How Can I Improve Communication with My Partner?
Last updated on July 5, 2023
Former United States President Gerald R Ford once said that “Nothing in life is more important than the ability to communicate effectively”. This single quote is the definition of what makes a relationship successful or a failure.
In the Article: "How Can I Improve Communication with My Partner?"
- Passive-Aggressive Behavior
- Sweeping Things Under the Rug…
- Putting Up a Barrier
- The Past Is the Past and It Should Remain There
- Shouting and Screaming
- Walking Away or Stonewalling
- Putting the Other Person down or Using Sarcasm as a Weapon
- Disrespectful, Non-verbal Communication or Behavior
- Think about Your Feelings First
- Timing is Everything
- Lead with I, Don’t Attack
- Communication is Not a Battle to Be Won
- Share the Same Communicative Goal
- Boundaries not Barriers
- Leave Little Reminders about Your Love
- Make Sure to Regularly Check in….but not Every Minute!
- True Connection is Something We All Need — Commit to It
- What is Your Communication Style and, Most Importantly, What is Your Partner’s?
- What Is Needed in Order to Help Communication Improve
We need to communicate in all aspects of life whether it be when we are at work, running day-to-day errands, or establishing a relationship. Communication is something we all do and, most of the time, we may not even realize we are doing it. It can be said that there are many forms of communication which can be cited as:
- Oral communication — face-to-face
- Oral communication — distance
- Written communication
- Feedback communication
- Non-verbal communication
- Grapevine communication (rumors, gossip, etc)
- Visual communication
- Active listening
- Sign language
Now, for many of us aspects like sign language will not be a part of our lives but all of the others undoubtedly will be. In a relationship communication is vital. Without effective, appropriate communication a relationship is almost destined to fail or become increasingly difficult to be a part of. Communication allows you to explain your needs, thoughts, and feelings to your partner. However, it is important to remember that communication in a relationship also consists of actively listening to the other person and acting accordingly. Communication helps you both have your needs met while improving the connection between you both. Many relationships end for a few reasons. These are loss of trust, lack of respect, priority difference, lack of intimacy, and poor communication. Relationships can change, positively as well as negatively, and effective communication throughout is a surefire way of ensuring the relationship stays healthy and does not fail. In this article, we will look at ways you can improve communication with your partner and provide advice on how to communicate effectively.
When thinking about communication and how to improve you need to consider things you need to change or work on. Your partner may need to work on these too. It could be that you and your partner need to consider these aspects together after discovering that communication is an issue.
Before you are able to improve your communication with your partner there is one, key thing that you need to consider. You need to understand and recognize the areas of your communication that need some improvement in the first place. This is the first step in solving any communication issues you and your partner are having. You must also be prepared to understand that how you behave or communicate could be the problem and that it is you that needs to change in order to improve your communication. Here are just a couple of signs to look out for when thinking about improving your communication.
This form of communication is a way of expressing negative feelings such as anger you don't want others to see instead of addressing the issues head-on. This can present itself in many different ways such as making jokes about your partner (or them about you), punishing them (or them punishing you) for things by giving the silent treatment, or making jibes about their decisions. While this approach can be satisfying in the moment it only allows you to present your frustration without actually talking about it.
Ignoring an issue or avoiding a conflict is another sign that things need to improve. Ignoring things will not make them go away or improve anything. It could also cause a small issue to build up into something much larger later on.
Another surefire sign that things are not right and need improving is either or both of you are becoming openly defensive or angry when talking with each other. This is a clear sign that your communication has become toxic. This can present itself as one of you always raising your voice, blaming the other person, being overly critical, and/or dominating or controlling the conversation.
We have probably all been in a situation where someone brings up a past mistake or wrong decision and uses it against us. This is a counterproductive move that will end in one or both of you being more defensive than before. If this occurs regularly you will find that the communication with your partner will diminish as one or both of you will refrain from communicating (in any form) for fear of past mistakes being thrown around.
There have been times when we have all raised our voices or have had someone shout at us about even the smallest of things. This way of processing anger only leads to diminished self-esteem, an increase in being defensive, and a negative impact on your communication. If this is the approach to issues then you will discover over time that your conflicts will become more intense when they really do not need to be.
Leaving a conflict unresolved is a way that will definitely leave your communication in tatters. Some people will walk off or shut down in the middle of an argument effectively disengaging themselves from the situation and, in turn, your partner. There are times we all need a timeout or a breather in an argument but how you communicate this is of vital importance. Walking away will cause a massive rift. Explain to your partner that you need a timeout and to take a moment away while reassuring them that you will be back to resolve the issue. Approaching something in this way tells your partner that you care and will ultimately save you from issues with your communication.
