Communicating effectively with your significant other is essential for achieving mutual understanding and creating a strong and healthy partnership.
As a couples therapist, it is often where I see many couples struggle. Improving communication is almost always a goal people have for couples therapy.
While a couple may need a few practical suggestions, it’s not aways as simple as give people a script to follow or a few tips. The reason that communication suffers can be many and it is difficult to understand exactly what’s going wrong.
Couples who have an understanding of where they might be stuck can identify common patterns that cause conflict.
Common reasons communication suffers in relationships:
Many couples don’t always express their true feelings during conversations, opting instead to bottle up their emotions in order to avoid conflict. This can lead to misunderstandings and confusion, making it difficult for both parties to understand each other and communicate effectively.
Even with good communication, it is normal to feel frustrated or upset with one another. When a couple has an unspoken rule that “it’s not OK for you to be angry at me” or “we never get mad” it’s difficult to start a productive dialogue where anger might come up.
It can be difficult to truly listen to someone if you’re preoccupied with other thoughts or struggles in your life. Being distracted or unable to empathize with each other’s feelings can make it hard for couples to make progress in their conversations.
Different styles of verbal and non-verbal communication:
People communicate differently and this can lead to misunderstandings. Some might prefer direct communication, while others are more comfortable with subtle hints or body language. Not being aware of the other person’s style can make understanding each other frustrating.
One (or both) of you has stopped trying:
It can be difficult to stay motivated and committed to a conversation if one person is not putting in effort. Or, if the dynamic between you has become too negative or hostile, one partner may pull away as a form of self protection.
When conflict follows a cyclical pattern it’s often because attachment needs are at play. These needs can vary depending on one’s personality, life experiences, and past relationships. Failure to address these needs can result in conflicts that are rooted in deeper emotions and fears. Without resolving these underlying issues, conflict never actually gets resolved.
How to improve communication in your relationship:
Communicating effectively requires your willingness to be vulnerable, a commitment to open dialogue and respect for each other’s point of view. It also takes patience in order to truly understand one another and move forward.
If you’re struggling with communication issues with your partner, it might be a good idea to set aside some time to learn techniques like non-violent communication or educate yourself on attachment styles. If you still can’t make progress, consider seeking the help of a couples therapist or even individual therapy to improve your communication.
What’s possible with effective communication?
While it’s easy slip into the blame-game, remember that you are both two people who are struggling to understand each other and make the relationship work.
With a willingness to learn, you can create an open dialogue where both individuals’ needs are understood and respected.