Strong communication is one of the keys to a successful and healthy relationship. This is especially true when it comes to romantic relationships which are highly interactive, emotionally charged and intimately connected.
Effective communication can help couples avoid misunderstandings and conflicts, navigate challenges, and stay connected over time.
However, one of the biggest challenges in practicing effective communication is the fact that people have different communication styles.
Different communication styles can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, or even hurt feelings.
Therefore, partners should strive to be aware of each other’s communication styles and learn ways to communicate with each other that are assertive, respectful, and compassionate. Below are some communication techniques that couples can use to build a stronger, more resilient relationship.
In this article we’ll cover 5 effective Communication techniques for couples.
1. Active listening
When people communicate with each other, they often do so while thinking of what to say next, or how to refute what the other person just said. This often results in miscommunication and can escalate conflicts.
However, couples who employ active listening are able to communicate with each other more effectively. Active listening involves fully focusing on and understanding what your partner is saying.
When your partner is speaking, give them your full attention and avoid interrupting or formulating a response in your mind. Instead, genuinely listen to their thoughts and feelings. Show that you are engaged by nodding or providing verbal cues such as “I understand”, “I see”, or “Tell me more”.
By actively listening, you demonstrate that you value your partner’s perspective and are open to understanding their point of view. This reduces misunderstandings and helps you create a safe space where as a couple you can have meaningful conversations and work through any issues that arise.
Consider the following conversation:
Partner 1: “I don’t understand why you don’t want to come with me to see my family for Thanksgiving.”
Partner 2: “I’m really busy at work, and I don’t want to miss any deadlines.”
Partner 1: “You’re always putting work before our relationship.”
Partner 2: “That’s not true. I agreed to go to the Halloween party with you last month, didn’t I?”
In this example, Partner 1 is not actively listening to Partner 2 because they are quick to dismiss Partner 2’s concerns about missing work deadlines. Partner 2, on the other hand, is focusing on their own perspective rather than trying to understand what Partner 1 is saying. A better way to approach this conversation would be for Partner 1 to listen to Partner 2’s concerns about work, and for Partner 2 to try to see things from Partner 1’s perspective about the importance of spending time with family.
2. Use “I” statements
Sometimes, couples have trouble communicating authentically with each other because they use blame or attack language. This can cause escalation of already tense situations or hurt feelings.
Using “I” statements instead of “you” statements can make a significant difference in communication. “You” statements can sound accusatory and put your partner on the defensive.
On the other hand, “I” statements express your feelings without blaming or attacking your partner.
Consider the following conversation:
Partner 1: “You’re always leaving the kitchen a mess.”
Partner 2: “That’s not true, I cleaned up after myself this morning.”
Partner 1: “No, you didn’t. You left your dishes in the sink again.”
Partner 2: “That’s because I had to leave for work early this morning.”
In this example, both partners are using “you” statements that put each other on the defensive. If Partner 1 were to use an “I” statement, the conversation may go differently.
For example, instead of saying, “You’re always leaving the kitchen a mess,” Partner 1 could say, “I feel overwhelmed when I come home to a messy kitchen.” This allows Partner 2 to understand the impact their actions have on Partner 1 without feeling attacked or defensive.
3. Non-Verbal Cues
In addition to our words, our body language and non-verbal cues can communicate a lot more.
Nonverbal cues are especially important in romantic relationships where subtle acts of affection or concern can say much more than words ever could.
Often, nonverbal communication signals that accompany verbal cues can either (re)affirm or (mis)align the verbal message. Pay attention to your partner’s body language and facial expressions. If they seem upset or stressed, ask them how they are feeling and if anything is bothering them.
Similarly, be mindful of your own non-verbal cues. Maintain good eye contact, use open body language, and show that you are present in the moment. These non-verbal cues can make your partner feel heard and understood, even without saying a word. This promotes intimacy, sincerity and healthy communication.
Consider the following scenario:
Partner 1: “I’m really stressed out about work.”
Partner 2: “Oh, that’s too bad.”
Partner 1: “You don’t even care, do you?”
