How to communicate in a relationship

Sometimes it seems like it’s impossible to communicate with your spouse. Maybe you wish that you both could be better at expressing your needs, or perhaps you just wish you didn’t argue so much. Knowing how to communicate in a relationship doesn’t come automatically. This is because many of our patterns for communication come from our parents. Think back to how you remember you parents speaking with each other. Was there lots of shouting? Did your mom snap at your dad? Did your dad refuse to speak about things? Or did they have calm, back-and-forth conversations?  Now think about how you interact with your spouse. See any patterns?

Luckily, this in no way means you are doomed to repeat your parents’ communication styles! You’ve already made the first step—you’ve become aware of how you tend to act. The second step is learning specific rules for keeping conversations positive and productive.

1)   Avoid negative phrases.

A big part of how to communicate in a relationship is keeping the tone positive and supportive. Remember, you're on the same team here! Start by deleting “But”. “But” is a little word with big consequences. It actually canceles out what your partner just said and sets you pulling against each other. Also, avoid joking or poking fun at your spouse. What you may find funny could be a hidden sore spot and be very hurtful.

2)   See things from your spouse’s point of view.

You don’t need to agree with your spouse (hey, you’re two different people after all!), but you should take time to understand his or her underlying concerns. A lot of arguments stem from focusing on solutions—and there are lots of ways of solving a problem once you know what the concern is. Once you’ve both stated your worries and desires, you can work together to find a satisfying solution. Being flexible is a key part of communicating well and it's critical for making a relationship last.

3)   Keep it cool.

If you’re going to broach a sensitive subject, make sure both of you are fed, rested and comfortable. Chances are much higher that the conversation will blow up if you’re cranky to begin with! And remember, if you start to get angry, take a break! Put the talk on hold—drink some water, go for a short walk, or anything else calming—and then return once you’ve both calmed down.

These are only broad tips for how to communicate in a relationship. There are tons of other easy tricks that will make you a communication pro! Delve into Power of Two’s extensive library of activities for fun videos, flash games, and worksheets you can do alone or with your spouse. Sign up today and get a FREE 3-Day trial to check it all out! Plus you can always ask your personal coach for advice on how to approach a sensitive topic.

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Funding for this project was provided by the United States Department of Health Services, Administration for Children and Families, Grant 90-FE-0123. Any opinions, finding, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Department of Health and Human Servies, Administration for Children and Families.