There is no singular secret ingredient for healthy relationships. But… healthy communication comes close. When you and your partner communicate directly, often, and with respect, it can prevent certain problems from occurring. In other cases, it can make dealing with those problems a less stressful experience. Hence, committing together to improve communication skills is one of the best things you can always do for each other.
Of course, every couple will have their own communication style. Even so, there are many universal red flags and suggestions to consider. The lists below will offer a blueprint for what needs to be changed and how to make it happen.
A Few Communication Red Flags
- Passive-Aggressive Behavior: sarcasm, put-downs, disrespectful body language.
- Aggressive Behavior: Raising voices, blaming, defensiveness, controlling, dominating, or threatening.
- Avoidance: Ignoring problems, silent treatment, stonewalling, etc.
- Stuck in the Past: When arguments seem rooted in past mistakes, issues, and fights.
Is this a good time, or are we setting ourselves up for high emotions? Yes, some issues are urgent. But, generally speaking, most discussions can benefit when both of you read the room. Here are a few thoughts to factor in:
- Schedule important conversations. It can be very useful to make sure you’ve both processed your feelings before trying to articulate them.
- Take into account what you know about each other. If your partner is not a morning person, you may want to find another time to bring up a serious subject.
- If something volatile starts to unfold, think carefully before trying to address it in the heat of the moment.
Never forget that you are speaking with the love of your life. No matter how excited or frustrated you feel, they never deserve to be disrespected. Two helpful choices are:
- Set Boundaries: If you feel disrespected, make it crystal clear to your partner. If that boundary is not honored, you have every right to end the conversation.
- Use “I” Statements: To avoid misunderstandings, avoid “you” statements. “You always ignore my texts” is an accusation. “I feel hurt when my texts are not acknowledged” is a statement of personal feelings.
Communication is not a contest. Your goal should never be about “winning.” Even when you argue with your mate, it is not a competition. In times of conflict, see it as an opportunity to learn — in general and about your partner. Remain curious and practice good listening skills. Most importantly, see a resolution. Accept compromise as a trade-off and work together to resolve the conflict in a productive manner.
Everyone wants to feel appreciated. Thus, be mindful to not only focus on communication when it comes to household logistics, resolving a disagreement, or making some kind of plan. Speak appreciation into existence every chance you get. Do not hold back when you feel grateful to your partner about something. Are you proud of them? Say it loud and often.
The true gift of communication is that it’s more than a tool to repair. It is a tool to build. Every sincere compliment you give each other is a brick in a stronger foundation. When you say, “I love you,” “I appreciate you,” or “I’m so grateful for you,” you are creating a communication template that will deepen your bond and enrich your life
But What If You Feel Stuck?
No one ever promised that communication would be easy. It only makes sense that you’d sometimes need some support. Couples therapy is an ideal setting for this kind of work. In the presence of a skilled and unbiased guide, you and your partner can explore your current patterns while together creating new paradigms.