I happen to be surrounded by many individuals who are looking for that perfect someone to complete them. They often wonder if they are applying the right filters in their selection process. What should they be looking for in that person?
In my heart the answer is rather simple. The strongest predictor of a lasting and happy relationship is the ease with which you communicate with each other. This applies to all relationships not just your spouse. Is your communication effortless, like breathing? If yes, you are bound to be happy together.
Lets keep aside all other factors that make relationships last, for example, social contract, history, inertia, fear of change, social reputation, family bonding, and blood relations. Now try to put your finger on what really matters. Happiness. In a relationship, happiness is defined by healthy communication. Even your silence or sheer presence communicates. A deeper comfort in communication comes with time but it must come, and when you choose a person you are betting on the arrival of that comfort and not on settling for anything less.
People often confuse love with happiness. All relationships are based on birth or on some kind of love whether it comes from chemistry or a shared experience. Often when things go wrong, people question the love. I think they should question happiness. For example, you will always love your parents. Yet we all know some adults who have very bitter and unhappy relationships with their father or mother. You won’t learn much by asking “Do you still love me?” Instead you need to ask, “Are you happy?”. The answer for the latter is usually binary.
So, what defines healthy communication that leads to lasting happiness? I am no expert but a few simple questions can reveal the dynamics.
- Would either of you feel uncomfortable if you “agree to disagree” on some matters?
- Do you need to justify a feeling? Response to feelings is very crucial in any relationship. Who wants to hear – “How can you feel this way?” When you would rather hear – “Think about it for a few days. Does it still feel the same? How do we change it?” Cultivating this response takes time but an emotionally intelligent person will slowly realize how to respond to feelings.
- Do either of you perceive silence is used as a weapon? Think about how you both use silence. It can be beautiful if used as a gift or devastating if used as a weapon. You can enjoy working silently on the same sofa yet love the fact that you’re not alone. In a fight, you can choose to silently observe and listen while the other person vents. In these cases, you gifted silence to each other. On the other hand, if you go silent out of anger, or prevent further dialogue, or create a tussle around “who breaks the silence”, then you are using it as a weapon, and rest assured there will be emotional destruction in the period of silence. The erosion may be invisible after the eventual patch up but over time it’s a “silent” killer.
- Do you feel the need to expose an ongoing fight in a public setting, or in the presence of an outsider?
- Do you worry if either of you expressed a brutally honest opinion on each other’s work? For example, “I think you did not work hard.”
- Do either of you believe that past mistakes matter more than present intentions? Life restarts every moment. No relationship is perfect on day one.
- Does your relationship’s existence negatively impact other relationships in each other’s life?
- And finally, do either of you perceive that your communication is not healthy? In a relationship, perception is reality.
Communication is about an effortless and cleansing flow of ideas and emotions. These questions identify situations or attitudes that disrupt the flow. Consider a current or future relationship that is important to you. If you emphatically answered (or predicted) “NO” to the above questions, then I’ll bet money that your relationship is for keeps, and is not dependent on a personal need, or on the absence of mistakes, or on an external factor.
I strongly believe you can communicate your way to lasting love and happiness. Occasionally circumstances or your arrogance makes you unknowingly breed unhappiness. But eventually you will perceive the truth and will always seek out the person who makes you happy.