Many of us compare our current relationships to what we see in the media as well as in the relationships around us. This can be helpful in some ways, but can certainly make improving communication challenging because we aren’t sure what is normal or to be expected or what isn’t. Another challenge is the fact that we all get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and can, at times, hardly even find the time to check-in with our partner. However, check-ins are crucial because it strengthens our relationships by allowing us to communicate our feelings and needs to one another in real time. Check-ins are beneficial regardless of how long you have been together. Below are some suggestions for improving communication with your partner.
Make Time for Each Other
It is important to spend regular quality time together, whether that means every day for you or as often as possible, depending on your schedules. This could be a brief conversation in the morning or evening or a more in-depth talk over dinner—even if it is only for a few minutes, try your best to make time with your partner.
These days, there are endless things competing for our attention, whether it be our phones, our family, our friends, our pets, different projects, hobbies, etc. Therefore, it might be quite a challenge to reduce distractions when speaking with your significant other, but try to do so as much as you can. This could look like putting your phone on silent or going into a separate room to speak privately. As most of us know, listening is an essential component of communication. However, it is not enough to simply listen to what the other person is saying. You must also actively participate in the conversation by listening in order to understand rather than to respond. It is also important to note that if your partner is expressing an experience, opinion, or value different from what you hold, you do not have to agree with them to be empathetic. That is, you can just allow their truth to be expressed and heard. We can improve our listening skills by asking clarifying questions, empathizing with their experience, mindfully paying attention to the content of the conversation, body language, and emotional expressions of the other individual.
Be Open, Honest, and Direct
Being open and honest with your partner about your thoughts, feelings, and needs will aid in the development of trust and understanding. Being direct entails taking the time to express what you need during the conversation. For example, you can ask yourself whether you want your partner to validate and support what you’re saying or want their advice. If you are direct, it can help to alleviate some common miscommunications in relationships and help bridge the gap between what you need and what your significant other can give you. A proactive approach can help by looking at the other person’s perspective and personal history with curiosity and providing support for each other’s goals for the future. Communicating through direct and honest conversations will lead to smoother discussions for both of you. If one partner hesitates to be fully honest because they fear hurting the other person’s feelings or not being understood, then practicing empathy around each other’s unique experiences can help to see that each person is entitled to their individual perspective and two truths can co-exist in a relationship.
Taking a Break from the Conversation
The ability to recognize when to take a break from the conversation is as important as the ability to initiate the conversation. In any romantic relationship, disagreements are inevitable. In the event of a heated disagreement, let your partner know if you need a break. And make sure you communicate your intentions before walking away. Whoever requests a break must be the one to set a time for the conversation to resume. After you have communicated your intentions to your partner and are committed to checking in with them, take some time to decompress. This could involve going for a walk, stretching, practicing mindful breathing, or any other relaxing activity. However, it is essential that you and your partner return to the conversation as soon as you both feel calm. Letting difficult conversations remain unresolved will only lead to more arguments.
Foster Curiosity by Asking Questions
Our desire to learn more will result in better communication. We are more inclined to be interested in what our partner has to say when we are curious. Curiosity can strengthen bonds by allowing for deeper insight into each other’s hearts and minds. Asking your partner questions is a great way to improve communication in relationships. By asking questions, we learn about our partner’s feelings, communication style, boundaries, and their values. Here are 10 questions you can consider posing to your partner (and ask them to pose to you!):
- What is working well in our relationship right now?
- How can I make you feel more appreciated?
- Is there anything we’ve been putting off?
- What would you like to see more of in our relationship?
- Is there a need in our relationship that isn’t being met?
- What are your thoughts on the way we divide responsibilities?
- What are your concerns/fears about our relationship?
- What makes you feel connected to me or disconnected from me?
- What activities do you believe strengthen our relationship?
- What can we do to improve our relationship?
Communication serves as the foundation for all healthy relationships, allowing us to express our feelings and needs while also strengthening the bonds. And like any other skill, communication requires practice. The encouragement here is to be patient with yourself and with your partner while you both work on communicating better and being more present with one another. If you feel that you would like to deepen your connection to your partner through couple’s work with a therapist or would like to focus on your own personal growth as a way to improve your relationship, feel free to reach out to us and to our team of passionate and compassionate therapists.