We have all said things we regret or did not mean at the moment. It is probably safe to say that many of us have said things with the intention of hurting or shocking the other person. This is not only cruel but is also not the way to stop an argument. Doing this will ultimately cause your partner to refrain from communicating with you as they will know what is coming when speaking with you. The same can be said if you use inappropriate humor during a conflict or in general (but most of the time). You should not use sarcasm or inappropriate humor as a way of hurting someone else. If you want to use it to break the ice in an argument then make a harmless joke about yourself.
You can spot that there are problems with your communication if the communication you are having is disrespectful. We have mentioned the verbal aspect of this but you must also consider the non-verbal behavior or communication in your relationship. This can present itself in many ways such as focusing on your phone, talking to them with your arms crossed, or avoiding eye contact. This can make the other person feel disrespected and want to avoid communicating with you. They will then become less likely to communicate with you for fear of being ignored or treated in a way that demonstrates you do not care. You need to think about your body language when you communicate with your partner and not just your verbal communication. Make sure you not only actively listen with your ears but you demonstrate this physically. Make sure to keep eye contact (where possible), put down what you are doing, and give your fullest attention. Do not sit closed off (arms crossed etc). Remain open and show that you respect their presence.
There are other signs, often more personal to the couple in question, that you may need to look out for. Just remember, if there is a breakdown in communication there will be signs early on. Always keep your eyes and ears open so that you catch the signs early and can work on them.
The next section will focus on ways of improving communication with your partner. Remember, you do not need to try all of these at the same time, it will depend on where the issue lies.
Before you enter into a potentially tricky conversation with your partner, especially if you are broaching the subject of improving communication, then it is best to take the time to consider how you feel about the subject. Take this into consideration, give yourself time to calm down, and allow yourself the time to get in control of your emotions. Without having this approach any communication you are likely to have could become heated causing it to become very difficult to find a solution.
No one likes to feel ambushed or blindsided. If you have something difficult to discuss with your partner the worst thing you can do is suddenly throw it at them. In order to improve your communication you need to give your partner a heads-up that you would like to sit and discuss something. They are less likely to feel attacked or ambushed. You can only improve your communication if you communicate effectively and respectfully. While telling your partner you need to have a chat about something do not make them wait too long before having the conversation! If you wait too long your partner will begin to worry and possibly become defensive before you even get the chance to communicate.
If you need to discuss something sensitive with your partner in order to improve your communication the best way to start your sentences is with “I”. Start with how you are feeling rather than pointing the finger of blame at your partner. If you lead by blaming them they will shut down or become very defensive and your communication will not get any better. Express how you feel without making your partner feel attacked.
Many people enter into conversations with the thought that they are entering into a debate or argument that they must win. If you do this with your partner regularly, your communication will not only need support but will get worse as every conversation will turn into a competition. There will be many occasions where you disagree with your partner’s opinion but it is important to actually listen to them and understand why they feel the way they do. This should also work both ways. If one or neither of you hear but do not listen then the communication will not improve. Actively listen during a conversation and do not turn it into a competition.
Any communication between you and your partner should end with respect and either a resolution or a compromise. You should both leave a conversation, no matter what the topic, feeling like you have been heard and that a compromise of resolution has been made. No matter what the topic you will find that a resolution often lies in a compromise, unless you are both completely in sync with each other…but if this is the case you will probably not have issues with your communication.
Miscommunication can be avoided by setting clear and agreed-upon boundaries. This could be as organized as sitting down together and discussing possible situations involving finances, emotions, or big decisions and deciding on how to approach them. You could approach the concept of boundaries as situations arise e.g. your partner makes a purchase over a certain amount that you feel is too much. Rather than arguing about it and causing issues you can respectfully explain how you feel about this and create a future resolution such as agreeing that purchases over a set amount need to be discussed first. However, make sure that you do not use the silent treatment as a way of creating boundaries. If a mistake happens or a scenario occurs that requires a boundary being set the worst thing you can do is go silent about it. This will only create resentment and disrupt your communication further. Boundaries need to be discussed, not implied.
Sometimes the way to improve your communication is not to say things but to write them. If you make sudden arrangements, leave a note for your partner to find. If you said you would be home at 5 pm but had to pop to the shops, leave a note explaining where you have gone. You can improve this further with little love drawings, hearts, etc, or simply write “love you” at the bottom. It shows your partner that you are thinking of them and their potential concerns. Even leaving little cheeky notes or small letters of love will massively improve your communication as it shows your partner that you are thinking of them and that you are communicating your love even when apart.
