The three most important aspects of a healthy relationship are…communication, communication, and communication.* Okay, so there is a lot more that goes into maintaining a healthy relationship, but I just want to emphasize how important effective communication really is (so important, in fact, that I expect I will be creating multiple posts on this topic in the future).
In order for communication to be effective it needs to be two-way, constant, and not hurtful. You both need to communicate with each other—if you do all the talking, and he never responds, then you can only get halfway there. You also need constant communication. I don’t mean non-stop talking, but I do mean communicating during the good, the bad, and the everyday parts of life. If you only talk when there is a problem, then you’re likely to have difficulty in sharing and receiving information from each other. Your communication must also not be hurtful. Yes, sometimes you have to say things that will hurt, but the goal should always be to build each other up and to build the relationship. Never say things just to hurt the other person, no matter how upset you are.
Effective communication should also be open, honest, and vulnerable. I believe this is important in all types of relationships, but especially in a romantic one. You should be able to talk about everything. How are you feeling emotionally, physically? You need to talk about sex, including all of the gory details—what hurts more, what helps reduce the pain, what do you need to stop doing, what do you want to try? If you can’t be completely open, honest and vulnerable with someone then you shouldn’t be having sex with him either (and be honest with yourself as well…are you really being completely open with him?).
Keep in mind that this is a blog about lessons I have learned and advice I should have headed myself. My marriage never included effective communication. I was not open about my pain at first. This left him not knowing what was going on with me, and making his own assumptions such as thinking I just wasn’t interested in sex, period. Then, even when I did tell him about the pain, I don’t think I was clear enough so that he could really understand the extent of it. Sex became an issue in our marriage early on, and he never wanted to talk about it. Whenever I tried to bring it up in hopes of working through some of the issues and finding potential solutions and ways to handle the pain problem, it ended up becoming a fight (I use the term “fight” loosely as we rarely argued but rather got upset and ceased communication altogether). It got to the point that we could never even begin the discussion because it was already an issue before the first word was ever spoken.
Thus, I can’t really tell you from personal experience what a healthy relationship with effective communication looks like. But I do know how important communication is and what happens when it is not effective. My personal lesson here is that I should have started practicing effective communication much earlier (as in, before we even got married), and I should have expected it from him as well. Every marriage, and every relationship for that matter, will encounter problems. In my case, and perhaps in yours, the problem was painful sex. But no matter the issue, effective communication is vital to working through and overcoming it.
*Fun fact: I still remember the question I got wrong on my Intro to Business class regarding the three most important considerations for a successful business…location, location, location (just thought I would share the inspiration behind my title).