As humans, communication might be the most important thing we learn and practice. It begins as soon as we’re born (maybe before), and most of us continue to learn more about it throughout our entire lives. You’d think that something so basic would come easily, but we’re all individuals with different backgrounds and understanding about various issues, so it can actually be pretty challenging sometimes.
In no relationship is communication more important than that of a romantic partnership. Good communication can make the difference between extreme stress and peaceful coexistence.
There are endless articles, books, and ideas about how to develop better communication techniques with your partner, and going to couples counseling can help tremendously as well. Here, we’ve collected six quick tips to get you started.
Don’t Overlook the Small Things
Communication starts with small, everyday things. Don’t skip conversations with your partner about groceries, school schedules, and weather because you think they’re too boring or you’ve had them a thousand times. Sharing small things like this with your partner aids in developing closeness and a sense of being on the same team, which helps when you need to discuss something deeper or more emotional.
Learn to Listen
One of the best ways to improve your communication skills (in general—not just with your partner) is to develop your listening skills. When your partner believes you are listening and understanding what he or she is saying, it goes a long way toward diffusing tense situations, avoiding misunderstandings, and breaking down walls of defensiveness.
Here are some ways to practice good listening:
- Put down your phone, mute your television, and make eye contact with your partner when he or she is speaking to you.
- Actively listen by nodding, saying, “Yes,” or asking for clarification when needed. Once your partner is finished speaking, you can repeat back your interpretation of what was said to show that you were listening and that you understood. If you’re wrong, it’s a great time for your partner to clarify things, so you don’t move forward under misunderstood circumstances.
- Don’t interrupt or, if you need to, do so courteously. You should only do it when you need to say or ask something directly related to what your partner just said.
Make a Habit of Asking Questions
Asking questions is a wonderful way of communicating with someone. It’s easy to make assumptions about what you consider to be basic aspects of a situation. Your partner may have a different or even opposite assumption, and this is the basis of many problems in romantic partnerships.
Make a habit of asking your partner questions and listening openly to the answers. Even if it’s something you consider basic, you might be surprised at the response, and it can really open up better communication between you.
Make Sure You Take Care of Yourself
You will be more able to stay calm, listen to your partner, hear his or her point of view, and yield on some issues when you regularly practice good self-care. If you are emotionally on-edge, you will have less reserve and patience for good communication.
Make sure you are routinely getting exercise, alone time, time with friends, engaging in hobbies you love, doing deep breathing exercises, and generally doing things you love that give you joy.
Give Compliments and Affirmations
Think of this the same way you think about self-care. Offering compliments, acknowledging what your partner does that’s helpful and good for your relationship, and routinely affirming that you appreciate him or her helps fill their emotional cup and creates more room for them to listen and understand when you bring up a point of conflict.
Also, while talking with your partner, it’s a great idea to engage in physical touch. Holding hands or touching one another’s shoulder or arm while speaking can help introduce closeness and remove judgment from conversations.
The Love Languages
Dr. Gary Chapman, a pastor and marriage counselor, believes that each of us has a specific way in which we recognize love being offered to us by another person. If the way we recognize love isn’t provided to us because our partner uses a different “language,” we feel unloved, and this drastically negatively affects communication in the relationship. These five “languages” are:
- Acts of Service
- Words of Affirmation
- Physical Touch
- Quality Time
For example, if Partner A’s primary love language is Acts of Service, they feel loved when their partner does things for them, like offering to run errands, doing a project in the home, or performing a task they are reluctant to do. However, if that person’s partner, Partner B, has a primary love language of Gifts, he or she shows love by giving presents, not by performing Acts of Service. In this case, Partner A doesn’t recognize that Partner B is loving them by giving the Gifts; he or she feels a lack of love because Partner B is not performing Acts of Service.
You can learn more about these love languages, how they relate to communication, how you can find out which primary language you and your partner each use, and how to “speak” your partner’s love language so he or she can better feel your love in this book: “The 5 Love Languages.”