Modern technology has made the ability to check in with your partner throughout the day much easier. This could be a simple “love you” or “thinking of you” message. If you find your day going south i.e. you are having a bad day and are now in a foul mood you can let your partner know. This will help them to understand why you might come home in a less-than-positive frame of mind. It gives them time to prepare and will help them understand that they are not the problem. It also means they may think of ways to help improve your mood. This helps communication because it prevents potentially explosive conversations where you react in a way you should not. You could also argue that this shows your partner that you trust them with your emotions. You trust them to understand how you are feeling and know that they will not judge you.
Many people think that communication in a relationship is the same as talking or just making conversation. This is a big misconception that needs addressing. In simple terms, communication in a relationship is about connecting and using your communication skills - verbal, written, and physical - to provide for your partner's needs. Small talk is not the solution. You need to understand your partner's point of view while offering support and being there for them at all times. The first step to rekindling a lost connection is to admit that you are not communicating effectively. Talk about this with your partner and begin a change that will not only improve your communication but your relationship as well.
Many people may not realize that there are different communication styles. These can be profiled as passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive.
- Passive communicators — these people tend to keep their emotions hidden and are often the people that seemingly cannot say no.
- Aggressive communicators — these people tend to be loud and intense but often find it difficult to make meaningful connections with others.
- Passive-aggressive communicators — these people do their best to avoid conflict while using sarcasm to deflect away from ‘real’ communication.
- Assertive communicators — this is often seen as the healthiest form of communication. They know how to communicate effectively while also being in touch with their emotions.
It is important to remember that not all communication involves talking. When responding to information some people prefer to talk while others prefer to touch, visual, or gift giving instead of an outward discussion. You know what you prefer but do you know what your partner prefers? In order to improve communication you need to be aware of your partner’s communication needs and preferences. Without noticing this you will inevitably face miscommunication which will negatively affect your trust and intimacy. Improve your communication by observing your partner and how they respond to perceptive cues over a couple of days. Do they respond better to seeing and watching, hearing and talking, or touching and doing? When you understand this your communication will become better and, in turn, so will your relationship.
We, as humans, all have the same basic needs but often only ever focus on our own. While this is natural it can cause rifts in a relationship. When you understand which of the needs is most important to your partner you will be able to communicate with them in a way that meets their needs…they can also do the same for you!
- Certainty — we all need this as it helps ensure we avoid pain and disappointment. In order to improve communication with your partner you need to consider how secure your partner feels in the relationship. Be open with your partner about what gives them the certainty they desire and makes them feel stable. Understanding this will improve communication in your relationship because you are discussing important elements of your relationship and showing your partner that you will listen to them.
- Variety — it is the spice of life but it can cause concern for some people. However, variety can make a relationship even better. Discuss what you both want to do to add variety to your relationship. Facing little challenges or adding variety will automatically improve communication as you will have something different to talk about and act upon.
- Significance — We all want to feel needed and wanted. We all want to feel important. Your partner needs to know that you need them and that they meet your needs in ways only they can. The better the feeling of significance the better your communication will be. To improve this element and communication, you need to do more than just tell your partner how significant they are to you. Show them through gentle touch, supporting them when needed, and spending quality time with them. Improve your communication by making your partner feel significant and moving away from just focusing on verbal communication.
- Connection and love — We all want to feel connected to others. The absence of love in a relationship causes pain like no other but this often comes down to a lack of effective communication. In order to improve your communication you need to consider how you show the other person you care and love them. You need to consciously show your partner how you feel about them. Make sure to show them in a way that talks to their personal needs and desires. Improving your communication means understanding what ‘language’ your partner best understands….and communicating with them in that way.
- Growth — As time goes by we all need to grow whether it be spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, or in any other way. You and your partner both need this as we can only grow in a relationship when our communication is at its best. In order to grow and in order to improve your communication you need to support your partner in the areas that they are most excited and passionate about. Your communication will improve when both you and your partner take the time to support each other to the fullest.
- Contribution — this is a big part of a relationship and can make a vast difference when trying to improve your communication. You need to think about whether you can give your partner more. Are you giving them enough time? Do you give them your fullest support? Does your partner get your undivided attention? The most successful relationships are strong because both partners are able to create new ways to contribute to the other’s happiness. The more you contribute the better your communication will be.
At the end of the day effective, appropriate communication is the foundation on which all successful relationships are built. This does not mean that achieving this is easy, in fact, it is far from easy. Effective communication is something that builds up over time in a relationship and is based on trust. In order for effective communication to occur your first need to realize what this looks like in your relationship and understand how to achieve it. If you spot signs that there are failings in your communication you can not let this wait until later. Make sure to work on any issues immediately and communicate this with your partner. Improving your communication is all about understanding your partner's communicative needs and acting upon them. It is also vital you remember that this works both ways.