What helps you to 'have a voice' in your relationship?

Having a voice is fundamental in healthy relationships. It's the ability to speak freely about issues that concern you, being able to influence your partner to change when her/his actions are affecting you negatively. It's also about building trust - voicing your hopes and dreams, and at times - being able to entrust your most vulnerable thoughts and feelings with the one you love.

Too often, when couples come to counselling, either one or both are feeling that they've lost their voice in the relationship. If you are feeling this way, you may be experiencing the following:-

  • You don't initiate a conversation about things that are bothering you, or even about things that you're interested in, because you're unsure if your partner will be willing to hear about what you've got to say.
  • You have become a lot MORE talkative in your relationship - you say more, and at times you say it more loudly. You may even change the type of language you're using to words that are hurtful and damaging to your partner - out of a desparate attempt to have your loved one hear what you're trying to say. It's like you're speaking in a sound-proof bubble; no matter what you say, your partner is not able to hear you.

It can be very hard to understand that when your partner has gone quiet, or alternatively s/he is constantly trying to talk/yell/get your attention, that s/he may be having the experience of having lost her/his voice in your relationship. If you and/or your partner are feeling this way, it might help to try the following:-

  • Ask your partner to make a time to talk. Make sure this time will be free of interruptions, is in a private space, and is at a time where both of you are not overly tired or stressed.
  • Invite your partner to speak to you about her/his world - what's exciting, what's difficult, what's s/he dreaming about, what are her/his hopes and wishes for life right now?
  • Listen actively - ask questions that encourage your partner to say more. Show you're interested in the way you respond - think about your body language and your tone of voice here, as much as anything you might say.
  • When your partner has had a real chance to have her/his voice heard by you, ask them to listen to what's going on for you. Start with the positives - what is engaging and interesting you right now in your world. Ask her/him directly to listen actively to you. If you need to talk about things that are bothering you, ease in to them gently if you think they might be hard for your partner to hear, and be careful that the words you use are about how you feel and think, not about what's wrong with them.

Having a voice in our most intimate relationship is like sun and water to a plant - our relationship can't thrive without it!


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