Effective Communication Techniques For Couples
Babe, We Need to Talk
I’ve always been fascinated by married couples who remain married for 20, 30, or 40 years. In this day and age, that is an incredibly long time to remain legally committed to the same person. I often wonder what it takes to maintain a marriage for that long. If I had to guess, I would say that it takes hard work, commitment, compromise, and forgiveness to keep the relationship alive. I’ve watched interviews with couples who have been married for decades, and they said the same thing I mentioned above. They will say that it takes all of those things plus more to maintain a healthy relationship. Some of those things include developing a friendship with your partner, remaining loyal to each other, as well as prioritizing healthy communication even when it is painful or uncomfortable.
As millennials in love, we can utilize the advice from our elders, specifically, the communication piece. In the age of social media and messaging, it is much easier to send a text or slide in someone’s DMs than to have a one-on-one conversation. Even though messaging may be easier at times, it is not the best method when trying to discuss awkward or difficult topics. We should attempt to have those difficult conversations face-to-face. During those one-on-one conversations, we must utilize healthy communication techniques especially if the conversation becomes intense.
How Do You Respond When The Conversation Becomes Heated?
When the time comes for us to have conversations about intense topics, a range of emotions, such as sadness and anger may arise. In those moments, when the conversation goes left and escalates, how do you respond to your partner? Do you respond by screaming, cursing, shutting down, walking away, or giving your partner the silent treatment? If you identify with any of those actions, then sis you have unhealthy communication skills.
A few other unhealthy communication skills include verbal abuse, gaslighting, or interrupting your partner to get your point across. There are unhealthy non-verbal methods we use as well. They include walking away, rolling your eyes, or being distracted by your phone or another activity when your partner is trying to have a conversation with you. The most important thing that you can do is give your partner your undivided attention. By doing so, this shows them that you care about their feelings and what they have to say matters.
Passive communication refers to not expressing your feelings about specific subjects. This technique does not improve the relationship at all. Usually, this involves one person in the relationship keeping all of their concerns to themselves because they do not feel secure enough to share with you. Sometimes this is done out of fear to keep the peace, especially if they believe that you may overreact. I had a bad habit of using passive communication in romantic and platonic relationships out of fear. I feared that if I expressed my concerns, people would reject or abandon me. Also, I believed that by being passive I could protect my feelings from being dismissed.
Although I did not experience dismissal, I did experience frustration because my needs were not met. When my needs were not met because I did not verbalize them to my partners, I was ready to call it quits. As I’ve gotten older, I better understand that I have to be assertive with my communication skills. Now, if someone does something that I do not agree with or like, I express my feelings about the issue in a respectful manner. Plus, I refuse to be afraid of expressing my feelings. If they reject me because I expressed my feelings or dislikes about an issue, then they can kick rocks.
Am I Mimicking My Parent’s Communication Techniques?
Our parent’s relationship shape and mold us more than we know. If we were to evaluate our communication techniques, we would see that we inherited some of our communication techniques from our parents or other adult figures. Some of our parents did not possess healthy communication methods. We have unknowingly taken their methods into our relationships. Depending on your parent’s relationship, you may have witnessed them engage in violence, yelling, or cursing to get their points across. As a result of that, you are now mimicking their behaviors in your relationships. We must ask ourselves why we communicate in unhealthy ways with the people that we love. Once we discover the why we can begin to work towards finding a solution to improve our communication.
How To Improve Your Communication Techniques With Your Partner
Now that we are aware of what poor communication techniques are, we must practice the following skills to improve our relationships.
- Utilize Active Listening Skills: When we do have disagreements with our significant others, we sometimes listen only to defend ourselves and to prove that we are right about a subject. Hardly do we ever listen to understand our partners. Honestly, it is a natural reflex in any disagreement to defend oneself but try another approach by listening to them and using empathy. However, be mindful of remaining open to what your partner is saying to you.
For instance, if they are telling you about a habit that you have that they do not like, try not to dismiss their feelings about the subject to defend yourself. Once you dismiss them, they leave the conversation believing that they were not heard and devalued. Take a moment to think about what they have said to you. Utilize paraphrasing to ensure that you understand what they are trying to convey to you.
- Set Boundaries: If their tone or raised voice makes you uncomfortable, then try communicating that by saying, “I will not continue this conversation with you unless you lower your voice.” This method informs your partner of two things: One, that you have boundaries that they cannot cross. Two, you will not allow them to talk to you disrespectfully.
- Practice Assertive Communication: You must be straightforward when expressing your needs, feelings, and desires. You can do this by using “I” statements to communicate with your partner.
- Take A Break: When the conversation begins to escalate, try taking a break. A 15- or 30-minute break in separate areas can help you all. If you feel yourself reverting to your unhealthy communication tactics, then that is the best time to take a break from the conversation. As a couple, you should try to reconvene at another time once both parties have calmed down.
It takes time and patience to change your communication methods but it will be worth it. Making the effort to change your communication skills will show your partner that you value them and the relationship. Be sure to give each other grace when you two are conversing about difficult topics. Remain open and honest in your conversations. If you walk away from the conversation still feeling uneasy, inform your partner for you all to further discuss the problem or decide on another time to discuss it. Keep in mind that it is you and your partner versus the problem, not you versus your partner. I’m rooting for you all to have healthy relationships with healthy communication because, at the end of the day, love conquers all.
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