Communication is key in any healthy relationship. Unfortunately, most couples need to improve it.
One study of 100 mental health professionals found that communication was the top reason couples cited problems in their relationship at 65% – just above their inability to resolve conflict at 43%.
Communication isn’t just about saying the right words. It’s about talking to your spouse in a way they understand and also listening to what they have to say.
If you are your partner are struggling with getting through to each other in clear, loving way, here are seven tips to help you communicate better.
#1) Practice Listening
The first step to communicate better with your partner is to listen better.
While this does apply to the words that someone says, it also relates to how they say something.
Consider your significant other’s tone, body language, word choice, and other elements when they are communicating. A “great” or “fine” can mean many different things depending on who is saying it and what they are saying.
#2) Avoid Assumptions and Mind Reading
If you have been with your partner for a long time, you may think you know what they like or what they are feeling. This can lead to hurt feelings when you make assumptions about what they want.
It is always better to ask than to assume that you can read their minds.
Double-check what they want or how they feel about a certain situation. Even if you are on the same page, they will appreciate your care that you wanted to make sure.
#3) Take Time to Appreciate Each Other
Say thanks is a good way to communicate better with your partner. Show your appreciation for the little things – like your significant other making dinner or your partner remembering your favorite flavor.
Showing gratitude to your partner is a good way to communicate positively and show that you are listening and noticing as well. Giving thanks can also be used in a flirtatious manner to keep up the spark in your relationship. Try thanking your partner for dressing up for a date or appreciating how good they look in a suit.
You can also practice gratitude when you notice that your partner is listening or taking the time to ask questions rather than assume what you want. This reinforces the positive experience for both of you.
#4) Use “I Feel” Sentences
It is sometimes tempting to make blanket statements about your significant other when you’re trying to communicate with them. You may say things like “you always…” or “my problem is when you…” These sentences can come out sounding more like an accusation which will put your partner on the defensive.
Instead, start with how you feel.
For example, “I feel ignored when you…” or “I am upset by…” This taps into empathy and compassion and can help you both work on a mutual solution.
#5) Reflect, Don’t React
Listening is hard, and you may not like what your significant other has to say. However, if you want a healthy relationship, you need to create a space where they feel comfortable sharing their feelings.
When your partner brings up an issue. Take time to reflect on it and validate their feelings.
You may have to fight back your instinct to immediately react, defend yourself, or try to play off the actions as something your partner misinterpreted. Instead, tell your partner that you hear them and will carefully consider their words – and really do.
You may realize there is truth in what they have to say.
#6) Preemptively Talk Things Through
You and your partner likely have certain stressful situations that can cause anxiety and lead you to lash out at each other. Sometimes this comes in the form of passive-aggressive comments and other times it results in yelling or crying.
Communicating is about understanding your emotional triggers and how they affect both of you.
If possible, talk about a stressful situation (or stressful season) before it happens. Learn what your significant other needs from you and what you need from them. This will prepare both of you to make it through difficult times.
#7) Choose Your Timing to Broach Difficult Subjects
Many of these tips can be applied anytime. It’s never a bad time to say thank you or check on your partner.
However, some topics need to be addressed at sensitive times. For example, sitting on a crowded airplane or in a quiet restaurant may not be the best place or time to bring up problems.
Consider establishing a time where you can talk about your problems openly and listen to each other. This could be a weekly relationship check-in or a daily chat before you go to bed. This will give you a place to broach sensitive issues or problems where both parties are calm and receptive to the information.
Get The Skills to Communicate Better With Your Partner
If you have tried these tips and other communication tactics with your partner, but still feel like you can’t understand them or aren’t heard, you may need a mediator to help.
Consider seeing a therapist who can serve as a translator and language teacher for the two of you.
They can help you understand your needs and give you the tools to better communicate with your partner. Learn more about therapy sessions at Loving Life Today and see if you could benefit from couples counseling by downloading our free guide.