Communication – The Key to Relationship Success


I just realized to my amazement that I’ve never actually written an article here specifically about one of my favourite topics……communication!Communication in relationships, and how couples need to truly understand each other if they want a relationship to last. And how “speaking” may be a part of communication, but it isn’t the whole story. And NOT speaking is definitely not part of communication! If you want your Australian Filipina relationship and/or marriage to last, then please read on.


communication in a relationship is vitally important for australian Filipina couples


Communication in Relationships

Communication in Cross-Cultural Relationships specifically…..

What is communication? It’s about getting what’s in YOUR head into another person’s head intact! Not misinterpreted. Not as a garble of confusing words. The end of a successful session of communication is that the other person “gets you”! And you know what? Personally, I think it’s one of the BEST feelings in the world when someone truly gets you. We need it, and relationships need it!

And know what else? At the end of the day, if you’ve failed to get what’s in your head into the other person’s head, unless they’ve blocked their ears and refused to listen, it’s your fault and not theirs. Your job is to make sure the message is clear and to work out whether they understood you or not. You don’t get this by shouting at them, or by walking off. 

Why this matters so much in a relationship is because you simply MUST understand each other if you are to function as a loving couple and as a team in a great partnership. This is the only way you can avoid built-up hurt feelings, which end up in explosions of anger or those awful passive-aggressive reactions like the dreaded tampo! This doesn’t happen (or certainly happens less!) when you “get” each other.


Communication Basics

The natural reaction of many of us to hurt feelings is to get angry. The drunken idiot who punches you in the pub, or the ex-wife who lives to see you suffer? Yes, you can say that person intentionally wanted to hurt you, so what the heck! You are probably justified to get angry and to give them an earful. You are forgiven for not sitting the drunken idiot down and trying to understand what motivated his violent outburst. 

However this is your wife, fiancée, husband, life-partner! I think we can assume they didn’t mean to hurt your feelings or to make you suffer, therefore some patience and an attempt to make things better should override your temper. Your temper will not make things better and will not bring you closer!

Start with the assumption they didn’t mean you harm

It means taking a few deep breaths, and deciding it’s better to try to fix this than to add fuel to the fire. Fighting fire with fire only ever leads to a bigger fire. So if you care about the outcome, calm yourself down and think logically. More than likely you simply didn’t understand each other. Feel free to remind your angry/hurt partner that this is YOU, and that they KNOW you would never intentionally hurt them. And of course say the same to yourself.

Be prepared to listen

Yes, you get to say your piece, but try to listen at least as much as you speak. And when dealing with a Filipina, expect the cultural-norm of her shaking her head when you ask “What’s wrong?” This will take time. The Filipino approach to communication is usually to not confront, never to explain, and to hope problems simply blow-over of their own accord.

Explain how you feel

Explain how whatever it was made you feel. “When you made a major decision without discussing it with me, I felt that I didn’t matter very much” or “When you sided with your sister over me, I felt that I was less important to you than her.” Much of the time you’ll find the other person doesn’t know this, or assumes you agreed with them. 

Avoid “value judgements”

A “value judgement” is when you apply blame and accusation to what you say, ie “You did that because you’re a lousy bitch and you don’t love me!” or “You were cheating on me with her, you bastard!”

Never do that! Don’t judge, or you will have effectively closed all doors to fixing it! What is he or she going to respond with? “Yes, I AM a hateful bitch.”?? Not likely! All that will happen is they will go on the defensive. You’re no longer working together, but are merely attacking each other. Pulling apart!

Acknowledge the feelings of your partner, and cut them some slack

Feelings are normal. Feelings are natural. They are not “bad”, and you never have feelings “on purpose”. If you feel hurt because your partner didn’t appear to be listening to you, or if she felt jealous because you were looking at porn on the computer, then they are allowed to feel that way. If you care about them (and they about you), you will both want each other to feel happy and secure. She should care enough about you to make you feel important, and you should value her need to be the only woman in your life more than how much you like watching Drag Racing Disco Dollies Do Dubbo

And “cut them some slack” to those unfamiliar with that expression, that means don’t be too hard on them. If they come from a different country and culture, and especially if the relationship is less than a few years old, you will have habits and viewpoints developed before you met. It will take time to get each other, and you should both be patient and slow to judge.

Try to understand them, and tell them so!

If you get some insight, whether this is something you never knew before, something you SHOULD have known, or something you knew but weren’t attentive to, speak up! And make it clear that it matters! “Yes, I understand that watching the football all weekend when you didn’t see me all week wasn’t very loving, and you felt I was ignoring you. I’m sorry I made you feel that way, and I want to make it better!”or “I’m sorry I sent money to my sister without telling you. I’ve been a single women for 30 years and I forget sometimes that things have changed. I understand why this bothers you, and I’ll always discuss matters like this with you in future”. 

Now, to the uninitiated, you have to admit this sounds pretty damned good. Right? Could you remain angry and hurt when your beloved responded like the above? This is effectively fighting fire with water! And coupled with that, it brings you closer together and helps you to “get” each other. 


Communication for Australian Filipina Couples

This comfortable way of dealing with hurt feelings by great communication, it won’t happen immediately in an Australian Filipina relationship, that’s for sure. And starting your relationship by spending most of your time in different countries, this sure as heck won’t make it easier. So this will take time, but it should be your target.

And there’s a basic difference between how Australians and Filipinos deal with confrontation and with communication. This, I most definitely HAVE covered before, regulars will know. Aussies tend to be blunt and upfront about things. Filipinos on the other hand are very careful not to say hurtful or challenging things and will bottle things up. Ask “What’s wrong?” and you will generally get “Nothing!” or no answer at all. This may be one of the first times in their life that anyone has asked them this. No kidding! 

So be patient with each other, and know that this like the rest of your marriage is a work-in progress. My wife Mila, first year of marriage said to me “Husbands and wives don’t discuss problems! My parents never did!” Now? We discuss everything! And we rarely tread on each others toes because of the work done by both of us over the years. And understand too that neither of you will ever be perfect. Some stuff you really do just have to let go, because there are enough good things to make the small things fairly insignificant. I hope you can make this happen for each other!

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Jeff Harvie is a Registered Migration Agent from Australia, but resident in Philippines since 2010 with his Filipina wife Mila and large extended family. Experienced with the Philippines culture, cross-cultural relationships and bureaucracy as well as Australian visas and Australian Migration Law, he writes with authority and fortunately with enough informality and humour that the average Aussie gets it!
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