By Anna Cummings | Contributor
Navigating the waters of a maybe-relationship, almost-relationship, new relationship or stale relationship can be pretty complicated around Valentine's Day (and always!).
A lack of meaningful communication can easily become a relationship's biggest downfall, but the effects of insufficient communication are usually much less apparent than during the Valentine's season. Marriage.com cites a lack of communication as the third most common cause for divorce, trailing only after infidelity and financial stressors, so the time to get comfortable communicating is now.In the spirit of recognizing our immeasurable value and rich identity in Christ, I'd like to call you - my brothers and sisters - out of ambiguity and fear, into a culture of open and honest communication where our focus is not on maintaining an image but on honoring each other, ourselves and God. Let's not let our desire to serve, please and stay humble keep us from enjoying the richness of relationship that God has designed us for.We put ourselves in harm's way by constantly sacrificing our own needs to maintain a relationship, prematurely making ourselves deeply vulnerable in an effort to connect and assigning disproportionate power to people who haven't earned it. We jeopardize our relationships by holding expectations that we haven't communicated, trying to ignore frustrations and seeking to blame rather than resolve when we encounter conflict.Respect yourself enough to recognize that you deserve clarity. We're all guilty of trying to read our VC's or SO's mind and respond accordingly. But, especially when you're under the impression that a relationship may be around the corner, you deserve some honest answers! Don't be afraid to bring up the hard topics first, even when it's uncomfortable.So you have some concerns about the person you've been talking to - but you don't want to give up the possibility of dating or make them feel insecure, so you convince yourself that you can figure it out on your own.
To Enneagram 8's like myself and any others who crave control, it's hard to counteract our default response to any problem: trying to fix it ourselves. But relationship studies show that problem-solving isn't always the first response we need - sometimes the other person just needs to feel heard, respected and valued.Healthy ways to address differences in expectations include using I statements, focusing on the motivations for boundaries and genuinely seeking to understand your partner's perspective rather than just trying to change his or her mind.To share my counselor's constant encouragement: Get curious. Ask yourself why you're feeling the way you are, or what past experiences might be informing a response that feels inappropriate at present. Going into a conversation with a measure of self-awareness will create a more positive, meaningful experience for both parties.If you're harboring resentment or anger over an unmet need or a violation of trust - come to the conversation with a healthy level of self-respect, but bring along your understanding and empathy, too. Study result analysis by psychotherapist Esther Perel has shown how we approach the conversation makes a bigger difference in the relationship's outcome than the specifics of the conflict we're dealing with.Everyone praises a good listener, but explore what it means to be a good sharer, too. It requires a boldness and confidence we often struggle to express, but we grow and learn in practice. Do some prayerful self-seeking, ask your friends for support, pray for wisdom and approach that special someone. Honesty is, after all, the best policy.