It may be no surprise, but the foundational skill of communication is one of the top drivers for couples to Well Marriage Center. It overlaps every other area of marriage and couples counseling.
Being able to communicate needs, expectations, and desires, as well as talking through conflict are essential parts of any relationship. Some of us miss out on the nuances of these core skills in childhood or develop negative coping strategies around difficult conversations.
Sometimes it’s easy to communicate with anyone on the planet—except our partners, for various reasons. For example, perhaps one partner shuts down when difficult topics come up, or one partner does all the talking and doesn’t leave space for the other to communicate. Sometimes no one is listening at all, or things quickly escalate into fights.
All relationships are unique, as are the communication dynamics between any two individuals. Luckily, we’re here to help you through your unique situation.
Couples therapy and Communication
Our therapists focus only on couples and relationships between people, so naturally communication improvement is one of our foundational skillsets.
By focusing on the strengths and what drew you together in the first place, we can expand in a setting of acceptance to figure out where communication breakdowns occur and why.
More importantly, we can teach you the skills to move past these blocks and give you the support you need to practice until excellent communication comes naturally.
When we’re able to catch these communication blocks early, we’re often able to help the couple avoid the more toxic and deeper level problems that come years down the road if left unchecked.
Several clients have done pre-marital counseling with us to avoid this very common issue in the future. Building effective communication early is one of the best things you can do for your relationship.
Never Too Late
However, even when more difficult baggage has accumulated through years of bad communication, our therapists are trained to handle the overlapping issues. A great example of this can be found in our article on communication here. Written by Michael Fronce, it details a communication breakdown from the therapist’s perspective.
Wherever you find yourself in your relationship, we’re here to help support and hold hope for you and your partner. Please feel free to reach out by clicking Get Started – you can also read about communication on our blog or continue reading below for more detailed information.
More on Relationship Communication…
The foundation of any relationship, romantic or otherwise, is communication. It touches every other aspect of our connections with others. Relationship communication—the sharing of information, ideas, and feelings between partners—allows each person in a romantic relationship to learn about the other, build bonds, understand the other’s reasoning, and work through tough situations together. Without healthy communication, we often find ourselves projecting our own versions, motives, and thoughts onto the other person.
Even in the healthiest relationships, however, communication can become strained due to changing circumstances, major life events, or other issues. These periods of strain require a shift in how each person in the relationship interacts with one another. Before this shift happens, it’s important to keep in mind that there are all sorts of different types and styles of communication out there. Let’s go over these, provide more information on what causes communication problems, and give ideas to improve communication.
What Are the 4 Types of Communication Styles in Relationships?
Communication styles are the tone you take when you are communicating with your partner. The four types of communication styles in romantic relationships are:
- Passive: People who use this style typically let their partners make all the decisions. They typically avoid conflict and sharing their feelings openly. Passive communicators won’t often say “no” and may avoid eye contact during difficult conversations.
- Aggressive: These communicators openly speak their minds. They tend to speak loudly and may come off as dominating or demanding. They may also place blame on their partners. With that said, communicators of this type are typically seen as leaders in the business world, although research shows this isn’t always best for companies or their bottom lines.
- Passive-aggressive: People of this communication style have a passive exterior and aggressive interior. They may not acknowledge that a problem exists outwardly, but they may build up resentment and vent to others outside the relationship instead or give their partners the silent treatment. They know what they want, but they have a hard time voicing it. Sometimes the frustrations build up and then all come out at once.
- Assertive: These communicators can clearly express their own ideas and feelings while also considering those of their partner. They aim to work through conflicts side-by-side with their partner rather than either taking over the resolution process or deferring to their partner’s decisions. They differ from aggressive communicators in that they want to hear their partner’s point-of-view rather than dominating the conversation.
While assertiveness is typically seen as the best form of communication, not everyone knows how to communicate that way. Keep that in mind when talking with a partner who uses a different style than you do. Our communication styles are greatly influenced by our developmental years and can be reinforced through family dynamics and other outside factors as we age. We can work to improve our communication styles, but this often involves individual therapy or marriage counseling, and it doesn’t happen overnight.
How to Communicate With Different Communication Styles
So what do you do when you have different communication styles while dating or married? Childhood trauma, past physical or emotional abuse, or other complex backgrounds affect the ways we automatically express our feelings and thoughts. To ensure that both partners can communicate effectively despite a difference in styles, here are a few practices to keep in mind:
- If you have a passive partner: Boost their confidence with compliments about the things they do that you appreciate. Passive communicators often don’t make decisions or openly speak their minds because they lack confidence. Ask them for their opinions and indicate what you value in their ideas. Don’t be aggressive or put down their thoughts, as this can make passive partners shut down further.
