My husband and I make a great team. We have been together for 12-plus years, married for almost 7 years. He is my person. He knows when I’m feeling particularly tired and he steps up to take care of our 2-year old son. Those days when I’m more stressed or grumpier than usual, he makes sure to give me space to deal with my feelings, without never stop being affectionate. Needless to say that I do my best to show him my profound love and devotion. Though I must admit he is has his special way to show affection.
Does it sound like a fairytale? Not really, no. Rather a robust and mature relationship. Was it like this from the start? Surely not! We were just young adults trying to enjoy the so advertised “best years of your life” (which is such a BS by the way!) before joining the “grown-up world”.
Has it been always a strong and steady relationship for the past decade? Not always, no. It had its ups and downs, its challenges and setbacks, occasionally short on sparks. It has always been a partnership though. Throughout the years, a true deep connection has developed based on a manifold of factors. One of them being an open and honest communication.
Regardless of being in a romantic relationship for decades or a few months, how is the communication with your loved one? Do you feel you understand one another and both your needs are being met? Or do you feel out of synch, not fully heard and understood?
Communication is a key element of any relationship, including the one you have with your partner. Misunderstanding and conflicts happen often when two people are not communicating effectively. And by effectively, I mean communicating openly and with clarity their feelings and needs to one another.
Below are 5 strategies to help you improve communication with your partner towards a more trustworthy, loving and intimate relationship.
1. Be open and honest: Talk about your feelings and express your needs from a place of openness and trust. If needed, take the time to process your feelings before addressing them to your partner. If you are thinking how you (or both of you) usually avoid conflict, be honest about that as well. Avoiding difficult conversations may sound the right choice, but it is only the easy one. Same happens when you had a bad day or a bad week and keep it to yourself, afraid that it may hurt or cause additional stress to your partner. When you openly share your feelings, you are strengthening trust and connection in your relationship. At the same time, you are encouraging your partner to share their feelings ensuring that communication remains a two-way street.
2. Set aside time to talk: We all have our kind of busyness. Maybe you and your partner work shifts, perhaps you have a house full of noisy kids, or it may be that none of you is particularly keen on having deep and long conversations about your thoughts and dreams. Whether you love it or hate it, talking to each other is key to a healthy and happy relationship. Make the time to talk to one another, even if it means scheduling it in your calendars. This allows you not only to check-in with yourself beforehand, but also to focus on other priorities knowing that you have a dedicated time to talk to each other. Apart from setting time aside, it is likely that you and your partner have different communication styles. Take time to learn how your partner responds to different cues. Some people respond better to words while others are more visual or respond more to touch. Consider that when you are talking to one another to avoid miscommunication.
3. Listen instead of making assumptions: How often do you find yourself thinking about what you are going to say while your partner is still talking? No shame here. It happens to all of us from time to time. Hearing and listening are not the same thing. Next time your partner is speaking to you, try to listen without feeling the need to respond immediately. Listen to the tone and volume. Look for cues through facial expressions or gestures. Do your best to leave out assumptions and judgements. Especially when it comes to being sure that you know exactly what your partner is feeling or thinking. You are no mind reader! Even if you have high levels of empathy or you both share a deep intimacy and connection. Do not try to guess. If it is not clear, first listen and then ask. Ask with curiosity and open-mindedness and again listen. Listen to what is being said as well as to what is being communicated beyond words.
4. Let things go: Sometimes you are in the middle of a dialogue with your loved one that suddenly turns into an argument. Voices are raised, faces are frowned, accusations are made, old stories and resentments are brought up. You must let go of the past. It is not possible to go back in time and change what happened, but you can change how you are responding and showing up now. If it is about an issue that keeps coming to the surface, maybe talk to your partner and ask yourselves what you can both do differently this time. Approach the situation from a different set of lenses, shift your perspective and you may find a new outcome. Remember that letting go is much about your words as it if about your attitude. Mind and body should be expressing the same message. Meaning, not only tell your partner that is water under the bridge and you are working on a better outcome together, but also show it with gestures and affection.
5. Commit to connection: It is not only about feeling a bond with your partner, but also about feeding that connection. Often I hear people say “Oh, passion is gone, but they still love each other”. Don’t get me wrong: Love is a powerful and beautiful feeling! Does it mean though that you have to settle for love and accept that the passion you both once felt is gone forever? You are not that young couple anymore who used to kiss all the time and cuddle every evening. You want to want to keep the passion alive, a true connection that brings you together even when the path gets a bit rough. Connection is communication. You connect with your partner through words, non-verbal cues, and touch. You connect by being empathic, offering your support, understanding your partner’s point of view. Communicate from a place of truth and empathy and commit to keep that connection alive.
Does communication with your partner get easier with time? I’m not sure about easy, but definitely more effective. Stay open and share your feelings, make time to listen to each other, focus on the present moving together towards the future and rekindle your connection every chance you get. Challenges will always find their way into your partnership, and these are the moments that will define your relationship. Share, listen, smile, and love.