I know about communication. When my wife and I were long distance dating we wrote letters, sent faxes (yes it was before email), and ran up enormous phone bills. Now we live in the same house, but our three kids and busy lives do almost as good of a job keeping that long distance feeling.
Yes, it's important to find the time for good communication, but as important as communication is, I think it's important to go back one step.
ABBA released their hit song, Knowing Me, Knowing You back in the 70's. (No, I didn't own it on vinyl.) The song talks about the end of a loving relationship:
"Knowing me, knowing you (ahh, a-a, aah), there is nothing we can do...."Too bad Abba didn't see the importance of truly knowing oneself and knowing the other in a relationship. (Of course, I know they were using the phrase colloquially.)
This is what I mean by taking one step back from communication. Before we can truly communicate with the one we love, we have to have an honest look at what our own motivations and intentions are in a conversation. More than likely, those have been set up for us by our family of origin and how we were raised.
As we try to communicate with our spouse or partner, we find that we are not connecting well; that we feel misunderstood, so does our partner. The reality is that we need to stop and take a look at ourselves. Why am I so angry? Why am I so hurt? What did I expect this to be like and why?
As we come to terms with our own emotions and why we have them, we can enter communication with our partner in a whole new light. Of course, this takes time, and will usually require the listening ear of good friends or mentors, and perhaps a counselor or therapist. If you have coverage on your extended health from work, then this is a freebie. Find someone you can trust and have some solid discussion.
Read some Daniel Goleman on Emotional Intelligence; even his Primal Leadership book deals with this. If you're a parent, John Gottman's book on Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child has lots for you personally as you seek to help your children.
If you're planning for marriage, going through a mentoring program is a great idea. Explore your differing expectations in all the major areas of your relationship with a counselor or coach or a mentor couple. This creates a safe place and accountability to talk through each area!
Once we recognize that our spouse will often have completely differing expectations from us, then we can enter into communication, trying to understand where they are coming from. When we recognize our own emotions, we do not have to be run by them. Then we can focus on the other. Ask your partner about them. And LISTEN. No need to defend, or explain - seek to understand.
I'm not sure of a better gift to offer the other in our life than understanding. It means putting our agenda on
hold for a few minutes (or more). A practical way to do this is to offer the other 10-20 minutes to tell us about what's going on for them: in life, work, your relationship and then just asking followup questions to go deeper.
Of course - they may just think you are up to something. And you are - something wonderful. I don't think they'll be thinking you've been listening to too much ABBA. And just maybe you can have much more of what you've always wanted in your relationship.