- If you have an aggressive partner: Practice patience. These people aren’t afraid to speak their minds, and they may say something that offends you. Don’t insult or criticize them, as this can lead to an even more tumultuous conversation. Should a conversation start to go off track, try to direct it back to the original point or take a break.
- If you have a passive-aggressive partner: Remain positive instead of reciprocating passive-aggressiveness. Highlight what about their thoughts you like or value. With this type especially, also make sure to remember your partner’s background. It has a big effect on their behavior. If they say something negative, turn it into something more positive. For example, if they say, “Why am I always the one doing the dishes?”, you may respond, “I didn’t realize you felt that way. Let’s figure out what we can do where our chore load feels more even.”
- If you have an assertive partner: Accept constructive criticism. Assertive partners call things out so you two can work through it rather than to put you down. Be willing to share your thoughts and feelings with them. They want to hear them. Give them space when they need it. Assertive partners often have to think through what they want to say before they say it, so that space allows them to better process.
Assertive communication takes time and practice, as you may have to develop entirely new communication habits. It can be difficult for you and your partner to work through it on your own, especially if your background affects how you communicate. A specialized couples therapist like ours at Well Marriage Center will help you and your partner work through previous traumas and harmful patterns to become more assertive. They will also advise partners on how best to support one another on that journey, which is incredibly helpful and reinforcing.
What Are the Three Keys of Good Communication in a Relationship?
While there are several keys to good communication in a relationship, the three we’ll cover here are:
- Understanding where your emotions came from so you can clearly explain what you need
- Listening to understand
- Finding common ground with your partner
Before you dive into a conversation, make sure to take some time to yourself to understand exactly why you’re feeling the way you feel. Do you have an unmet need? How many times have you noticed this issue? What exactly are you feeling? Did something happen in your childhood that may have affected why you’re feeling the way you are now? Answering questions like these before approaching your significant other will allow you to more clearly express yourself once you start the conversation. You will have specific instances to point to and feelings to call out.
Once either your or your significant other initiates a conversation, make sure you actively listen. Do not listen merely to better argue your point or call out what your partner did or said wrong. Rather, pay attention to your partner’s feelings and what they’ve noticed so that you can understand their side, too. Only then can you both find common ground. (Remember you can always have a separate conversation for other feelings that come up along the way.)
Being on common ground with your partner—understanding where the other person is coming from and what you both want to achieve by having this conversation—will aid you both in working towards a solution together. You might need to compromise, but that communication allows you to build a stronger, healthier relationship.
Note that examples of good communication in a relationship will vary based on the needs of each individual. For example, a couple that doesn’t live together may need a good night call every night to feel connected. A couple living together, on the other hand, may need time apart to do their own hobbies so they have more to talk about when together. Finding the right amount of interaction to satisfy both people takes getting to know each other better and regularly discussing your desires.
How to Communicate Your Needs in a Relationship
To effectively communicate your needs in a relationship, you have to take a look within yourself first. You may feel uncomfortable talking about unmet needs because it requires being vulnerable and could hurt your partner. It’s important to discuss these needs, though, before they cause a bigger disconnect or build into larger issues. Recognize that you deserve to feel complete wholeness in your relationship and that it will take some work to attain.
Once you have figured out what you want out of the conversation and how you want to approach it, find a good time to have it. Aim for time when you and your significant other can be alone together without too much distraction. State clearly what you want, why you want it, and how your partner can satisfy those needs. When doing so, do not use harsh or accusatory language. Try to be assertive, not aggressive, which can create an unnecessary rift between you.
As you express your needs and reasons, be open to your partner sharing theirs as well. A relationship requires effort from both parties to find a solution or common ground. Both partners deserve to be understood, and this process will increase how happy you both are with the outcome.
What Is the Importance of Communication in a Relationship?
Effective communication in relationships is important because it establishes a healthy, fulfilling foundation for each individual. It allows each person to learn more about the other, feel safe being vulnerable, express their emotional needs, and allows you to bond on a deeper level. It also gives each person a better sense of what they want out of the relationship and how to get it.
When you have that deeper, stronger foundation formed, you can more easily trust one another. That trust makes it easier to work through problems. Instead of one person attacking or blaming the other person over an issue in the relationship, both partners team up to work through the issue together. Each partner presents their side and listens to the other side to understand the best route forward. Ultimately, healthy communication gives a clearer path towards a solution than without it.
Communication also bridges the gap between two people. If you have effective communication, you can more easily cross that bridge. It creates a partnership and puts someone in your corner should you face something difficult in your family, your job, or any other situation.
What Happens When You Don’t Communicate in a Relationship?
