How to Communicate Better in a Relationship

5 ways to improve communication with your partner

“Communication, communication, communication.” This is probably the most commonly used word in a relationship practitioner’s vocabulary. But even though as humans we’re hard-wired to socially interact, the concept of talking to each other intimately can seem somewhat... alien.

Why is this? Well, it’s scary, for one thing. Sharing our innermost thoughts can leave us feeling vulnerable and exposed, and many of us are simply not used to opening up in the first place. Throw in a rough patch, a period of change, a heated argument, or feeling distant from your partner, and communication can shut down completely.

Healthy communication plays a huge role in relationship satisfaction and maintenance and helps everything from improving your sex life to navigating conflict. 

The goal of good communication isn’t to “win” an argument or be in the right, rather it’s to appreciate how each partner is feeling and reach a mutual understanding. 

The good news is that we can all practice being better communicators in relationships. The following five habits will help you feel closer and more connected, manage difficult conversations and build your unique couple bond.

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Ways to improve communication in a relationship

If the idea of improving your communication skills seems scary, don’t worry. Communication is a skill that requires constant practice, and there will always be room for improvement. Luckily there are a few simple steps you can take to communicate better in a relationship. 

Here are five small tips you can put into practice to become a more effective communicator. 

Make time to talk 

This seems so simple, but many couples don’t practice the art of daily conversation. It doesn’t mean sitting down and having a long, intense daily discussion about where your relationship is going, either. 

I simply believe that by creating a bit of time and space to talk and listen to each other, to share your hopes and feelings about what’s going on for you both — or even to talk about the latest TV show you’re watching — that your connection will deepen and you’ll be better placed to deal with whatever life throws at you.

Listen carefully

Conversations are a two-way street, so to build a feeling of connection between you it’s important that each of you feels heard. Active listening is key to healthy communication. 

To do that, you both need to concentrate on the words that are spoken and how they are spoken. Avoid interruptions, talking over the other person, or getting defensive. You can also ask open-ended questions to demonstrate that you’re listening and want to learn more. 

If you struggle with this, take it in turns — set a timer, and each take it in turns to speak and listen.

Use “I feel” statements 

Good communication is about owning your stuff. “I feel” statements encourage you to take responsibility for your feelings and avoid accusations and blame that can cause an argument to erupt. 

So instead of saying “You always…”, or “why didn’t you…?” start with “I feel”. In doing so you’ll come at a conversation from a place of vulnerability and you’ll help your partner understand where you’re coming from, which fosters more honest conversations and greater connection among couples.

Focus on one point

Expressing a message enough that it can be heard and understood is a crucial first step in avoiding miscommunication in relationships. This is especially relevant during heated discussions. 

Don’t bring up a whole laundry list of irritations that will only make your partner switch off. Instead, focus on one point that you want to get across, and what, specifically, you might need from your partner at this moment.

Hug it out

Research proves the importance of physical intimacy in the communication process. Physical closeness expresses that you’re there for each other, even during times of conflict. 

A carefully-timed hug during or at the end of an argument can help to rebuild trust, reduce stress, dissolve anger, and together move on more positively.

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About the writer
Anjula Mutanda
Anjula is President at the UK's leading relationship charity Relate. She is also a Fellow for the National Counselling Society and has worked in the field of relationship counselling for over 20 years.
During this time, she has worked with a broad range of clients in a diversity of settings from the city and financial world to universities, and authored books including: 'How to Do Relationships'.
She has worked on numerous hit television shows, ranging from: on-screen expert on Big Brother, to resident psychologist on This Morning, to most recently, presenting the cutting-edge relationship series, 'Sex Tape'.
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