The Most Important Thing in a Relationship is This.

Asking what defines a successful relationship is like asking what makes a perfectly baked cake.

Every ingredient gives the cake its excellence. Same goes for relationships—various components have to come together to ensure the success of a relationship.

So what defines a good relationship? There is a myriad of answers. To name a few: trust, respect, self-love, honesty, safety, teamwork, compromise, understanding, connection.

But there is one thing that sets the tone for all of these: communication.

The Buddhist view of relationships is something that has always intrigued me. According to Buddhists, romantic relationships are likely to fail because of misunderstandings and misconceptions between partners.

When I reflected on that notion in regards to my own experiences (and other people’s), I found that it’s surprisingly true. The greater part of relationships is built on misunderstandings. Most of the time, we make an assumption about what our partner is feeling or thinking, and we act accordingly. Simultaneously, we create the same assumptions in our partner’s mind. We either fall silent, or we communicate our needs in an unhealthy way that prevents the listener from receiving them well.

For instance, we might feel that our partner is ignoring us, whereas they think they’re giving us the attention we need. This sort of misunderstanding could lead to cheating or to the disruption of connection between both partners. Another example is to assume that we understand our partner or what they need. This could lead to a clash between what we think our partner needs and what they truly need.

That said, miscommunication promotes misunderstandings—which, in return, leads to the failure of all the things that I have mentioned above, including trust, self-love, honesty, and teamwork.

That is why couple’s therapy tends to work. Not because they involve a professional counselor, but because the counselor pushes the couples to talk. In the session, partners communicate to each other about their feelings and concerns. As a result, problems are identified and discussed.

Communication might not stop relationships from failing, but it definitely puts them back on the right track. Even in moments of separation, partners with good communication skills separate in a healthy way, without future delusions or speculations.

I know how challenging it can be to talk about certain things in a relationship. Oftentimes, we’re unable to utter the words that are perfectly written in our minds. Perhaps we’re scared to come off as needy, controlling, jealous, or oversensitive—or maybe we’re simply scared to not get the result we hope for. In a previous relationship I was in years ago, my former partner called me crazy and oversensitive every time I tried to communicate my concerns. This, in return, did drive me crazy—and it often ended up with name calling and insults.

Having said that, remember that it takes two to tango. A simple conversation could drift to blaming, judging, playing the victim, and demeaning the other person’s needs if one of the partners is doing it wrong. The receiver is as important as the one talking.

So how can we create a healthy atmosphere for a proper communication?

Detaching from our ego.

“But what does my ego have to do with this?” Our ego runs the show when it comes to our inability to communicate. The ego loathes failure, likes to play the victim, and thinks that it knows. (These are the three main hindrances for miscommunication.)

If we want our relationship to succeed, we have to be willing to communicate. We might be too lazy to talk or underestimate the power of talking, so we drop the conversation altogether. Know that communication not only helps to clear out concerns, but it also helps partners to stay connected.

There is a thin line between a discussion and an argument.

So what truly differentiates the two? Discussion is about listening and understanding. Arguments are all about trying to prove yourself right. Arguments don’t really lead anywhere in relationships—they only make things worse.

In order to keep a discussion healthy, we need to gather as much information as possible and receive it in a mindful way. For example, if our partner feels ignored, we can respond in two ways. The first way is to ask them why they feel ignored, or what we have done to bring forth those emotions. The other way is to argue that it could not possibly be true, since we’re sure we’re not ignoring our partner.

The latter is likely to turn into an argument, and it gives birth to unresolved conflicts. If we’re the one communicating, let’s be honest and clear. If we’re receiving the talk, let’s put our own emotions aside, listen, and understand what is being communicated to us.

It all boils down to how you communicate.

Stay aware of your voice tone as you speak. Are you being defensive or extremely passive-aggressive? Are you using “I” and “me” more than “we”? Do you want things done your own way because you think you’re right?

Always remember that how we communicate speaks louder than the words themselves. When speaking your concerns, try to show your partner that you’re doing this for the success of the relationship—and not just because you need it to be done. Additionally, don’t forget to mention your partner’s positive traits when you’re communicating that you want something to be improved within the relationship. Balance is key.

