One of the most important cornerstones in a successful long-term relationship is the ability to communicate effectively: that is, in a way that is clear, honest, open, patient and — most of all — constructive. Anyone who’s ever been in a long-term relationship could tell you that it’s not always easy! However, communication is at the basis of every interaction you will ever have with your partner: It’s not just in what you say and how you say it. It’s your eye contact, your facial expressions, and your body language. Even silence can speak multitudes.
Equally important is your ability to really listen to what your partner is saying, even when it’s all too easy to just hear what you want to hear. Tuning out your partner’s needs is just as harmful as failing to control that knee-jerk urge to blurt out something really mean in the heat of the moment.
Keep these guidelines in mind when communicating with your partner.
Speak up and listen generously.
One of the most important points to recognize when it comes to communicating with your partner is that your emotions are valid. You should never feel ashamed or embarrassed about expressing the way you feel, even if you think that the issue at hand is minor. Keeping negative feelings to yourself will do little more than foster resentment, which isn’t healthy in any relationship. However, you must also understand that your partner’s emotions are valid as well. Therefore, when your partner has something to say — even if you think the issue is small or insignificant — it’s important that you take the time to sit down and listen calmly and openly, free of criticism or judgment.
As a good listener, repeat what your partner says back to him; this will show that you’re making an effort to take in and understand what he’s telling you. Because it makes people vulnerable, expressing emotions is an act of trust. It’s imperative to show each other that it’s safe to develop that trust by treating each other with respect and empathy.
Use “I” statements.
When communicating with your partner — especially in tense situations — use “I” instead of “you” to speak in a way that is clear and doesn’t leave room for argument. For instance, don’t say: “You make me so mad when you don’t even offer to help me clean up after dinner.” It’s emotionally charged in a way that might escalate a conflict. Instead, try saying, “I feel hurt and unappreciated when you don’t ask if I need help cleaning up the kitchen.” It’s unarguable because he can’t dispute the way you feel and he can’t debate the reason you’re feeling that way. Choosing “I” over “you” eliminates the blame game, which is good. Healthy communication is never about pointing fingers. It’s about expressing, resolving, understanding, and moving forward.
You, of course, know the old adage, “Actions speak louder than words.” Well, it’s true. Communication isn’t only what you say. It’s also what you do. If you and your partner have a discussion that resolves with a need for some form of change, be sure to work toward those changes. Furthermore, even though it’s necessary to communicate feelings of anger or hurt, it’s equally important to communicate feelings of happiness and love. And if saying the words “I love you” are the bricks that your relationship is made of, showing it is the mortar that holds it all together. Show affection to your partner every day. Share spontaneous kisses. Cuddle when you go to bed at night. Make time for sex. Leave love notes. Keep the bond alive.
Think about the long run.
Building solid communication skills is about maintaining and fortifying the bond you have with your partner so that you can both stand strong and steady together against any obstacles the world might throw your way. When everything is blissful and happy, remember to show it. When times are difficult — and sometimes they are in every relationship — do not forget that this is someone you love and want to keep by your side as a part of your future. Reminding yourself of what’s most important in the long run will bring perspective to what needs to happen in the here and now.
Communicating with your partner shouldn’t ever be selfish. It’s not about who’s right or who’s better, nor should it ever be forgotten or taken for granted. Whether you’re explaining your feelings, voicing your opinions, expressing your love, or just venting about your day at work, it’s so important to hear and be heard. When you communicate with your partner — no matter what the form or the mood — your goal should always be to reach a more meaningful place in your relationship. You want to allow your roots to grow deeper and stronger by fostering love, trust, and understanding of one another.