An honest and open communication line is a basic human need for solid relations. Effectively communicating in a relationship involves a healthy interchange of feelings and ideas. The key to that open communication exchange is ensuring that you’re actively listening and processing what you hear, rather than always talking or thinking about what you will say next. To maintain a healthy relationship, you must be able to speak openly and honestly without fear of criticism or judgment.
Importance of Communication in Relationships
Communicating in a relationship is essential for various reasons, including building trust and respect, and it helps avoid any misunderstandings. Healthy communication in relationships allows an honest exchange of how you’re feeling and what your needs are. In addition, it helps form a stronger connection between you and your life partner.
Causes of Lack of Communication in a Relationship
A few things contribute to the breakdown of healthy communication in relationships, including poor listening skills, not knowing their love language, hiding true feelings, and having unrealistic expectations of each other. Some other contributing factors are,
- Casual jealousy.
- Busy lives get in the way.
- Exchanging angry or hateful words.
- A breakdown of trust including infidelity.
- Financial issues.
- Sudden illness.
- External trauma or shock such as the loss of a loved one, unemployment, or an accident.
These lack of communication signs can become unhealthy, toxic patterns of behaviors. Unhealthy behavior patterns are typically the most apparent warning of communication breakdown in the relationship (1).
Signs of Bad Communication in a Relationship
In addition to a lack of communication, an unhealthy relationship demonstrates signs of bad communication, including,
- Stonewalling or giving the cold shoulder.
- Giving your partner the silent treatment.
- Interrupting conversations and not allowing a partner to speak.
- Passive-aggressive behavior. For example, responding that they are fine when it’s obvious they’re not or making jokes that are honest thoughts.
- Being competitive with one another and needing to win.
- Lying to your partner when communicating in a relationship.
- Being defensive, criticizing, or belittling each other.
- Refusal to compromise when communicating in a relationship.
- Assuming that you know what your partner is thinking.
- Refusal to discuss problems or compromise.
- Increased resentment.
- Being aggressive, yelling, screaming, or shouting.
Couples in long-distance relationships often experience serious communication issues. The distance accompanied by emotional turmoil and the lack of physical intimacy can lead to aggressive behaviors and miscommunication (2).
Effects of Lack of Communicating in a Relationship
Naturally, the lack of or poor communication in unhealthy relationships has various adverse effects on the relationship. Some of those effects include,
- Lack of physical and emotional intimacy.
- Feeling unheard and unseen.
- Feelings of loneliness.
- Difficulty setting and achieving mutual goals together.
- Escalated conflicts and arguments in the relationship.
- Developing a negative perspective about your partner.
- Turning away or refusing each other’s attempts for connection.
When couples don’t learn to communicate consciously, they face intimacy, conflict, and relational growth issues (3).
How To Fix Communication in a Relationship
Learning to communicate clearly in a relationship is the first step in saving it. A relationship without communication won’t ever work well because it’s a vital component of healthy relationships. If you and your partner feel unheard or unseen, it will lead to disastrous cycles of fighting and disappointment. So it’s important to learn how to communicate effectively.
10 Tips for Better Communicating in a Relationship
These ten tips for communicating in a relationship will help you and your partner be able to define healthy perimeters and boundaries. In addition, these tips will benefit you and help you communicate better in your other relationships too.
1. Clearly Communicating in a Relationship
What does clear communication look and sound like to you? It’s a two-way dynamic engaging in relationships, so what does clear communication look and sound like to your partner? People have different communication types.
So it’s essential that you discover what your’s and your partner’s types are. Establishing what that line of healthy communication should look like is the first step to open and honest communication.
2. Listening in a Relationship
Effective listening is key to your partner feeling heard and validated. When you listen effectively, you absorb what your partner is saying, show them that you’re actively interested and listening, and then acknowledge what was said so they know they are heard. So, listen to what your partner says. Here are some tips for listening and communicating in a relationship,
- Face your partner when they’re speaking.
- Maintain non-defensive postures such as uncrossed arms and legs.
- Make gestures to show interest or concern, so they know you’re really hearing them.
- Keep eye contact when applicable. (Some cultures and disabilities make eye contact not relevant).
- Don’t interrupt your partner when they’re speaking to improve communication.
- Be aware of your tone with responses for good communication.
- Sit or stand on the same level to remove intimidation or disrespect.
- Silence any interrupting noises, including telephones and televisions.
- Show interest, attention, and curiosity about what your partner is saying.
- Assert yourself with “I” statements such as “I feel” or “I need” to avoid sounding blameful or antagonistic.
- Keep your phone in the other room or your pocket when communicating in a relationship.
- Give your partner your full attention.
- Be able to take constructive criticism.
- Don’t make assumptions.
- Don’t be sarcastic or condescending.
Remember that a good listener encourages their partner to communicate openly and honestly. In addition, you may ask your partner for feedback. To ensure that they are feeling heard (4).
3. Acknowledge Nonverbal Communication and WatchYours
Pay attention to your partner’s nonverbal communication. Communication is so much more than the words coming out of a person’s mouth. Some people feel that nonverbals say a lot more. Nonverbal communication essentially allows us to feel how our partner is feeling. Some nonverbals include body posture and movement, facial expressions, gestures, and personal space.
