We Can Work It Out: How to Solve Conflicts, Save Your Marriage (Perigee) by Clifford Notorious and Howard Markman

Why Can’t You Read My Mind? Overcoming the 9 Toxic Thought Patterns that Get in the Way of a Loving Relationship by Jeffery Bernstein and Susan Magee

Resentments Layer Over Time & Prevent Communication

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“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” – Malachy McCourt
Resentments are lethal to relationships. Resentments prevent good communication. Betty and Don Draper, on the wonderful television show Mad Men, provide ample evidence that this is true. Betty has seethed with anger for 3.5 seasons, until she finally divorced him and found someone else in the middle of the fourth season.

Resentment is a layering of anger over time, which makes it very powerful. There is a purpose to anger – it says, I’m important. So let’s use the example of a long distance relationship. One person feels the sacrifice of not being with the other more deeply. Then they begin to feel resentful. What is it that can help this situation?

The person who is resentful wants to feel more important. So the partner needs to be creative and find ways to make him/her feel special and that their greater sacrifice is worth the investment. They could plan a surprise visit, send flowers, play scrabble online together, write snail-mail letters or send cards.

Before it’s too late, sort out the wants underneath resentments. Then risk communication of your wants instead of hoarding them. It’s worth it, so the poison of unmet wants doesn’t leak into the relationship.

When communication fails, resentments are often what grow instead. One partner fails to say enough about how they are feeling and the other partner fails to find out what is going on. Understanding between two people can only happen from lots of dialogue.

There are three ways to look at resentment. In general, it can be said resentments are not clean, straight or true emotions, because there is always a twist. Please consider whether one or more of the following three things are true if you are feeling resentful:

  1. You are preparing yourself to feel something again, and again and again, unwilling for the feeling to pass. Hamlet is a play of resentments. Hamlet becomes a ghost of himself because he is buried in resentments. He holds himself separate from everyone and against everything.
  2. Resentments are about obligations put on you from the outside. Ask yourself who is on your back? Who do you need to shake off? Duty is to do what is due, based on your own insight. Duty is not imposed from the outside. People fail to make a distinction of what has meaning from within vs. pressure from others.
  3. Guilt is often really about perceived pressure from other people. It is really resentments hidden underneath guilt. It’s “nicer” to feel guilty because you’re only hurting yourself. Unfortunately, too many people bury themselves under tons of guilt which is suffocating.
  4. Resentments are really hoarded wants. For example: “If he/she really loved me he/she would know what I want.” The buried want is the desire for someone to love you without you having to risk anything. This is a clever way to avoid the responsibility of asking.

No matter how alike any two people are there will always be differences. Lots of talking and learning the story of how a difference has evolved in another person’s life is the only way to create respectful understanding.

The only way to heal resentments is to make time for a lot of communication that can lead to problem solving, like the example above, of long distance relationships. Dig down underneath the resentments to communicate or begin the dead-end path to bitterness.

Movies:
addiction The Prestige (2006)
Christian Bale & Hugh Jackman play bitter rival magicians in this movie directed by Christopher Nolan.


Books About Resentment

Don’t Bite the Hook: Finding Freedom from Anger, Resentment, and Other Destructive Emotions: Library Edition by Pema Chödrön

The Forgiving Self: The Road from Resentment to Connection by Robert Karen

 
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