Communication is the most challenging aspect of any relationship. We wrap our lives up in our partners, invest our time and energy in them, and rely on them to be there for us. Yet between two people, there is always a gap. We can never fully share ourselves. So when you spend enough time with someone, it is inevitable that your motivations, priorities, and desires will sometimes clash. When these conflicts happen, good communication makes all the difference between a situation that finds a happy resolution and one that turns into a devastating rift. Here’s how you can strengthen your relationship by taking your communication to the next level:
In our busy lives, it is easy to fall into a routine. It is easy to get caught up in all the things we have to do, and to be constantly multitasking. Often we’ll be with our significant others physically, while our minds are drifting elsewhere, thinking about work perhaps or planning our priorities for tomorrow.
So set aside time each day to be fully present with your partner. Give them your full, undivided attention. Hear them out and be attentive to not only the substance of what they say, but also the way they say it. Set aside your own agenda for a while to fully acknowledge their needs. When you cultivate quality time like this, you’ll be amazed at how much deeper your connection and communication can become.
Stop Ignoring Your Gut
When something is wrong, we usually know it. We hear the edge in our partner’s voice, we notice the distraction in their kiss, and we pick up on the subtle cues that something is wrong. But when this happens, we all too often dismiss it. We make excuses to avoid the confrontation, to not ask what is wrong, and to hope that if we just ignore it the friction will go away. Of course, ignoring it only makes things worse and ultimately hurts your communication in the future.
So get in the habit of voicing your concern as soon as you get the feeling something is wrong. “Hey, I’m sensing some friction between us. Can we talk about it?” Even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal, it is. Just get it out in the open, hear each other out, and work through it. If you want your relationship to thrive, you have to wade into the sticky emotional territory and work through your problems.
Get It Off Your Chest
On the other hand, don’t expect your partner to notice that something is wrong. Don’t hold grudges or bottle in hurt feelings. When something is bothering you, get it out in the open as soon as possible. You’ll feel better, the problem will almost certainly feel smaller once you give it voice, and you’ll prevent it from festering and becoming a bigger fight down the line.
Honesty and Vulnerability
Being honest with your significant other doesn’t simply mean never lying. It means giving voice to emotions, fears, and desires—especially when it is painful to do so. To be truly honest with you partner, you must be willing to make yourself vulnerable. When something is on your mind, have the confidence and trust to share it. If your feelings were hurt, talk about it. If there is something you are missing in the relationship, voice it. When you realize you’ve been selfish or neglectful, don’t be afraid to admit it, apologize, and explain what you were going through. Ultimately, being honest with your partner requires being honest first and foremost with yourself. If you want to improve your communication, the first step is to look within, and then be confident in sharing what you find there.
See Eye to Eye
When it comes time to work through an issue, do it face to face if at all possible. On the phone (and especially if you’re texting), it is easy to misunderstand and be misunderstood. It is easy to hurt feelings and not realize you have. So look each other in the eye while you talk, and be mindful of your body language while you do. Crossing your arms over your chest, standing in an aggressive posture, or refusing to make eye contact are all physical ways to close yourself off from your partner, making them perceive that you aren’t open to hearing their side. Likewise, your partner’s body language will tell you a lot about how they are feeling. Whether you know it or not, much of the communication we do is non-verbal.
Open communication is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship. By using these tips, you are sure to reduce conflict and increase intimacy with your loved one. But these five methods are just the tip of the iceberg. If you are curious to learn more about the psychology of interacting with a significant other, check out this in-depth guide to better communication; because let’s face it, relationships are hard, and we can use all the help we can get.