Examples of poor communication in a relationship are easy to find. Chances are, you’ve been at both the receiving and giving end of these phrases and more:
- “Do what you want.”
- “I’m fine.”
- “This is all your fault.”
- “You never do anything right.”
- “You always say that.”
The list goes on and on. These examples range from passive aggressive to aggressive and have one thing in common: they put you and your partner against each other rather than against the underlying problem. Signs of bad communication in a relationship can show up as:
- Repeating arguments
- Escalating feelings of resentment
- Inability to work together for common goals
- The silent treatment
- Less emotional intimacy
- One person pursues more conversation and the other keeps backing away
- Nobody listens to the other
It’s also important to understand—and aim for—signs of good communication in a relationship:
- Open body language
- Intentional language use
- Prioritizing conflict resolution
- Active listening
- Increased trust
- Meeting your partner where they are
- Actively expressing patience and understanding
Relationship communication takes work to improve–almost everyone picked up their communication habits as children and it can take awhile to rewire the brain for more effective adult communication. The good news is that there are steps that you and your partner can take to build a healthier relationship. From intentionally working on communication skills to working with a couples therapist, this blog covers what you can do to improve communication and focus on what really matters.
Why Is Communication Important in a Relationship?
One of the most noticeable effects of a lack of communication in a relationship is how it can cause other issues to spiral out of control. We end up assuming we know what the other person is thinking and what their motives are. We don’t feel understood, accepted, and appreciated when communication is off. Because of how communication affects all other areas of a relationship, couples often assume that a lack of communication causes any and all relationship issues. While this may be true to a certain extent, working on communication is the first step toward taking on more substantial challenges as a team.
How To Communicate Your Needs in a Relationship
Two common ways to improve communication in a relationship are to work with a marriage counselor or to focus on improving your communication skills with your partner. Either route will take dedication and engagement from both parties. You can use the following nine skills to help guide discussions with your partner in a productive way.
10 Important Communication Skills for Every Relationship
- Communicate face-to-face. Technology can make communicating more convenient, but it can also make your intentions less clear. There are a lot of ways your partner could interpret a text. When speaking face-to-face, your tone of voice and body language give additional context to what you’re saying and listening to.
- Choose a neutral space to communicate in. Choosing the best space to have difficult conversions in is important for two reasons. First, it’s best to avoid having negative experiences in rooms like the bedroom or kitchen. Second, certain spaces may give you or your partner the “home field advantage.” For example, having arguments in your home office may encourage you to speak to your partner as though they are a coworker and not your spouse; this can make communication less effective.
- Talk about the big and little things. It can be tempting to only discuss major challenges like financial dilemmas, but it’s just as important to talk about smaller issues. That way, you can work out a solution with your spouse before they grow into something worse.
- Talk about fun things, too. If you and your partner only talk when it’s time for an argument, then you’ll be more likely to avoid communicating with each other. Be sure to share exciting plans, funny moments from your day, and things that you appreciate about your partner.
- Give your full attention to your partner. During important talks, focusing on your partner, what you’re discussing, and how they feel about it is a must. That way, you can respond in constructive ways, rather than escalating conflicts due to a misunderstanding.
- Allow your partner to express themselves. You and your partner each have unique and valid perspectives. Listen to understand their viewpoint instead of looking for an opportunity to interrupt and respond. Doing so will make your partner feel valued, and you will gain a better understanding of their perspective.
- Use “I” statements. This skill will help you communicate your own feelings about a topic, just like giving your partner time to speak allows them to share their thoughts. Using “I” statements also helps you avoid trying to place blame on your partner with “you” statements.
- Be honest. Hiding important details or feelings may be tempting in the short-run, but being upfront about how a situation impacts your relationship gives you and your partner more time to find a solution. Otherwise, that problem could grow until it’s too difficult to hide.
- Keep things in perspective. In the heat of an argument, small things can feel like deal-breakers. Dirty dishes, socks laying on the floor, and other issues can add fuel to the fire and distract from the problem at hand. Of course, the small things matter, too, so you can set aside another time to discuss them.
- Take a break. Learn to recognize when things are going nowhere and take a beat. If your partner has disengaged, pursuing the conversation further will likely upset you both. If your discussion is spiraling into conflict, take a break. Reassess what is important and set a time to come back to it when you’re both prepared for calm and open discussion.
How Do You Fix Bad Communication in a Relationship?
Communication is hard, and relationships with poor communication may have a more difficult time overcoming significant challenges. Couples can benefit from a safe and guided space to learn these essential communication skills and work through difficult situations with a mediator. This is exactly what marriage counseling and couples therapy can provide.
In relationship therapy, we examine why we communicate our needs the way we do. Where did our style start? Does this style still work for us now as adults? Both partners will examine these origins and how the two styles work together, for better or worse. You’ll come out on the other side with a clearer understanding of how to express your own needs, how to hear your partner’s needs, and how to meet in the middle.
See how a change in communication can start your relationship on the path forward. Schedule an appointment today with Well Marriage Center today.