Do you ever look at your partner and wonder if they even heard a single word you said? Are you even speaking the same language? If you’re like most couples, you’ve had those moments when you just aren’t communicating. It has nothing to do with your love for each other but everything to do with your relationship.
Communication is how your partner knows you, what you want and need and what is important to you. Good communication requires more than just being in a relationship. Are you talking or are you communicating? Are you meaningfully connecting and sharing in a way that taps into that intimate emotional place where true understanding resides?
Feeling disconnected from your partner or struggling to be heard is a good indicator that your communication may need some help. If you’re nodding your head right now, then these tried and true communication strategies for couples are for you!
There’s nothing worse than trying to talk to someone who is distracted or disinterested. Being present means you are giving your partner your full and undivided attention, you’re listening and responding meaningfully. Being present communicates respect and sends the message that “you are important to me.”
Being present means being there physically and mentally. Put down the cell phone, turn off the TV, send the kids to grandma’s for the evening if you need to. When your partner feels you are present in the moment with them, you are much more likely to hear and be heard.
Choose neutral ground
Sometimes a change of scenery can set the stage for more meaningful conversation. This can be especially true if there has been a lot of discord in your regular environment. Old triggers, memories or distractions there may make it difficult to try a new approach.
Consider going someplace neutral where both of you will feel comfortable. It might be the park, a favorite coffee shop or quiet spot that the two of you share. Some couples find that a “walk and talk” is especially helpful. The important thing is to find a pleasant place that you can relax and connect.
Mind your manners
Screaming doesn’t make your partner hear you any better. Ditto pointing in their face, name calling, or banging on the table. In fact, those kinds of behaviors make it more likely that your partner will tune you out. Why? Behavior like that communicate agitation, aggression or disregard. As humans, we avoid what looks dangerous.
Your partner is more likely to be willing to talk things out if you remain in control. You want your partner to know it is safe to discuss a problem with you. Here’s a bonus: when you’re calm, it encourages your partner to remain calm. It’s hard to yell at someone who is calm and in control.
Think before you speak. Ugly remarks cut to the core and once said, cannot be taken back. They will linger in your partner’s mind long after the argument is over.
And, don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong. Admitting mistakes isn’t a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it is a sign of strength and integrity.
Share to care
Sometimes you may have so much to say, you feel the urgency to get it all out at once. Your partner may feel the same. In any meaningful exchange, it is important that each person feel that they have a chance to speak, to listen and to respond. That can’t happen when you both want to dominate the conversation. The answer is to share.
There are lots of ways to share the time you have. Some couples take turns or set a specific time to share before they take a break to allow their partner to share. Others limit the amount of time they will discuss something or write their thoughts down for the other person. Experiment to see what works best for you.
Leave the past behind
Resist the temptation! If the old issue wasn’t a problem 24 hours ago, why is it relevant now? Bringing up the past deflects from the present issue and gives you two issues to deal with now.
Bringing up the past sends the message that you can never really be allowed to move on. What if you were reminded of every single mistake you ever made? That is an invitation to bitterness, resentment and disappointment. Why bother to talk about what cannot be forgiven or resolved? Talk about a communication killer!
Sometimes there are unresolved issues that need attention. If you find that the past keeps popping up, it might be helpful to seek help. In the present moment, however, deal with the issue at hand.
Caution: seeking outside help DOES NOT mean involving your mom, your BFF or people you know will take your side. You may forgive your partner but those who love you might not. That a whole new conflict. Seeking outside help means a neutral person qualified to help you find resolution (e.g., couples counselor).
Armed with good communication skills and genuine love and respect for each other, you can keep your relationship strong and resilient, able to endure the most challenging of times. You can never go wrong when you listen to understand the one you love.