Building communication strategies with my partner
First time poster here 🙋🏼♂️.
I have suffered from anxiety and depression for most of my life, stemming from physical abuse as a child, and this has manifested itself in relationship issues.
Over the last 6 months I have been seeing a psychologist to help me overcome these issues, but 2 months ago I had a breakdown and broke up with my partner, who I have been with for the past 2 years.
It was a huge wakeup call for me that I need to really double down on my efforts to overcome these crippling demons and I've added things like practicing mindfulness and journalling into my daily routine.
My (now former) partner is incredibly understanding and supportive and we have agreed to once a week catch ups to see if she's willing to try again (I certainly am), but a huge thing for her is to build an effective communication strategy so as I don't bottle things up in future and we end up in the same place again where I just flip and call things off.
My question is, has anyone got any particular strategies they use to openly and honestly communicate with their partner to help them? I'm really determined to beat this and be with the woman I love so now matter how left-field you think a suggestion may be, I'm keen to hear it. I'm just trying to find out how we can stay strong in the future.
Thank you 🙂
welcome to the forum . It is a supportive place.
Thanks for telling your story and being honest
Have you both considered seeing a relationship counsellor together.
I think learning communication skills together is a useful skill.
I think communication skills take time and understanding and patience.
I know I have some bad coping mechanisms that make for bad communication. Once aware of them I gained insight and could try a different way. Honesty is important.
Hi and welcome (and *waves to quirky*)
- it sounds like this person means a lot to you.
- It also take strength and courage to post on a forum like this.
- glancing at your post, is your partner the aware of what you have been through and the effects it has on you?
From my own experience, there are times when I will feel like not doing something because of how I feel, and would prefer to be alone. I know my psych(s) tell me those activities can be good distractions as well! Our minds play tricks on us!
What I can also say is this person is not the same as the people from your childhood days. And here is where leap of faith is needed... to be able to be vulnerable to tell your partner what you are going through.
I would and still say to my wife "I know this will sound stupid but this is what is on my mind...". For me, things that are do not make sense logically can have this adverse affect. After the conversation it is like a weight lifted from me and my wife is not the same as those who ....
It is hard. This I know. I am also hopeful this person would be able with the sit with you in that moment with empathy and compassion and to borrow a line from Brene Brown ... not deriving any power from that.
Welcome to the forums and thank you for being here. This is something I can definitely relate to so I'm going to try not to babble on too much but you can definitely ask me questions anytime.
Do you know what causes the communication breakdowns? What is it that gets to you and makes you want to bottle things up?
For me, I've had to do a lot of processing and a lot of talking. My own trauma history has meant that I've been on edge a lot, and I've had to try and relearn that it's safe now, which is really hard. So I have to be really honest about what it's like for me and how I'm experiencing the world, even if it's so different.
A lot of the conversations that I'll have will feel so vulnerable and awful, but I have to say, "this is where I'm at. This is what's happening for me" and "this is what I need"- because that might be taking some time away to process things, or putting a total pause on an argument so we don't say anything to regret later.
The other part of this is having her do this too, and noticing and calling out "I feel like you're pulling away from us" "I've noticed we aren't talking as much lately" - using the I feels and the I needs can be a really effective strategy no matter what situation you find yourselves in.
I hope this helps a little
Thank you for your points, she means the world to me, which I why I'm so committed to creating a viable solution with her for the future. I don't quite feel courageous or brave to be honest, I'm still struggling with what those emotions really mean to me and even that should apply to me. My partner was never fully aware of the extent of everything (both the past and how it's affected me) as I kept a lot of it hidden for so long, but I've opened up since my breakdown and she's coming to understand and, importantly, wants to understand as well.
It's really reassuring to know that others also need to start a sentence with " I know this will sound stupid, but...". I've often felt self conscious when needing to add this prefix to a statement so honestly, thank you that. I also have the same issue with emotions not following logical sense and it annoys the heck outta me!
Finally, I'd never heard of Brene Brown until your post and after googling her, her Ted Talk really struck a chord with me...I can't wait to watch her Netflix show tonight!
