The Self Studies team recently stepped onto the streets of Amsterdam to ask passersby, locals, expats, and tourists alike what they hold to be the most important thing in their relationship. Responses varied, but for many, communication is at the heart of their romantic relationships, with trust not far behind.
Our respondents had recognized this very simple, but often obscured truth of the importance of communication. Nevertheless, the myth often still attached to romance is that love and sex should happen spontaneously, without much talk or instruction. Many of us think that good relationships come easy and that if you are right for each other, things should just fall into place. We believe that talking about the relationship surely means that something is not right and saying what you want in sex will soon lead to the death of passion. As if communication should only happen when there is a problem. And as if once you say what you want in sex, passion fizzles out, shedding its mystery. Everyone wants a trick or five for making their relationship and their sex life better, stronger, and more alive. But not everyone is ready to learn or wants to apply the ultimate trick, hidden in plain sight - communication.
It is true that when your partner just knows certain things about you without you having to tell them, whether that is how you like your coffee or how you like your orgasms, it can be a magical experience. It can almost feel like fate and that everything between you should always be that easy. And when it is not, it might feel like something is wrong. But what we like, what we need, and what we want are things we learn about each other, not something we inherently know the moment we meet. We learn them through communication and honesty. If you don’t express your needs, they will never be met. If you fake your orgasms and don’t communicate what gets you there, your partner will never learn how to actually give you one. And if you don’t set the foundation of your relationship with intention and understanding, it will always be shaky.
Communication truly does save the day, as well as many more to come. Realizing the importance of communication in a relationship acknowledges that neither you nor your partner can read minds, and some things just need to be said. Effective communication enables you to navigate conflicts, find mutually satisfactory solutions, and establish trust through transparency. It also makes you an active participant in making your relationship the best it can be, as you become aware of both your partner’s and your own needs. Through communication, you will nurture emotional and physical intimacy by fostering the sharing of desires and needs. Misunderstandings and miscommunication make many relationships a lot more complicated and difficult than they necessarily need to be. By allowing each other to be open and honest, and to actually be heard throughout this process, you are building a solid foundation for your relationship to rely on. Communication will not bring an end to romance, it will create space for it to flourish.
However, communicating successfully does not come naturally to everyone. It takes time and patience to become vulnerable enough to ask for what you want and need, even when it is from a person closest to you. This is a skill that can be practiced and learned, both alone and together. And so is listening, which is oftentimes even more important than speaking when it comes to communication. The point to communicating successfully is not talking, it is hearing and being heard. If that is not achieved, you might just as well be speaking into the void. Thus, to achieve quality communication you must not only be ready to become vulnerable yourself, you must be ready to create a space for your partner where they too can be vulnerable, acknowledged, and heard. Successful communication requires not only to be ready to say your part, but also to hear and accept whatever your partner has to say.
This work may not be sexy and it may not seem too romantic either. But one could argue that there is really nothing more romantic and exemplary of love than choosing each other over and over again, doing your best to make it work. Working on your relationship may not be romantic as such, it might be raw and painful and sometimes downright ugly. But it will set the stage for true romance and true, deep, solid love. There is no easy trick to making your relationship or your sex life instantly better. If there were, somebody would’ve uncovered it by now. But there is conscious effort that you can put into listening and supporting your partner, as well as they you. It is a simple truth that working on your relationship actually works. It all starts with communication and ends with a strong and understanding foundation that allows your relationship to flourish.