If you spend even a little time reading up on what makes a relationship work, you’ll come across a lot of advice on improving communication. Happy couples have good communication, right?
Well, yes. But are they happy because they have good communication, or do they have good communication because they’re happy?
A recent study from the University of Georgia[i] confirms that good communication and romantic success DO go hand in hand. But good communication seems to be a side effect of relationship success, not the reason for it.
Think of it like this.
If you’re fit and healthy, you likely exercise and eat right. While being in shape makes it easier to choose to hit the gym, you don’t work out because you’re already in shape. Rather, being in shape is one of the results of regular exercise and a smart diet.
Good communication happens when there’s already a special foundation built on something deeper than just conversation. To go beyond mere communication, you need a unique and powerful kind of intimacy.
Psychologist Douglas LaBier calls this level of romantic intimacy “Radical Transparency.”[ii] Radical transparency happens when two people are able to really be themselves around each other, totally open and honest at all times.
If you want to take your relationship to that level, you’ll need to do two things.
1. Good Communication Requires You To Be Open About Yourself.
This happens on two levels. The first impression level, and then a deeper level.
It’s important to put your best foot forward, especially at the beginning of a relationship. But casting yourself in the best possible light should never involve deception.
Here’s an easy example. Don’t use a picture from 10 years ago on your dating profile.
At a deeper level, being open about yourself means being candid about what you really want in this life, but also the ways you’ve failed to live up your dreams. It’s just more relatable than painting a perfect picture of who you are.
Here are some examples of what I mean:
- What’s something you want to achieve that you haven’t succeeded with yet?
- What is one character trait you want others to see in you even though you willingly admit you’re not there yet?
- What’s something you want to go after in life, but you haven’t yet because of the way fear holds you back?
Talking about those things will also encourage him to share the same kind of stuff with you. When he does…
2. Be Receptive As Your Guy Reveals Himself To You.
This is the other side of the coin.
It feels good to be heard and to be validated. Guys may not talk much about their feelings, but they want acceptance and validation just as much as you do.
And the whole thing is cyclical. Just like being open with him will encourage him to open up to you. Being receptive when he shares, will encourage him to be receptive toward you. This is radical transparency in action.
It’s painfully easy to miss important opportunities to be receptive.
For example, if he gets excited about his new smartphone, you might be tempted to roll your eyes and say, “Boys and their toys.” But that’s not being receptive. Instead, be the person he can share his passions with, both great and small. Especially when he reveals the “little boy” that is still a part of who he is.
Good communication is important. It certainly plays a vital role in maintaining a successful relationship. But it’s not a romantic cure-all.
The real secret to relationship success is radical transparency. You should be able to be yourself around your guy, and he needs to be able to be himself. Not only that, but you both need to accept and validate one another.
Master that and good communication will follow every time.