Effective couples communication is central to a healthy marriage/relationship—and often the biggest challenge to communicating lies in our ability to effectively share our inner world with another person, a world inhabited by our feelings, thoughts, perspectives, desires, goals, needs…
Whether we’re aware of it or not, we often use metaphors and analogies when communicating. We rely on them to describe the subtleties and nuances of our experiences. They add dynamic color and richness to what we’re trying to express, providing greater clarity and adding communication “oomph” when we’re trying to drive home a point or when we want to impact the listener in a particular way.
Analogies also have the power to enrich our understanding of ourselves—they force us to go deeper into ourselves, to connect more fully to the experience we are trying to share.
Relationship Help: The Communicative Power of Analogy
Metaphor and analogies can also help couples communicate more effectively when used as a tool for self-expression.
Examples of the expressive power of analogies and metaphors:
- We have a solid foundation that I find emotionally grounding;
- Our sex life is great…it’s often fiery and, at other times, it’s a slow burn. Both of these work for me;
- He reminds me of a calm lake that centers me emotionally;
- John and I are on the same page;
- We’ve achieved such a wonderful harmony and balance in our marriage, like a symphony;
- I feel like I’m flying when we’re together.
- We’re always fighting. It’s like we are caught in a hurricane;
- When I think of the relationship, what do I feel? Unfortunately I feel ice-cold;
- When I talk to you I feel like I’m drowning–nothing I say seems to matter;
- I’m constantly walking on egg shells around you…;
- There’s such a wall between us. How can we lower it?;
- I can’t breathe when you question my every move; I feel like I’m sinking in emotional quick-sand.
The first thing you might notice when reading the above statements is how the use of analogies and metaphors create vivid images in our mind, as well as stirring feelings associated with those images. Metaphoric descriptions impact both the speaker (who must create the analogy/metaphor) and the listener (who receives it).
Note the difference in these statements:
“I don’t like the way you’ve been talking to me lately” versus “I feel run over when you speak to me like that.”
“I feel great when we’re together” versus “You make me feel brand new, like a million bucks.”
While both statements in the above examples communicate a similar message, the second message in each pairing is more likely to have a bigger emotional impact on the listener, which can be helpful when you’re trying to let your partner know the effect s/he is having on you (whether you’re describing a positive or negative impact).
Relationship Help Action Step:
- Which analogies and/or metaphors would you and your partner use to describe your marriage/relationship?
- Can you both work on creating a series of positive analogies/metaphors that capture the type of relationship you’d like to work towards?
- Can you start to use the richness of metaphor/analogy to describe your needs and feelings in your marriage/relationship?
Remember, when you struggle to find or create an analogy that represents your feelings and reactions, you are using the power of self-reflection and discernment to form a deeper relationship with yourself—and you are sending your partner powerful information that can help him/her understand you more fully.
Wishing you and your relationship a life-time of effective communication!
Dr. Rich Nicastro