Communication in relationships sounds so simple but the reality is somewhat different. We’ve all been there. The strained conversations, the misread signals, the pain of confusion.
Not knowing how to communicate with your partner — or seriously lacking communication in general — is often seen in unsuccessful relationships. It can cause cracks to show, even if you’re not aware of it.
Communication in relationships is not about making small talk or saying the ‘right thing’. It’s about being genuinely interested in your partner’s life and supporting them in all of their endeavours, as well as voicing your feelings and thoughts to them.
So how can you improve communication in your relationship and, in doing so, get the partnership you truly desire?
Communication in relationships and what does your partner need?
Before you can start to make strides with the communication in your relationship, you need to understand what every person needs out of romance in the first place. They usually fall into four different categories:
- Safety. Is your partner feeling secure in the relationship? If not, why not — and how much of that is on you? Have you spoken to them about the stability — or lack of — that they perceive in the life the two of you have developed? Everyone is different in how much assurance they need, but it’s integral to the health of your relationship that you gauge the level of support and certainty your partner needs to feel.
- Understanding and affiliation. Most of us have an innate need to feel truly special to someone. If your partner is clearly communicating to you that they are simply not feeling that they are important to you, what can you do to improve the situation? Communication in relationships is not just about telling, but demonstrating. How can you genuinely, sincerely show them how irreplaceable they are in your life? For example, take time out to spend more quality time together, organise dates, send a card to their work, do house chores you don’t normally do, randomly buy gifts etc.
- Sensual enjoyment. In a similar vein, many of us need to feel wanted, and that our partner truly desires us. Being physically intimate with one another strengthens the relationship bond and fosters affection, trust and love. Taking the time to enjoy one another’s company in a deeply sensual way is a great way of ironing out your differences and mitigating feelings of negativity. More often than not, we tend to oversee this aspect of our lives due to time limits. The trick here is to book time in for intimacy. Just like you may not be hungry when you book a table at a restaurant, you may not be ‘feeling it’ when you decide on a time…but you will when you get there!
- Nurturing. Your relationship isn’t monolithic. It doesn’t stand still once you enter into it and remain that way till the end of time. Your partnership is constantly evolving as you grow to know and love each other ever more profoundly. Typically the initial excitement of a relationship, gives way to something deeper. However, this can only happen, if you take active steps to stop things from growing stale. Speak openly about where you see your relationship going. I find it helpful with periodic ‘check-ins’. Once in a while have a mini review on how things are going, both for you to voice and your partner. This demonstrates care and an interest in your partners well-being. It also gives you an opportunity to voice any concerns that you may have.
So we’ve established some of the basic needs that must be met if a relationship is to thrive. What key changes can you make to your communication to ensure a successful, authentic and happy relationship with your partner?
Communicate to get a relationship that feels meaningful
- Be present. Life doesn’t stop, and it can be easy to get caught up in the to-do list. Putting time aside and dedicating yourself wholly to being there in the moment with your partner should not be a luxury, a rarity, but rather something you automatically allocate time to. Put down your phone, switch off the TV. Pour a glass of wine, have a coffee, and just sit down and be with one another entirely.
- Active listening. There’s a lot more to listening than simply nodding your head and keeping your ears open. Active listening involves facial expressions, eye contact, regular short interjections to show your support or understanding and — of course — genuinely hearing what your partner is saying. Ask clarifying questions to ensure you understand fully what they mean. Show appreciation at their honesty and candour. When it’s your turn to speak, perhaps start with an acknowledgement of what they said and then commence with your own thoughts. Giving feedback on what your partner has opened up about, not only shows you have listened to what they’ve had to say, it also demonstrates that you are taking steps to constructively take on board their thoughts and opinions.
- First-person statements. Use ‘I’ statements. The idea is that when you use “I” statements, they come across as less accusatory and allows for your partner to respond without being defensive. And more importantly you are more likely to tap into what is really bothering you. For example, “You never help me around the house”, is less powerful and useful than “I feel alone and unappreciated when I’m left to do all the housework on my own.” Come from a place of honesty and vulnerability and your partner will relate to you on a whole new level.
- Express your needs. You may think it’s obvious how you’re feeling without needing to express it, but your partner isn’t a mind reader. Don’t wallow in how dissatisfied or upset you are and tell them. If you feel disconnected, express this. If you yearn to be spending more quality time together, voice this. Not only will your partner be glad of the clear guidance on where communication is falling by the wayside, you also get to tell them in no uncertain terms what you require from them in order that you can be your best.
Communication coaching sessions from the experts
You can be doing a lot off your own back to improve the quality of the communication within your relationship, but sometimes we can all do with a helping hand.
As Vida’s in-house relationship psychologist, I offer relationship coaching and guidance, either in-person or remotely (Skype, FaceTime etc.). I have over fifteen years’ experience helping individuals overcome the barriers we so often put up that stop us achieving true happiness in our relationships. Our intensive coaching sessions will help you truly understand how you can be getting the most out of romance, and what changes to your communications would work wonders for the magic of your relationship.
If you’re single and looking for love or in a relationship and in need of a little expert advice, get in touch and book a complimentary telephone consultation. Let us help you reinvigorate your relationship and equip you with communication skills you need to get the most out of love.