A lack of communication in a relationship can tear down the bonds between people. Instead of feeling like you’re on a team, you may feel isolated and distant from your significant other. It may start to affect your mental health, leaving you feeling confused, angry, and depressed. The one not being communicated with may start to question what they did wrong, whether the relationship can last, or even turn to negative coping strategies such as internalizing blame.
What’s more, a lack of communication can intensify even the smallest problems. For example, one partner not often washing the dishes may seem like something easy that can be talked through. However, if compiled with the frustration and loneliness associated with poor communication, your significant other not washing the dishes may start to feel like “they only keep me around to do the chores.” Being able to talk these things through early can prevent a world of trouble down the line.
The effects of lack of communication in a relationship can be detrimental. Luckily, with a trained counselor or couples therapist like those at Well Marriage Center, you and your partner can learn how to work through any hesitancy to talk to one another. It will start to improve your communication, prevent further distance, and heal your relationship.
What Causes Poor Communication in Relationships?
At the heart of most communication problems are unexpressed or unmet expectations and needs. Generally, if you think you and your partner have a communication issue, you probably have some other problem that caused the poor communication in the first place, either individually or between you specifically. Many factors can contribute to this root cause. For a common example, distractions such as television or social media can leave partners feeling isolated and longing for quality time.
Jealousy can also break down communication between two people in a romantic relationship. For example, someone spending most of their time with friends can leave their partner longing for quality time. This, in turn, leads to jealousy and even a breakdown of trust that can harm communication.
Harsh language when trying to express how you feel can also hinder future communication with your partner. It can leave them feeling attacked and scared of talking to you anymore. Plus, angry words may only reveal surface feelings rather than underlying issues or expectations that led you to feel the way you do. Without this deeper meaning, your significant other won’t know exactly why you’re feeling the way you do or why you’re lashing out.
So many other factors can contribute to poor communication in a relationship. To avoid or fix these issues, though, both partners need to realize what unmet needs or expectations they have. You both must openly talk about these to work through them and make a compromise so you both get what you need. Remember, too, that your partner can’t read your mind. You have to stay patient with them even when you feel like you’ve repeated yourself or said everything you needed to say. Your partner might interpret what you tell them or the situation itself differently than you do. It may take some time for both of you to get on the same page.
If you’re unsure how to bridge that gap or need help starting, a couples therapist or marriage counselor can help. Our professionals have a strengths-based approach so that you and your partner can build from an already solid foundation rather than focusing solely on your problems.
What Is the Right Way to Communicate in a Relationship?
There isn’t a right way to communicate in a relationship. Because every individual is so different, every relationship is different. With each comes a unique way of interacting with one another. No set of rules of communication for relationships could work for every partnership. To find what works best for you and your partner takes time, patience, and a willingness to learn about one another. It requires accepting your significant other for who they are instead of trying to change them. A couples therapist or marriage counselor can help you find what works best for both you and your partner, as well as help individuals make positive changes that benefit the relationship.
How to Communicate in a New Relationship
Starting a new relationship can be fun and exciting. The romance is still alive and fresh, and it can feel like the conversations could go on forever since you still have so much to learn about the other person.
However, you may feel some growing pains in the early stages of your relationship, too. That’s because you and your significant other are still getting to know each other, so you don’t know how the other person communicates, how often they want to talk or spend time together, and what means they prefer to use to talk. You might also fear bringing up concerns early on because you think it’ll drive your partner away.
You may also notice that your communication habits change over time. While you may call or text each other a lot at the beginning of the relationship, you may do it less as you get to know each other better. All these phases are completely normal. A new relationship takes work, but it can be well worth it. Talking to a couples therapist can be a great way to navigate changing communication habits even before you feel that you and your partner have a problem interacting with one another.
To help build communication early on, it’s important to be honest with another. Discuss early on what you want out of the relationship. Be open about who you are and what your interests are. Don’t be afraid to bring up concerns. If you bring them up early on, you can work through them before it becomes a big issue or you get too far into the relationship. Honesty and good communication early on will build a strong foundation for you and your partner to build off of.
How to Fix Communication in a Relationship With a Couples Therapist
If you feel that you and your partner have a disconnect when trying to interact with one another, you may have one or more deeper issues affecting how you two communicate. While you can try to work through these on your own, it may be quicker, easier, and more effective to seek advice from a couples therapist or marriage counselor. Those at Well Marriage Center have the expertise needed to get to the bottom of your issue.
We want to see your relationship succeed as much as you do. That’s why we have endless ideas for how to figure out what exactly is hindering communication in a relationship. We won’t hide from tough discussions because we think there is more to solving communication problems than practicing “I” statements.
To find healthy ways of expressing yourself and talking through issues with your partner, schedule an appointment at Well Marriage Center today.