How often does an exclamation of irritation or even anger at your partner’s failure to see your point of view escape from your oh-so-frustrated lips?
More often than you’d care to admit, I bet.
Bridging that communication gap is vital if your relationship is to thrive and develop over time.
Don’t be that couple who are on a parallel trajectory, each ploughing their own furrow of existence, but with no true spiritual connection or understanding.
It’s so easy to lose sight of the present when we’re hell-bent on making plans for the future. That present could be so much more enjoyable if the two of you saw eye-to-eye in the here-and-now.
Let’s face it, your relationship may not survive long enough to see that much-planned rosy future if you don’t address the issues caused by your failure to communicate in the present.
When the conduits of communication are no longer open, it can be very isolating and oh-so-easy to feel alone, even though you’re sharing a home and a life with someone else.
The great news is that there are ways of closing that void and they’re just as relevant for comparative newbies in the relationship game as they are for those that have jogged along, for better or worse, through several decades of marriage.
Take A Step Back And Reflect
If you’re serious about trying to right what you see as wrongs in the way you interact with your spouse or partner (or they with you), then taking a step back and giving yourself the time and space to reflect on ways to understand one another better could reap untold benefits.
The dual nature of any intimate relationship means that there are often two quite different perspectives on certain things.
These attitudes and beliefs are naturally developed over a lifetime and influenced by everything from childhood experiences, family relationships, education, and even the workplace.
If one or both parties in a relationship haven’t been lucky enough to have parents who communicated effectively and demonstrated mutual respect, then that’s harder still to achieve for the next generation.
Remember How It All Began
One of the most joyous things about the early days of a relationship is the way you rapidly gather knowledge about each other by talking non-stop, often into the small hours of the morning.
Trying to discover what makes the other tick and learning as much as you can about their life story is a huge part of the heady rush of new love. You share information about pretty much everything, from the most trivial to the most tragic.
The key is that both parties make a real effort to consider the feelings of their prospective or new lover and to communicate honestly and openly.
Never forget that physical closeness is also a huge part of this. It’s that which often acts as a conduit for sharing confidences in the hormone-fuelled days of new romance. Pillow talk can be very revealing when it comes to finding out what really lies beneath.
Sadly, that closeness and the joyous sense of mutual connection and understanding that was a huge part of the original attraction is easily lost amid the layers of c**p that life piles on a relationship.
If we can peel back these layers, we stand a chance of rekindling at least a whisper of the spirit of those wondrous early days.
It Takes Two
Don’t forget that there’s little point in this drive for closer connection if it’s all one-sided.
Perhaps your partner doesn’t get just how frustrated you are with what you perceive as a lack of communication. She or he may be blissfully unaware.
Ultimately, it’s essential that you find a way to discuss this honestly and frankly, so you can both make the necessary changes.
The focus of this piece is on changing your own behavior and revealing a few baby steps toward more effective communication.
Those changes may begin to have a positive effect on your partner’s own behavior without them even realizing it.
The Top 10 Tips For Effective Couples Communication
Let’s consider how you could try to dissolve, or at least shrink, that damaging void of mutual misunderstanding and go forward in greater harmony.
These tips will help you and your beloved spend more time singing from the same hymn sheet and less time dancing to different beats.
None of them are rocket science and some are blindingly obvious. Yet, they are easy to forget. A little reminder will give you the drive and determination to put them into practice.
They will help open your mind so you can reassess your relationship and open (or re-open) those vital channels of communication.
1. Spend Time Together
Although much of this article is about improving verbal communication, all of that is pretty much irrelevant if you don’t make an effort to share the same space.
Many of the things you do as a couple may seem insignificant, but never underestimate the value of simply spending time together.
Reading the newspaper, watching TV, cooking, listening to music, or even doing the laundry may all seem trivial and meaningless, but sharing these things is as important – maybe more so – to boosting the health of your relationship than talking about how you feel.
Failing to share these basic activities can lead to a gulf in communication and a mutual lack of understanding.
2. Don’t Fear Communication
Some people are afraid to talk properly with their partners because they think it will make the overall situation worse.
They worry that by bringing up a grievance or being too open about their own issues, they risk alienating their partner or causing an argument. Or they simply don’t want to hurt the other person.
The truth is, though, that open and honest communication is the bedrock of any solid and stable relationship.
What you really ought to fear is misunderstandings and letting any problems you may have lay undealt with. Not communicating will always pose a bigger threat to a relationship than speaking from the heart.
3. Be Appreciative
It’s easy to underestimate the value of a word or two of thanks or appreciation between partners. We often just take for granted the myriad small things which one does for the other.
Kind thoughts, gestures, and deeds go a long way toward showing you understand the external stresses and problems your partner may be going through.
Little acknowledgments like this, which frankly take zero effort, have untold value in terms of reaffirming a relationship.
Communication isn’t all about the negative harping on about your grievances. It’s really important to use positive words to reinforce your relationship and show how much you care.
