Life is all about communication, really, when you think about it. From your kids to your partner to your colleagues to the person who sold you a train ticket, you’re communicating with people all day every day.
When it comes to relationships, communication is especially important. Communication is the difference between whether you can work through your issues and resolve your differences, or not. The quality of your communication determines how well you understand each other, and how well your relationship does when times get tough.
Whether you’re in a long term relationship, dating, or still looking for that special someone, why not write your own rulebook about communication in relationships? If you spell out your requirements, dealbreakers, and how you approach conflict now, you’ll be able to approach conflict in your relationship with confidence and kindness.
Here are some rules you should definitely add to our own rulebook to improve communication in relationships.
Rule 1: Know your dealbreakers
Every relationship has its ups and downs. No matter how close you are, there will always be a disagreement or a fight about something. Much of good communication is knowing how to get through those fights. However, it’s also a good idea to know your deal breakers, the things you can’t make yourself look past. That way, if one comes up, you’ll know that for the sake of your own boundaries, it’s time to move on. Your dealbreakers might be violence, infidelity, or something else. Just be honest with yourself, so you know what can be solved, and what cannot.
Rule 2: Be honest about your needs
Some miscommunications can be fixed, but some come down to simple incompatibility. You can ward against this by simply being honest with yourself about what you need out of a relationship. We all have different relationship needs, and that’s ok. Perhaps you need a partner who shares your values, or maybe a sense of humor is a must for you. Maybe your ideal mate needs to have an independent spirit, or your dream girl or guy absolutely must love animals. Being honest with yourself about your needs makes it much easier to find a partner you can communicate openly with.
Rule 3: Have an aim for every fight
This rule will serve you well in any relationship. Have an aim for every fight. That means that you don’t pick a fight with your partner just to air frustrations or because you’ve had a bad day. You don’t fight just because you’re angry at them. Before starting a discussion, think about what you want out of it. Is there a particular problem you want to find a resolution to? Do you just need to know that your feelings have been heard and valued? Maybe there’s something you really need to understand about their personality or behavior. It’s much easier to communicate when you know why you’re fighting, and what resolution would look like for you.
Rule 4: Listen more than you speak
Listening is a much-overlooked part of any fight. It’s easy to get caught up in what you want to say, and so you just wait for your turn to speak, or even just talk or shout over each other. The result? No one really gets heard and it’s hard for anything to get resolved. Instead, practice the art of listening during a fight. Sometimes resolution doesn’t come from getting your point across, but from learning to understand what the other person’s point actually is. When you understand them, it’s so much easier to find a resolution that genuinely works for both of you.
Rule 5: Leave the past in the past
Dragging up the past is a sure way to turn any fight ugly and leave one or both parties feeling wounded and resentful. Whether you are currently single or you’ve been married for years, make a new rule right now: Leave the past in the past during a fight. No matter what your partner has done over the years to upset you, leave it all at the door when a conflict arises. Focus on the issue at hand, and nothing else. Otherwise, your partner will feel like their mistakes will be held over them forever.
Rule 6: Know your true feelings
Sometimes we’re not really fighting about what we think we’re fighting about. Maybe on the surface you’re angry that they didn’t load the dishwasher, but really you’ve been boiling with tension ever since they told you that they’d decided to move for a job without telling you. When you feel angry at your partner, take a moment to check in with your heart and gut and be sure that what you’re angry about is the real root of the problem, so you can tackle the true cause.
Set some communication rules that work for you and use them to keep your relationships healthy now and in the future.