Having better communication in your romantic relationship starts with being open minded and listening well. When you focus on what the other person is expressing, it allows you to have better clarity. Try to understand what is keeping you both stuck in unhealthy communication patterns. Explore your communication and behavior patterns to strengthen your relationship and your ability to communicate.
Why Is Healthy Communication in Relationships Important?
Communication is important in healthy relationships as it brings people closer and helps them deal with relationship conflict. When you understand your partner, you generally feel more connected both emotionally and physically. Communication is noted as fundamental to human interaction and intimate couple relationships because communication is our main tool for knowing and emotionally connecting with one another.1
Intimacy begins when a partner shares or communicates something personal and important to them and the other partner responds in an accepting way.1 The goal of quality communication is the achievement and maintenance of interpersonal understanding, limiting overthinking in the relationship and misunderstandings that lead to conflict.2
Guarding Against Resentment
Poor communication can lead to a feeling of disconnect and lack of intimacy. Feelings of resentment in a relationship can occur and you may be more easily irritated and potentially experience relationship burnout as well. This makes it harder to want to have a conversation with your partner if you feel they don’t understand.
Avoiding Unhealthy Conflict or Withdrawal
Unhealthy communication can lead to escalation, which can result in intense reactions where everything is out of hand.3 Avoidance or withdrawal can also occur when a person thinks their partner is unwilling to start or continue an interaction.3 This type of response can also lead to maintaining a superficial relationship or breaking up.
Signs That You Have Communication Problems in Your Relationship
If you notice that your conversations frequently turn into escalated arguments and misunderstandings, or if you are experiencing a lack of communication in a relationship, you may have a problem with communication in a relationship. Some signs to acknowledge include interrupting, being disengaged, doing something else while having a conversation, assuming, unable to compromise, and not connecting with your partner by dismissing them or walking away.
Making Assumptions About a Partner
We all make assumptions about people in our life, and sometimes they make sense because you have observed a preference and have learned that information. However, there is a lot that we don’t know about our partners. If we are frequently making assumptions about them, we don’t leave much space for them to show us who they are. Assumptions keep them in a specific box that maybe they don’t belong in, and can stun emotional intimacy.
Passive Aggressive Communication
Any kind of aggressive communication can lead to contempt and stonewalling. It can feel dismissive and minimizing. If you are being passive aggressive or come off as condescending in your relationship, it’s a huge red flag that there are issues that need to be discussed (even if it is just how the negative language makes the other person feel). It’s important to show kindness to your partner, even when you’re upset.
Becoming Defensive or Shutting Down During Difficult Conversations
This is really hard to manage. One partner who becomes defensive leaves the other partner feeling like they need an army to break down the defense before even touching the heart of the issue. It can leave the other partner feeling helpless and emotionally exhausted and keeps them out of your emotional space, which is the opposite of what we actually need in our relationships.
Criticizing & Blaming a Partner
We all may have complaints from time to time, however if criticism in your relationship is constant and the language you use is demeaning or blaming, it can really lead to issues around score-keeping and needing to have the last word. Remember that your partner is your teammate, and that as a couple, it’s important to handle things together.
Lying & Trust Issues
If you are finding that you or your partner is lying, that is a huge red flag. Lying means there is something to hide and can create trust issues. Lying can feel really bad for the person being lied to, so it’s important to be authentic and honest with your partner. If there is something you feel you have to lie about, you should think about why that is and what you can do so you don’t have to lie to your partner.
How to Boost Communication in a Relationship
Boosting communication in a relationship can take time. It takes a lot of patience and practice to improve the quality of the communication, but it is possible. By being intentional about your communication and keeping it in the front of your brain that your partner is your teammate, it can help to ease that communication barrier.
It’s important to think about the language you use and how it impacts others–you should be honest, but you also should be mindful of not hurting the other person or minimizing their experience. There is space for both people’s emotions and you should maintain mutual respect. It’s also important to take turns communicating if you are often cutting off the other person–that can feel like the other person is shutting down so making sure you are not talking over your partner is critical.
How Couples Therapy Can Help With Communication
If you find your relationship lacking connection in the communication department, it may be time to seek professional help. Couples therapy can help identify the triggers and negative relationship patterns that are keeping you stuck. The tools provided may help you and your partner to implement healthy conflict resolution skills and practice healthy communication skills.
A therapist may use the acting “as if” technique. This reflecting process has three phases:4
- The first includes the creativity and imagination of clients by using reflective questioning.
- The second phase includes a structured plan of action based on the couples reflective thinking.
- In the third phase, the couple implements the “as-if” behaviors and then discuss the experience in session with their therapist.
Behavioral marital therapy is beneficial in helping couples achieve specific goals, including increasing the partners’ self-disclosure, mutual understanding and the negation of specific and positive problem solutions, and decreasing blaming, criticizing, and sidetracking when discussing a topic relevant to the relationship.5
Choosing the right couples therapist is an important step in improving relationship communication, and it’s also important to prepare for couples counseling before you get started so you can reap as many benefits as possible.