You've got a home phone, cell phone, text messaging, email, voice mail, Facebook, Twitter and a mailbox in the front yard - yet somehow your significant other can't manage to get around to contacting you. Don't despair - there is a way to condition that special (yet elusive) partner to stay in touch. Take a look at how you're responding to your partner and see where you could change a few things to make calling you an attractive idea.
Why Negative Reinforcement Isn't Effective
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Negative reinforcement is the attempt to make people behave like you want them to by creating undesirable consequences if you don't get the desired results. In other words, giving the person a scolding when they displease you, yelling at them when they don't call or denying them affection because they avoided you.
Our first reaction when someone doesn't meet our emotional needs is nagging, fussing, the silent treatment and passive aggressiveness. However, studies show that these tactics are counter productive in getting them to call more (duh - who wants to talk more with someone who nags us?).
Another disadvantage of negative reinforcement is some partners may actually enjoy getting a rise out of you. Perhaps the only attention they get from you is when you fuss at them, and they're willing to take it, positive or negative. So negative reinforcement can actually cause you to get the exact opposite behavior of you want. If fussing and fuming isn't the answer, what is?
The Power of Positive Reinforcement
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Instead of "punishing" behavior we don't like, we should try reinforcing behavior we do like. Drop the sarcasm ("It's about time you remembered how to dial a phone") and act genuinely pleased when your partner does call or text. When talking to you is a pleasant encounter they'll call more often.
How can you use positive reinforcement to encourage more interaction? Here are a few examples:
It isn't necessary to gush - that seems fake. Just make your encounters positive and pleasant. When calling or texting you is something they look forward to, they'll make it a point to do so. Chances are, if you enjoyed the communication and ended it satisfied rather than annoyed, your partner did too.
Many times, we keep our wants to ourselves and blame our partners for not being able to read our minds. Does your partner know you want more calls while you're apart or are you just assuming they know? It isn't fair to blame someone for not meeting our needs when we aren't even communicating to them what those needs are.
The Meaning Behind Not Calling
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Often, we jump to conclusions when our partners don't call or text as much as we want. Are they really committed to this relationship? Are they trying to get under our skin? Are they interested in someone else? Of course, this is true for some relationships. But not calling and texting five times a day isn't necessarily an indication anything is wrong.
Not calling doesn't necessarily mean anything is wrong with the relationship. Are you usually a happy, contented couple? Is your partner communicative at home? If everything else in the relationship seems sound, the lack of calls and text messages may not be significant at all.
Some solutions? Invest in prepaid Android phones so that overage charges aren't an issue. Agree on appropriate times for both of you to talk. Keep communication open all the time instead of depending on sporadic calls and messages. Most importantly, make calling you the highlight of their day, not the dread of their existence.
If the lack of calls are seriously bugging you, have an open, honest discussion about it. Choose a time when both of you are well rested and there isn't any stress or strife. Calmly explain how it makes you feel when you don't hear from them and how wonderful it makes you feel when they do call.
Be willing to listen to their reasoning instead of just explaining your side. In the conversation, use sentences like, "I worry when I don't hear from you," instead of inflammatory statements like, "You never call me and it makes me feel like crap." If the relationship is otherwise healthy and strong, things will work out just fine.
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