Essentially, let’s not assume or try to read our partner’s mind. Whenever we feel we’re falling into the grip of disillusionment, we must pick ourselves up again and revert to communication.


author: Elyane Youssef

Image: Unsplash/Christin Hume

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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Aline Bangert Nov 19, 2018 4:59pm

Thank you. So true!

Ron Laswell Jun 7, 2018 4:03pm

As an empathic male, I've noticed that many women don't like men who can talk openly about their feelings. That was especially true of my 2 previous marriages. So over the years, I have noticed as the author says, that openly talking about feelings or whatever is crucial. The last relationship I had was with a younger woman who did not lie, but wasn't telling all of the pertinent facts that would have helped me understand her better. Like not telling me that she took antidepressants daily. It was 4 months before she admitted that. But then again, it was 4 years before she admitted how much she was drinking. I thought we were just having a casual glass of wine, until one day I had to take her to the local hospital's ICU for kidney failure. She came "this close" to dying, and THEN admitted that she was drinking about 5 bottles of wine a day. So even though I say I'm empathic, it amazes me how big of a fool I was not to see it. Honest communication, and not hiding the truth of oneself is very difficult for some people to admit to.

Jennifer Evangelista Jun 6, 2018 4:13pm

Everything written here is true to a certain extent. I agree with Matty's comment. Differences in communication are hard bridges to gap. You can try and try and try and try, but when it comes to the point where you have to spend so much energy on you worrying about your tone of voice, facial expressions and what can be implied from it, assumed from it- it's like walking on eggshells. I'm not saying that you shouldn't take care to be sensitive about things but some things are just a part of who a person.is. I, for instance, have been told that I sound condescending. That may be true. It certainly isn't my intention to come off that way and it certainly isn't what I'm thinking about the other person when I'm speaking. While I have learned to tread carefully with this particular person, I cannot change everything about who I am down to my tone of voice. Ironically, when I'm spoken to in what I could consider a condescending tone somehow it's justified by the speaker. Double standards make it hard to have effective communication. It is difficult to open up a discussion with a person who is reactive only, focused on his own needs rather than the ultimate goal of the particular issue to be discussed. For instance, a casual question about whether one will have half of the rent this month (with great pains taken as to tone of voice, facial expression and the like) sets the other person off, perhaps triggers him into a reactive state which includes defensively aggressive comments or just a frenzy of anxiety, how do I handle this? To ignore it means to never mention his financial obligations promised to the relationship (I've been dealing with this for six years) To bring it up however calmly, results into a disportionately charged situation where I'm left feeling like I'm responsible for causing his reaction. It can't just be one person trying to let go of ego/based behavior to overcome these situations. So it's not about blaming the other person. It's realizing and accepting that person's limitations and deciding if it's worth the energy exerted to keep trying. You're right Matty. Good looks in a man may mean he can get the dates but it doesn't mean that he knows how to keep them and to love them. Thank you for the read, both the article and the comment.

Matty Beaulieu Jun 6, 2018 8:45am

My ex-boyfriend and I always had different styles of communication. I listen to his frustrations but when it's my turn to express my frustrations he takes off for hours leaving me all alone without being heard, he doesn't care to listen to me. So, where do you suppose I am going to do? There is a thing called "the last straw that broke the camel's back", which means eventually I had no choice but to close the door on this relationship because he treated me like he just wanted to ignore me. No one likes to be ignored, that obviously pushes people away onto the arms of another person. If that other person is a good man who knows how to talk to me, then you can surely bet I will make him the happiest man alive because I won't take a guy like that for granted. Men with egos can't seem to understand that a man's good looks can only get you dates but it is not what gets you love.

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Elyane Youssef

Elyane S. Youssef is an extraterrestrial who was given birth by Earthlings. While living on planet Earth, she fell in love with art, books, nature, writing, photography, traveling, and…pizza. Elyane finds her joy in backpacking and bonding with locals. To see the faces she interacts with on her travels, you can follow Face of the World on Instagram. Besides getting on and off planes, she is in a serious relationship with words and hopes to inspire as many people as possible through them. Once her mission is accomplished on Earth, she will return to her planet to rejoin her extraterrestrial brothers and sisters. In case you’re wondering, yes, she is still willingly obsessed with Frida Kahlo. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. You can also check out her macrame art on Instagram.