As long as they are genuine and heartfelt, be sure to actually form the words to say how much you like your partner’s new dress or shirt, or how delicious the dinner they cooked was.
It’s so very easy for these nice thoughts to flit through your head without you actually vocalizing them. It’s also tragically easy to stop noticing these things altogether.
Paying a compliment takes little effort and is easy to do once it becomes a habit. These short and seemingly trivial phrases communicate to your partner that you notice him or her and you’re happy he or she is in your life.
Don’t hold back from telling your partner how deeply you love and care for them. Assuming that they know how you feel is never okay. Hearing the words “I love you” is a constant reassurance and reaffirmation of your feelings.
5. Physical Closeness
Communication in a loving relationship isn’t just about words, of course, but deeds too.
And I don’t mean sex – not that I’m underestimating the value of making love as a way of communicating your love and affection for your partner.
If you want to improve the depth and effectiveness of your communication and understanding, it’s the consistent small gestures, like holding hands, kissing hello and goodbye, repeated umpteen times each day, which will have the greatest effect.
Touching shows how much you care without the need for words – especially valuable since words can easily be misconstrued. Never underestimate the power of a hug.
The love and affection that’s shown and felt in these apparently inconsequential actions is far greater than you might think.
In the busyness of 21st century life, they’re also the things which are very easily forgotten amid the rush.
6. Inquire About Your Partner’s Day
After the all-important kiss hello, make a habit of asking how your partner’s day went.
Some people are more forthcoming than others about sharing the details and this might not be the right moment for that. Just expressing an interest, though, opens the channels of communication.
It may be that something is on their mind and things didn’t go so well. They may not feel like talking about it at that moment. But your expression of interest means that they can share their concerns when they’re ready and know that you’ll listen.
7. Don’t Let Social Media Trump Social Interaction
How much time do you and your loved one spend in the same or different rooms communicating enthusiastically and animatedly with ‘friends’ on social media?
Too much time is the most likely answer.
It’s ironic that so many of us spend large amounts of our time interacting that way, while failing to connect on anything but a superficial level with those who share our lives.
Although I guess you could argue that sitting in the same room staring at your phones qualifies as ‘spending time together’ (point 1), there’s something peculiarly divisive about it.
You may be together in a physical sense, but you’re focusing on the activities of people, known and unknown, who are far away.
Set some limits on the amount of time you spend Twittering and the like and switch the focus to interacting with your significant other. It will pay dividends, for sure.
8. Open Your Ears
It’s one thing to hear and quite another to actually listen. One of the biggest compliments you can pay your partner is that of actually listening to what they say. This is especially true when you’re making an effort to improve communication between you.
When you explain the issue you have with something your partner may have said or done, make sure you actually listen to their response.
It’s all too easy to second-guess the answer and be ready with the next in your barrage of questions and exclamations. Be sure to give her/him a chance to speak and listen carefully to their reply.
You can improve your listening skills by using a technique called ‘active listening.’
Communicate your understanding to your partner with a smile and a relevant word or phrase, as simple as “I understand” (provided that you do, of course).
Active listening allows for interruptions if you need to clarify or even disagree, but always ask permission before doing so. Say something like: “Sorry, may I ask a question?” Be sure, though, that question is connected with what they’re telling you.
Of course, it could be that you disagree with their overall point, but if that’s the case, wait until they’ve finished speaking before expressing your view.
If you need further clarification, then it’s fine to ask more questions to make sure you really comprehend their point of view.
By using this technique, you may find out that it’s you who’s got the wrong end of the stick or that he/she was unaware of your feelings or whatever.
It’s only by actually ‘actively’ listening that you’ll find out.
9. Don’t Play The Blame Game
You may find you’re falling into the common trap of using accusatory phrases like “You always…,” “You never…,” “You make me…,” and “You didn’t…”
These phrases point blame and can make your partner feel as if they’re under attack. They then go into defensive mode and things can unravel from there.
Try a different approach instead by using “I” instead of “you” statements. Something like “I feel upset when…,” softens the tone and removes the blame element from whatever point you’re making.
10. Avoid Bottling Up Resentments/Misunderstandings
It’s an old chestnut, but nonetheless relevant here:
Never let the sun go down on an argument.
If you possibly can, get any frustrations or angst that you have about your partner’s behavior, or about something they’ve said, out in the open before you go to sleep.
The easiest option is to remain silent, but it’ll always be harder to hark back to the topic tomorrow and your negative feelings may have intensified by then.
An issue which could have been easily smoothed over the previous evening becomes a bigger and bigger deal and a way more dangerous beast to reckon with.
Working as a freelance copywriter, Juliana is following a path well-trodden by her family, who seem to have 'wordsmithing' in their DNA. She'll turn her quill to anything from lifestyle and wellness articles to blog posts and SEO articles. All this is underpinned by a lifetime of travel, cultural exchange and her love of the richly expressive medium of the English language.