how to communicate better in a relationship - Black heterosexual couple hugging and smiling - Sandra Harewood Counselling

How To Communicate Better In A Relationship

Effective communication is the key to any healthy relationship, but it’s not always easy, and couples understandably want to know how to communicate better with each other.

Couples get stuck in patterns of miscommunication that lead to frustration and conflict.

Conversations feel dissatisfying, sometimes because we are unclear with our words and often because no one is really saying what’s on their mind.

In marriage and intimate relationships, it’s vital to have meaningful conversations. To share your needs, wants, and desires with your partner, for those to be heard and for your partner to feel you listen to theirs is the foundation of a healthy, deeply committed relationship. 

In this post, I’ll explain why open communication is essential and describe how to talk to your partner well so that you feel better about your marriage.

Let’s Talk First Sex Later

It’s not surprising then that the first thing most couples who come to couples therapy feel a sense of urgency about improving are their communication skills.  Learning how to communicate better is the number one priority.  Not better sex, or time together or more excitement, but how to communicate better in their relationship. 

And that makes sense because both women and men intuitively know their feeling of disconnect and experience of conflict that sometimes doesn’t make sense are at their worst when effective communication breaks down. Sometimes, your conversations with your partner flow, but at other times sharing comes to a full stop when it feels impossible to say what’s on your mind and for sure you’re no longer in the mood for listening. Why should you? They are not making any effort to listen to you. 

The quality of communication drives everything else in the relationship; trust, sex, money, and parenting. When you and your partner stop talking, one or maybe both of you has quietly quit the relationship.  

Why Communication In A Relationship Is Hard

Communication is complicated because our brains are immensely complicated. In the blink of an eyelid, the words we speak, the tone we use and other ways we deliver the message are filtered through a unique lens to each partner.

A heterosexual couple talking while arguing - how to improve communication in a relationship - Sandra Harewood Counselling

The lens includes:

  • Childhood experiences
  • The history of previous adult relationships
  • Trauma 
  • Values and beliefs
  • Unmet needs
  • Self-worth, Self-esteem, Self-confidence.
  • Fears about engulfment or abandonment
  • Unconscious Shadow material

If you have wondered what your partner actually hears when you speak, this might explain why you ask. There is a good chance they create a meaning to your words that is different from what you intended.  

It’s understandable that you feel confused about where to start and how to communicate better in your relationship.

What’s also happening is that your respective nervous systems are firing signals about how you feel about the conversation, e.g. excited, misunderstood, hurt, or sad. If it’s a difficult conversation, this is when couples can use unhelpful tactics to manage the situation. These include over-explaining and justifying, interrupting, withdrawing and lying, all of which exacerbate the feeling that communication in your relationship does not work.

When couples ask to improve communication in a relationship, they are really asking for more understanding, trust, intimacy and connection. 

Trust is the glue of life. It is the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships. Stephen R. Covey,

At that moment, when you’re not on the same page, and it feels like your spouse isn’t listening to you, a lot is going on inside you and them. But what is going on becomes something that you and your partner can be curious about, talk about and get to know each other differently and more intimately. 

Here’s how to unlock the secret to a more loving and fulfilling relationship.  

7 Steps To Communicate Better In Your Relationship

Anyone can learn to communicate better.  Follow these steps, and you will have the platform to better understand your own needs and express them in a way that your partner can understand.  You will also be able to listen to your partner so that you can build better connections. 

Yellow sofa for two people with and open sign on the middle seat - how to communicate better in a relationship - Sandra Harewood

Couples communicate better when they are open and ready to listen to each other’s needs, wants, desires and concerns.

1. Set up the conversation for success.

Make time for each other. Before you say you don’t have time, check out your phone and social media usage on a screen time app.

Make a conscious effort to create space in your calendar. If you crave spontaneity, this planning might initially feel false. But the more you schedule time now to practice, the better and more comfortable you will feel having spontaneous moments.

We now know from neuroscience that eye contact helps increase the feeling of emotional safety. This emotional attunement is one of the keys to maintaining a long-term, emotionally fulfilling relationship. Try not to have conversations in the car. Instead, stay at home, sit on either end of the sofa or get two chairs and position them facing each other.

2. Be aware of what you are feeling and share it.

Self-awareness is the secret ingredient if you want to communicate better in your relationship. Our emotions and feelings are the compasses of our inner world. Share them with your partner. Don’t expect them to mind read. When you connect with your feelings, you communicate with a greater degree of intimacy and honesty.

At the same time, tracking your feelings means you also become aware of what gets in the way of listening. Feelings of boredom or anger may close you down.  On the other hand, excitement or appreciation opens you up to want to hear more.

If you feel like switching off, bring your attention to your breath.  This simple mindfulness practice helps you calm and refocus.

In this way, learning to self-soothe is not only an opportunity for you to master reactivity but also coregulate with your partner’s inner world. This means the conversation remains calm.

3. Speak what’s on your mind.

To improve communication in a relationship, you must speak clearly about your needs, wants and concerns and avoid making assumptions about how your partner will respond. If you start a conversation based on assumptions, you are really conversing with yourself. Let you partner into your world and speak what’s on your mind respectfully and mindfully.

4. Don’t take things personally.

When your partner shares, hold on to the fact that they are telling you something about their inner world. This way of thinking is helpful as it stops defensiveness, the need to be right and sharing your unwanted opinion.

‘I felt hurt that you didn’t acknowledge the help I gave you after you asked.’ can easily be heard as ‘You are you are responsible for why I am feeling bad.’ triggering guilt, anger or defensiveness. The important part is ‘I felt hurt.’ Get curious about that with empathy. 

5. Take responsibility.

Use ‘I’ instead of ‘you’. Your partner will feel attacked if you use the word you, which leads to defensiveness. When you say ‘I,’ you take responsibility for what you say. Similarly, frequently using ‘we’ or bringing other people into the conversations is unhelpful as, in this instance, you are likely not speaking clearly and directly about your experience.

6. Talk about one topic and stay on topic.

Conversations get confusing when there is too much going on. Pick one topic and stay on topic.

7. Be curious, ask questions and give feedback.

When curiosity fades, a relationship fades. A lack of interest means we no longer want to know about the person we share our life with.

To show interest in what is said, you have to listen well. Actively listening lets you ask good open-ended questions and summarise what you have heard. It’s also an opportunity to tell your partner if you have heard something for the first time, if you have, or understood something different even though you have had the conversation before. If something feels the same, it is a chance to acknowledge that there is something that you do not yet understand but want to.

Communicating Well Is Key

You can improve your communication skills in your relationship. This skill is the key to a thriving partnership. Learning how to communicate well with your partner will enhance your relationship and help you tackle challenges along the way with confidence.

Over To You

How do you want to improve your communication skills?  Listening actively, being mindful or perhaps empathy.

If you’re stuck and want to know how to communicate better in a relationship or if it’s time to leave, get in touch for a clarity session. I can help.

P.S. PASS IT ON

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© Sandra Harewood 2023

About Sandra

Soul Centred couples therapist, counsellor and Jungian Shadow Work coach Sandra Harewood specialise in working with women and couples stuck at a crossroads in their marriage. Relationships are precious; this is your chance to begin a new journey and experience the connection and intimacy you most deeply desire.

Sandra provides a soulful space for her clients to explore creative solutions to their difficulties and deepen their self-knowledge to discover what keeps them ‘stuck’ in their marriages to create and experience extraordinary relationships.