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- | February 10, 2021, 3:55 CST

The Facts About Communication in Relationships
A focus on communication is imperative to a relationship's foundation.
Giddy Staff

Written by

Giddy Staff

Without proper communication, a relationship can stagnate, and with the wrong kind of communication, it can swiftly self-destruct. To avoid that, it’s important to know some proven methods to communicate with a loved one, fix ongoing issues with communication and restore a healthier relationship status.

Think about how you speak and listen

It’s necessary to consider your own communications, how you behave during conversations and what pitfalls you repeatedly encounter. Without analyzing and coming to a deep understanding of what you say and do, none of the following steps will really work.

The good news is that communication can be learned, improved and expanded upon in many different ways. But you and your partner must take conscious action to look at how you communicate and accept that you may find flaws or surprises.

That’s how the real journey can get started.

Help your partner feel heard

One of the most common communication problems couples face is a lack of active listening. This can worsen other relationship problems, as one or both partners are effectively shutting the other out. Phrases such as “I know what she really meant” or “It doesn’t matter what he says” show a lack of willingness to learn and solve problems.

To keep arguments from snowballing, couples should attempt to shut down inner monologues about who is right or wrong, and instead pay close attention to what the other person is saying. It’s essential to process what your partner is trying to tell you.

Often, the technique of “reflecting” or repeating what you think the other person is saying can be very helpful, as well as attempting to express empathy with their feelings and perspective. A simple statement, such as “It sounds like you feel hurt when I don’t initiate a hug when I greet you” or “I can understand why it might irritate you when I don’t do the dishes while you’re bathing the kids,” can go a long way toward de-escalating an argument.

Talk about yourself

Individuals may be wary of talking too much about themselves, especially at the beginning of a relationship. Of course, nobody wants to seem self-centered, but communication, as the saying goes, is a two-way street. A relationship works only if both people are sharing things about themselves.

Practice your “I feel” statements

This classic advice is excellent for navigating disagreements, arguments or hurt feelings in a relationship. During an argument, it can be easy for someone who is upset to feel like they are being attacked. This feeling can lead to anger, shutdowns or going on the defensive, making effective communication very difficult.

The solution is to frame statements as more neutral comments about how you feel, rather than accusatory statements about perceptions and assumptions. The traditional formula for an “I feel” phrase looks like this: “When you do this, I feel this way.” This structure helps couples talk about problems or situations without direct attacks.

Check in on your relationship

Psychologist Friedemann Schulz von Thun, in his popular “four sides model,” posited that one key facet of every message is “relationship,” or what you think about the person with whom you are communicating. In this theory, relationship status is being communicated with every type of message, no matter what it is.

Make time to discuss the relationship itself. Most couples have these conversations in the early stages of a relationship, but they can drop off as the relationship progresses.

It’s important to keep discussing each other’s thoughts on the relationship, and addressing unmet needs or points of conflict, so it stays healthy.

Ask questions (even if you think you know the answers)

This is an easy and healthy practice in everyday discussions that helps partners stay involved in each other’s lives and shows interest and engagement. In a situation where misunderstanding may lead to conflict, asking questions and checking out assumptions can be a game changer for heading off an argument.

Plan experiences for small-talk fodder

Date nights and similar activities always are good ideas, but try to plan for consistent, smaller activities that simply give you something to talk about with each other. This can be a nightly routine, a shared TV show or a partnered chore.

Not every conversation has to be “big”; healthy communication is also about small talk. Do things together that facilitate chitchat when the two of you are together. Equally important is having separate interests and experiences to share. In a relationship with children involved, often this conversation tends to center around them. This is natural and can be very healthy and enjoyable, but it is also important to be able to connect on some of the interests that brought you together in the first place. Couples who can laugh together are often some of the closest, even if they don’t have the deepest conversations.

Prioritize communication about sex

Sexual issues and relationship difficulties are often closely tied, and the key to fixing them can be better communication. A couple should discuss how they view their sexual relationship, what they like or don’t like, and what they would like to do or do differently. This is often best approached when not in the middle of a sexual encounter, unless it is part of the sexual play. Critical feedback is often difficult to hear when we are at our most vulnerable.

This type of conversation isn’t something that happens once, but rather is an ongoing part of sex that should become a very natural process.

Of course, sex can be a very sensitive topic—even for people having sex in a serious relationship—which is why it can be a good idea to seek out a therapist when appropriate. An experienced therapist can facilitate these tricky conversations and help get to the root of the issue.

Rewind a conversation, if needed

Most adults have, in the heat of the moment, said something they regret, or didn’t fully mean, or that simply gave the wrong impression. At times like these, it’s important to remember you can backtrack on a conversation. Pause the discussion, reverse and clarify that, one, you meant something different, and two, you are sorry if you gave the wrong impression. Then move forward again and restate what you said in a better way.

The common fear is that apologizing like this won’t be accepted as authentic or meaningful once the words are already out. But backtracking, apologizing and reframing what you said is still just as important, no matter what happens next.

Admitting the mistake and not giving in to stubbornness is the key practice here.

Don’t play shy with important subjects

It can be tempting to hint at something or skirt around a tricky subject while communicating. While this may work for getting through Thanksgiving discussions with the family, it’s not a healthy practice for an intimate relationship.

When talking about something important, practice being direct and saying exactly what you mean and feel. This will avoid misunderstandings that can derail a conversation.

Learn body language

Body language is part of every in-person conversation, but how it looks differs greatly from person to person, and individual actions can have a wide variety of meanings.

It might take a while to learn your partner’s unspoken language, but continue to pay attention and don’t make too many assumptions. If you believe someone’s body language is saying something specific, you can always ask for confirmation or explanations—that’s how we learn.

None of these methods is by itself a cure for every couple’s communication needs. Some couples might need a combination of two or more, while others might find help with one. Don’t forget that a therapist might be part of the equation that improves communication.

Giddy Staff

Written by

Giddy Staff

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