Welcome to a brand new column series discussing sexual and relationship health, wellness, and education. We’ll be touching on topics ranging from consent to toys for all bodies, to STI prevention, to healthy boundaries in relationships!
We’re going to start off with a keystone part of any interaction, be it casual or intimate: communication.
In an informal poll of 100 mental health professionals, it was found that 65% of relationships end due to poor communication. The inability to communicate and/or the stigma of open communication contributes to poor mental health and access to resources. While queer couples have a trend of being better at communication than their heterosexual peers, the stress of intersecting identities and trauma-driven communication can increase overall stress in the relationship and the people in it.
Signs of poor communication can include talking about the same conflict over and over without resolution. Maybe a majority of your discussions devolve into arguments, or you invalidate or are being invalidated. Assuming what the other person is thinking or feeling and using ‘you statements,’ and being fearful or stressed to bring up specific topics are all signs that communication has suffered.
When it comes to improving communication, the biggest hurdle is just to talk. Find the time to have conversations with people and partners about conflicts, their day: to check in. While life is overwhelmingly busy, making intentional time to talk and connect with your friends, partners, and loved ones is a huge step in communicating well.
It’s also important to keep the focus on both parties in the conversation. If it’s a conflict-related conversation, keeping the focus on the issue instead of the person is also essential, with exceptions for abusive situations and people. Using ‘I’ statements, stating your needs, listening actively, clarifying the confusing parts are all bits and pieces of effective communication.
If you’re afraid of mixed messages or not being heard, then say that! Communication is a lot of talking, so don’t be afraid to say, “I want to clarify.” Honest, vulnerable conversations are hard work, but the rewards are worth it.
Healthy communication forms the bedrock of consent, bonding, healing, and relationships of all kinds. Being able to communicate your limits, identity, stresses, and needs to a partner or friend is an indispensable tool.
Next week, we will delve into what consent is and why it’s important in more than just sex.
Jayme D. Tucker is a journalist, writer, and performer settled on unceded Syilx territory. They're queer, tall, and tired of answering all the same token questions when they come out; So they're answering those questions and more for thehub.LGBT Kelowna. They've written for Daily Hive Calgary, won a scholarship for fiction writing with Eat North, and is the founder of The Queer Agenda, a non-profit social group focused on sober friendly, all-ages networking for LGBTQ2IA+ individuals (currently on COVID hiatus).