Sadie Holloway is a workshop facilitator who teaches interpersonal communication skills to help people strengthen their relationships.
Strong relationships happen when we strive to practice clear, respectful communication, whether by talking, touching, or committing random acts of kindness around the house.
Before you decide that you and your partner need to improve your communication, make sure that you are not being emotionally or physically abused. If you want to learn more about the signs of abuse, read Recognizing the Signs of a Bad Relationship.
If you are comfortable that you are not in an abusive or unhealthy relationship, and you simply want improve the way you and your partner talk to one another, some of these relationship tips might help.
The most important thing you need to know about improving communication with your spouse or intimate relationship is this: change starts with you! Instead of focusing on changing how he communicates with you, focus on changing how you communicate with him. After all, changing the way you communicate is the only thing that you can really, truly change about your relationship. If you want to improve your emotional bonds with your husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, then it's up to you. You don't wait for your spouse to change his communication style. If you are more mindful of how you communicate--the words you use, the tone of your voice, the context and topic of your conversations--then you will be modelling the way you want him to communicate with you.
Once you are open to accepting that positive changes in the way you and your spouse communicate begins with you, here are a few tips to get started!
Use positive words, not just when you talk to each other about your relationship, but in general, keep most of your words upbeat and optimistic. Why can this help you communicate more effectively in your marriage? Because we tend to naturally tune out those people who are always complaining about something. If you are the type of person who has something negative to say about more things than not—the weather, the traffic, the way the neighbor’s grass grows—then you run the risk of wearing people out. They’ll be less likely to listen to you with an open mind. It’s not really their fault. This is a natural defense mechanism to protect their energy stores.
Flirt with your partner. Sure, you may not cover any substantial topics when the two of you are busy flirting on date night, but keeping the chemistry alive in your relationship is just as important as tackling boring topics such as whether or not to double-up on a mortgage payment this month.
Avoid discussing heavy topics when you are tired and fatigued. Unless you are in the middle of a life and death crisis that needs some sort of resolution right away, get some rest before you handle the big stuff. An important skill that will help you communicate in a more meaningful way is being aware of when to talk about things and when to set them aside for time when the two of you are feeling healthy and rested. But that doesn't mean you can put off conversations forever. Don't make 'finding the right time to talk about it' an excuse for avoiding difficult conversations.
Touch your partner often, both when you’re talking, and when you’re sharing quiet moments of comfortable silence. Connecting with physical affection – hand squeezes, hugs, light touches – can have a positive effect on easing conversations about difficult topics in your relationship. If the two of you are on the couch, for example, talking about a challenging topic, hugging may not be the best things to do when the other person is speaking. But stretching a your leg our and touching toes is one way to communicate affection while still giving your partner your full attention while he or she talks.
Understand that conflict is a normal part of any relationship. Agreeing with your partner on everything isn’t the sign of a healthy relationship. In fact, it could be the sign of a bad relationship. Agreeing to everything your partner says, or expecting your partner to agree with everything you say isn’t fair. So although disagreements and conflict are to be expected, how each of you respond to conflict is what really counts. When disagreements arise between you and your spouse, be mindful of how you react. For more tips on having safe and respectful disagreements read Do You Fight Fair?
Communicate by 'doing' rather than talking. Want to tell your wife that you appreciate how hard she works keeping down a full-time job and taking care of your child? The do some nice things around the house before she has to ask. Do the laundry, clean the kitchen, finish that home improvement project you started two months ago. Acts of service can go a long way in telling your spouse how much she means to you.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Sadie Holloway