Communication is one of the most common reasons couples end up in a therapist’s office. Good communication is a vital part of a good marriage, and it plays a big part in keeping relationships together. On the reverse side, poor communication causes relationship conflict and can make you feel alone and disconnected. No one gets in a relationship to be lonely. The happiest couples are the ones that are emotionally open and not afraid of being vulnerable with each other. It is not always easy to talk about sensitive subjects that elicit fear and insecurity. With the fear of rejection or criticism, those topics can go unspoken or get communicated indirectly. Couples without good communication skills can become disengaged or seek out safe people to talk to. The flip side is that they often choose to keep their feelings inside, so their needs go unmet causing depression or resentment and affecting the longevity of the relationship.
Mistakes to avoid when communicating with your partner.
- Not listening to what the other is saying
- Formulating a response too quickly without getting sufficient information
- Using words or phrases that the other does not understand
- Displaying inappropriate vocal gestures such as tone, pitch, and facial expression
- Unfriendly body language (arms folded, lack of eye contact)
- Poor timing for a serious discussion
- Failure to ensure that the other person really understands your message
Solutions for more effective communication:
Clearly state your point or opinion.
Deliver the message in a loving unthreatening manner.
Avoid making accusations. Own your feelings and use language that indicates your awareness that you are responsible for your own thoughts and behavior.
Use common words and phrases that your partner understands
Choose an appropriate time to talk
Be open to answering and asking questions. Ask open ended questions to avoid one-word answers.
Do not speak over them. Don’t interrupt! Stay focused, attentive, and connected even if you don’t agree.
Look at your partner while they are speaking to you, lean in. Give them your full attention but don’t stare them down. Turn off or put down any distracting technology.
Allow our partner time to respond. Be patient with their answer.
Listen to understand not what you want to say next. Reflect back what you think your partner is saying.
Have empathy for what your partner tells you. You may not agree but their feelings are not invalid.
Being aware of these suggestions is the first step to better communication. If in doubt, ask your partner for help or take a time out rather than saying things that might cause conflict later. Fixing communication problems takes time. Approach the problem you are trying to solve tentatively. Communicate your ideas for solutions something like, “Well, perhaps we could try…” Or “What if I did … and you did …” Or maybe even “I’m stuck. What do you think we should do next?”
Next time your relationship feels lonely, challenge yourself to start communicating more. Be open and curious with your partner like you were when you were dating. Communicate your thoughts and share your feelings. Get out in front of the issue before it gets out of hand. Work with your partner to solve the problem. Choose to accept and value your partnership enough to lean in and hear what they have to say. You may be surprised at the things you didn’t realize they were feeling. Keep the lines of communication open and check in with each other regularly before feelings of loneliness and resentment start. Avoid only dealing with the problems when you are angry because like writing an email: once you hit the send button, you can’t take it back. 📧