Partner 2: “Of course I care. I just don’t know how to help.”
In this example, Partner 2’s non-verbal cues are not aligned with their verbal message. While Partner 2 says that they care, their non-verbal cues suggest that they are not interested or engaged in the conversation. A better way to approach this conversation would be for Partner 2 to provide verbal cues that match their non-verbal cues, such as “I’m sorry you’re feeling stressed. Can you tell me more about what’s going on?” This shows that they are engaged and concerned.
4. Express Empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person.
It is perhaps, one of the most important components of effective communication in couples. When your partner expresses their concerns or emotions, try to put yourself in their shoes and understand their perspective. Validate their feelings by acknowledging their experience and expressing empathy.
For example, saying “I can understand why that made you feel upset” or “I would feel the same way if I were in your position” can make your partner feel heard and supported. Empathy fosters a deeper connection and helps in resolving conflicts more effectively. When one partner is able to understand and appreciate the other’s perspective, the bond between the couple grows stronger.
Consider the following conversation:
Partner 1: “I’m really disappointed that we can’t go on vacation this year.”
Partner 2: “I don’t understand why you’re so upset. We can’t afford it right now.”
Partner 1: “You never want to do anything fun anymore.”
Partner 2: “That’s not true. We just need to prioritize our expenses.”
In this example, Partner 2 is not expressing empathy for Partner 1’s disappointment and instead is focusing on the practical side of things. A better way to approach this conversation would be for Partner 2 to acknowledge Partner 1’s feelings and work together to find an alternative solution that works for both of them, such as finding a less expensive vacation option or planning a fun local getaway.
5. Take a Time-Out
Although good communication is key in a relationship, there may come a time when emotions run high and clear communication is no longer possible.
Sometimes, conflicts can become heated and emotions can run high. In such situations, it is important to take a time-out to cool down and gather your thoughts. Agree with your partner on a signal or phrase that indicates the need for a break. Use this time-out to reflect on your emotions and thoughts, and when you both have calmed down, come back together to discuss the issue.
Taking a time-out prevents arguments from escalating and allows both partners to approach the conversation with a clearer and calmer perspective. It is crucial to remind each other that it’s always about resolving the issue, not winning the argument.
Consider the following scenario:
Partner 1: “I can’t believe you forgot our anniversary again.”
Partner 2: “I didn’t forget. I just have a lot going on at work right now.”
Partner 1: “You always have an excuse. You never prioritize our relationship.”
Partner 2: “That’s not true. I just have a lot of deadlines to meet.”
In this example, the conversation is becoming heated, and both partners are becoming defensive. A better way to handle this conversation would be for one or both partners to take a time-out to cool down and gather their thoughts. They could agree to come back to the conversation later, once they have both had time to reflect on their feelings and thoughts.
Effective communication is crucial for a healthy and happy relationship. By practicing active listening, using “I” statements, paying attention to non-verbal cues, expressing empathy, and taking time-outs when needed, couples can enhance their communication skills and build a stronger bond over time. Communication is a continuous process that requires effort and practice, but it’s always worth it. With these 5 effective communication techniques, partners can create a stronger connection and improve the longevity of their relationship.
If your relationship is facing more serious challenges, you may need to book a session with a relationship counselling expert.
For couples who would like to learn more about effective communication techniques or improve their communication skills, there are various resources available. Here are a few:
- “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman: This book explores different ways that people give and receive love, and helps couples understand how to communicate effectively with each other.
- “Hold Me Tight” by Dr. Sue Johnson: This book provides practical exercises and tools for couples to improve their emotional connection and communicate more effectively.
- Gottman Institute: The Gottman Institute is an organization that provides research-based tools and resources for couples to improve their communication and strengthen their relationship. Their website has a wealth of information on topics such as communication skills, conflict management, and emotional intimacy.
- Couples counselling: Couples counselling is a form of counselling that can be helpful for couples who are struggling with communication or other relationship issues. A trained therapist can provide guidance and support for couples to improve their communication skills and work through any challenges they may be facing.