In a relationship, it’s impossible to emphasize the importance of the nonverbal. It plays a huge role in strengthening the feeling of love, affection, and connection. A light touch, a warm smile, or an unconsciously open posture convey the feeling of warmth and love.Pivot
You must monitor your nonverbals to ensure that your nonverbal message matches what you are saying. For example, if you apologize in a monotone voice with a slumped posture and look at your phone, that’s not good communication.
Your partner is receptive to those nonverbal cues and may be confused or conflicted by those mixed messages. If you’re rolling your eyes while congratulating your partner on a small win they’re excited about, they will notice and feel disrespected, and rightly so.
4. Discover Your Love Language for Communicating in a Relationship
Gary Chapman’s #1 best-selling book, The Five Love Languages, discusses five ways people in relationships express and receive love from each other. It’s a quick but highly-informative read that will help the two of you understand each other better.
The five love languages described are words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and receiving gifts. Do any of those resonate with you? It’s worth defining. So that both of you understand what the other one needs.
5. Be Their Best Friend
Your partner should already be your best friend but work on developing that status if they’re not. An honest friendship is a solid foundation for an intimate relationship. You should be excited to see them and even miss them when they’re gone for the day. They should know you are the person they can trust and come to about anything, and you should feel that same connection.
6. Touch Each Other
Ensure the physical intimacy doesn’t disappear by taking time to touch each other. Physical intimacy isn’t only sex. Try incorporating massages, back scratches, cuddling, head tickles, or other forms of touch that you and your partner enjoy. Also, sex is great. So set aside opportunities and try to have a good time. That’s an important part of your relationship too.
7. Find the Right Time
Timing is everything, so be aware of your partner’s time and space. For example, if your partner is in the last quarter of the Superbowl, that’s likely the worst time you could try to communicate your feelings.
So essentially, you’re setting yourself up to be disappointed and hurt. These experiences may leave you feeling unheard, but that wasn’t an adequate time to get your partner’s total attention which is necessary for healthy communication.
8. Understand Your Feelings
It’s natural to want to discuss things immediately. However, it’s vital that you are clear about what your feelings are so that you can communicate them to your partner. So sit with your feelings and process them before reacting (5). Your emotional awareness will help to respond. Set aside time to understand yourself through prayer, journaling, meditation, or some other source of focusing on you in the present time.
9. Learn How To Respond Instead of React
So learning how to respond rather than react is essentially knowing how to diffuse a relationship bomb. When you react, it can be explosive and unintelligible. It’s likely because you’ve not sat with the information or processed your feelings before trying to express them.
Exercising patience and calmness is the emotional intelligence needed for considering the result of the discussion instead of immediately responding.
10. Write Each Other Love Notes
Leaving little love messages around the house for your partner is a terrific way to remind them that you care, apologize for past behaviors, or say, “I love you.” You can toss these notes can in their lunch. Or stick them to the dashboard for your partner to discover on the way to work.
Stick them wherever they will find and appreciate them. Let your partner know that you love, appreciate, and need them. Written communication is sometimes easier for articulating your thoughts and feelings.
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Rules of Communicating in a Relationship
There are different communication rules for different styles of communication. They make communicating in a relationship a lot easier if followed. Some of these rules include,
- Clearly communicate relationship boundaries.
- Listen to understand and avoid zoning out thinking about what you’re going to say next.
- Remember that you don’t always need to be right.
- Don’t jump to conclusions. Find out all the facts rather than guessing at motives.
- Pay attention to your nonverbal communications.
- Discuss what actually happened and don’t judge.
- Address feelings as soon as you can and don’t be dismissive with “I’m fine” and “Nothing” type responses.
- Have serious conversations face-to-face and in private to improve communication.
- Talk using the future and present tense, not the past tense.
- Don’t be defensive and internalize receiving criticism. Don’t be judgmental when giving it.
- Make special bonding time a priority by scheduling activities other than watching television where there’s little to no communication.
Another important rule of communicating in a relationship is to never go to bed angry. Have you heard that expression before? It’s something my father taught me, framing it with you never know when the last time you see each other may be. That’s a sad fact of life. So don’t forget it and waste time and energy being angry and resentful.
Getting Help for Better Communicating in a Relationship
Couples therapy is a great way to develop better communication skills between you and your partner. A therapist can guide you through communication exercises and help you talk openly about communication problems. In addition, a couples or family therapist is qualified to give relationship advice. They can guide you in identifying your communication pattern and communication problems.
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Communicating in a relationship takes two people to participate. So it’s essential to know each other’s love language and communication styles to establish a healthy relationship with good communication skills. There are several reasons for lack of communication and signs of poor communication skills. These have disastrous effects on a relationship.
Once you’ve determined your communication issues, it’s easier to strategize how you and your partner will develop effective communication skills for conveying your thoughts and feelings. For example, good communicator practices active listening; they’re assertive, mind their tone of voice, and demonstrate empathy.
In addition, they are aware of their verbal communication and nonverbals, including body language. As a result, some relationships experience success with couples therapy. At the same time, others discover ways to communicate and each other’s communication style to develop their interpersonal communication.
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Elizabeth Ervin is the owner of Sober Healing. She is a freelance writer passionate about opioid recovery and has celebrated breaking free since 09-27-2013. She advocates for mental health awareness and encourages others to embrace healing, recovery, and spirituality.