All relationships are compilations of the past, the present, and the upcoming future. There is no accurate communication possible if both partners do not acknowledge all three as they attempt to connect. What happened before always affects what is happening now and how that will alter or change the future.
Too soon in many communication processes, one partner begins to overtalk the other or share more than the other can take in. The attempt at connection becomes a competition to be heard and neither will be able to listen.
As relationships mature, both partners will experience triggers from each other that activate past traumas. The closer people get to each other, the more unresolved or painful experiences from the past will work their way to the surface.
If there is to be a true connection, both partners must put all else aside, focus on only each other, and commit to listening and learning without judgment or defensiveness.
Before either partner takes offense, feels defensive, or pushes back in any way, they need to ask the other what the word or phrase means to them, where it came from, and what they are trying to share when they use it.
In almost all cultures, most intimate communication is not about words but how they are conveyed. Children immediately know when a parent is angry or burdened by their facial expression, body language, voice intonation, and rhythm. The phrase, “Of course I love you,” can communicate irritation, dismissal, or reassurance depending on those non-verbal cues.
There is no faster way to lose a listener that to talk at them, rather than to them or about them. Successful communicators sense immediately when the other partner is no longer able to take more in and acknowledge this.
To create a communication process that deepens and becomes richer over time, both partners must live in the minds and hearts of each other in every phrase they share. If you slap a child, you should simultaneously feel the slap on your own face at the same time.
Partners who trust one another know that the other is always tuned in, monitoring how the other is receiving that communication and including that awareness in what they say. No one is perfect, and sometimes hurt and anger block that desire to feel the effect of a behavior on the other, but that absence of mutual experience must be acknowledged.
That doesn’t mean the license to rehash the past to try to get a different outcome in the present. But it does mean talking about what precedes the current communication task and where both partners want to end up at the end of sharing something together.