Written by: Nancy Elliott, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
The idea that communication is the key to a successful relationship is the most commonly held ‘myth’ circulated worldwide by relationship experts.
As a result, this ‘myth’ has become deeply embedded within the ‘Psychology of relating.’ Unfortunately, this means experts in the field take a myopic view on what tools are critical for cultivating a loving and successful long-term relationship.
For over 10 years, I have been an accredited Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist in Private Practice; my specialization is working with women, and I love my job. Day in, day out, I watch as my clients sit opposite me, utterly crushed and totally overcome with despair.
All because they have a core belief, whether conscious or unconscious, that their relationship must be over if the communication has broken down or is lacking in certain areas.
I remain steadfastly optimistic and explain to my clients at this point that sometimes, the breakdown of communication is precisely what a relationship might need to grow to its next level.
I recommend that they reframe the meaning that they are giving to this issue. Perhaps, the conflicts they are experiencing around communication indicate that the relationship is trying to reconfigure itself anew and requires that the individuals work towards adjusting themselves accordingly.
In her influential book ‘Women Who Run With The Wolves’ Jungian Psychoanalyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes describes how fundamental it is to accept the life/death cycle in our relationships.
“If one wishes to be fed for life, one must face and develop a relationship with the Life/Death/Life nature. When we have that, we are no longer bumbling around fishing for fantasies, but are made wise about the necessary deaths and startling births that create true relationships”.
I too, was once held under the spell of the ‘communication myth’ and was initially counseling my clients to try to ‘talk it over’ in various ways. It wasn’t until I became a more seasoned clinician and gained more experience in my own relationships that I started to see the flaws in the idea that communication is the key to a good relationship.
I realized that many people I knew had a deep love and respect for each other but just couldn’t seem to see eye to eye on some or many things. While this was causing conflict and a stuckness for them, it was by no means an indication that the relationship lacked love or the ingredients to make it long term.
These relationships were far from over, I thought. There must be another way to move past the blocks presenting themselves in relationships due to a lack of communication and the meaning we are giving it.
In the end, it was a combination of the work I did in my clinical practice, the failures and successes in my own relationships, along with the research evidence I gathered over the years, that enabled me to identify a mismatch between how effective this ‘communication is key myth’ was, in actually resolving the challenges we face around communication breakdowns in our relationships; and, what tools are actually working in the lives of people, to effectively help them transcend their particular issues around communicating with their loved ones.
It became clear that we had to ditch the idea that our relationship health is hinged on our ability to communicate with our partner. The fact is, there are some issues that no amount of well-meaning smart talk between two people who love each other can resolve or surmount. Ask anyone who’s in a long-term relationship.
This is because relationships are enormously complex. Wherever two disparate elements are attempting a long term merger or synthesis, complications will arise. Such an emphasis on communication as the fulcrum of our relational success is, therefore, an oversimplification. It is also dangerous and misleading.
Want the good news? There is a way to transcend the differences inherent in our relationships without good communication, and that is through good old fashioned love. I mean, the Unconditional kind of love.
Now, take a deep breath, channel Joe cocker, and repeat after me, “love lifts us where we belong."
I admit, unconditional love is a rather vague and sweeping method to apply as a concrete technique to one's relationship problems. So, let us get specific. If communication is not the key to a successful relationship, then what exactly is it?
“The most critical tool necessary for a relationship to succeed longterm is Acceptance. Acceptance is the first step towards unconditional love. Of oneself and of others."
Unlike depending on the prospect of good communication with those we love, acceptance doesn’t seek resolution or understanding from the other. It is an inside job. Now, this is really rather prudent because, let’s face it, we can’t control a single thing that others will do, think or feel about us and vice versa. We can’t change anyone. We cannot control whether those we love can respond to our needs adequately or to what degree they have the emotional language we require to feel sufficiently loved or acknowledged by them. We are powerless in this regard.
Acceptance, on the other hand, gives us total power. It is the stance that enables us to love unconditionally. We can then emotionally detach from investing too heavily in how those we love behave and love them anyway. Think about a parent's love for their child.
Acceptance puts us in the driving seat of our own emotions and feelings. This means we get to love the people we love just the way they are, which is precisely how it should be. Plus, we get to be really kind to ourselves by not being consistently wounded when someone we love doesn’t want to do things our way. Remember, it’s never personal.
Now take a deep breath, channel Barry White, and repeat after me. “Don’t go changing, to try and please me. I love you just the way you are."
Nancy Elliott, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Nancy Elliott is a leading Single women’s influencer specializing in relationships. She is a high performing 1-1 and group Coach offering programs ranging from 3 months to 1 year. Nancy's childhood was shaped by 3 generations of women who struggled with low self-worth and co-dependency. She inherited these traits and struggled with relationships. Determined to break this family cycle, Nancy created strategies, tools, and techniques to dramatically enhance and cultivate a strong and loving relationship with herself. She has since dedicated her life to helping women deepen self-love and self-worth; also to deepen wisdom and expand their capacity to love and be loved.
Nancy says "When a woman releases egoic structures of grandiosity or victimization, she experiences a psychic and somatic shift, from victimized or traumatized self, to an intentional and generative relationship with herself.
She will automatically begin to show up powerfully; with new stronger boundaries. This is when the magic begins, from this deeper center, and now she can create the extraordinary relationships she always knew she was capable of”
And so it is.