For me the communication breaks down from my side because, to be honest, it still feels like it's a weakness within me and due to my trauma any hint of weakness and vulnerability effectively feels like I'm inviting danger (as showing weakness often used to be fuel for his aggression). In addition to that I'm worried she'd judge me and think less of me for being that weak person. I know both of those are illogical and she would never truly be like that, but as I alluded to briefly in my reply to smallwolf, logic and emotion don't often play well together.
The feeling of being on edge you described is exactly how I've felt my entire life. I'd be curious to know how you found the courage to take the leap of faith into the uncertain and allowed yourself to be vulnerable, if you're comfortable to share? Like, on a scale of 1-10, how sure were you that it wouldn't backfire? (I'm always looking for a quantifiable measure - numbers are certain and safe haha)
She has recognised in herself that she also needs to call things out better than before as well and I like the strategy of sticking to the "I feel" and "I need", I think that could be very useful. Thank you for that
Thank you for your reply, it's really good to hear back from you. I could be off base here but does that mean that holding things together and not showing your feelings feels stronger to you? Like a shield maybe?
Yeah sure. So for me, it was 1 out of 10, in that I was absolutely sure that it would backfire. I didn't feel safe at all and I constantly constantly had the sense that the relationship was going to end. I genuinely felt like a terrible partner, just too much work really and literally anyone else would be a better choice. Pretty low self-esteem! I guess I was almost thinking 'well they're going to leave me anyway, so I might as well share it'.
Brene Brown really helped me too - she has a lot of books and if you're a reader I encourage you to try them out. It's really really hard to be vulnerable and to let people see you but it really is worth it. It might not even seem that way, but it's brave of you to join the forums and share this with us. It's one way of being vulnerable - posting on the forums when you don't know how people are going to respond, but hopefully it feels worth it being here.
That's exactly it. Previously I've always had a mindset of "if I don't show the feelings, you can deny them and hide them" clearly this was never going to work my whole life, and I think part of me knew that, but it also seemed utterly incomprehensible to try the other way, which was to open up and be vulnerable. I chose to deny any kind of literature of even data that showed the complete opposite because I was so afraid (and still am) of what might happen should I actually embrace it.
Wow, thank you for sharing that "score", it's amazing that you found the strength to still run at the challenge and I really respect it. For me I felt exactly the same score wise and around my value as a partner but instead of going "well, let's take a shot" I wasn't brave enough and went for "why would I bother if it's just going to lead to heartache"...not realising that's where it was going to lead if I made that choice anyways. Did anything in particular make you think "screw it, let's take the shot, over continuing to deny things?
I'm not a huge reader but I'm trying to give it a shot. I just bought "mindfulness for dummies" after I saw it recommended in another post to try and help me with my practice and I smashed the awesome "Finding happiness through gratitude empathy and empathy" in one day - which I would highly recommend. Having watched her Netflix show last night though I'm really going to try and get into it her more as I think it could be beneficial. Thank you for helping.
I think that it's probably worth honouring that part of "If I don't show them.." - it's there for a reason and even though you may know so many things logically I actually think it's helped to protect you and keep you safe. When we're vulnerable, it's frankly terrifying, and it's okay to not be ready yet or to have a little ambivalence there. Especially when you have a history of abuse it's kind of like you needed that mindset to protect yourself.
Oh thank you for your comments and kind words; they're so appreciated.
I think for me, the 'screw it, let's take a shot' wasn't about running at the challenge, but trying to dip my toe in the water a little bit (hope you don't mind the metaphor). If you and your partner were stuck in x pattern for example, what might it be like to do y instead? I think vulnerability comes in the little things and feeling safe (or trying to be) has been a big part of that. Plus a lot of therapy!
There was this concept that I found while reading once and it's called the choice point, where you have to make a choice between going one way or the other - one direction might be your usual behaviour and the other side is a new one or a different one. The idea is that can you sit with all of your feelings and keep going in the life that you really want, even if those feelings are painful or excruciating?
I hope that you like the book - the finding happiness one has been on my to read list for a while so I'll have to bump it up to the top
Just a quick post...
my psychologist tell me to watch the Brene Brown stuff with my wife. That way we can also talk about what we seen and perhaps practice it to some degree.
You might also be able find her books online in your local library? I know I can borrow them without needing to buy as such.