How to Communicate in a Relationship Part II

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A Practical Guide For Fighting Couples To Find Respect & Trust Again

 

You can’t believe it.

Here you go again, stuck in another argument with your spouse.

“Is it so hard to understand what I’m saying?” You wonder.

We get it. It feels impossible to talk to your partner sometimes. It’s so infuriating and draining trying to make it work.

And the worst part is that the communication doesn’t get any better despite all your efforts. If only you knew the root cause and how to get to the bottom of this.

Guess what? That’s exactly what we’ll be sharing in this article: the crucial skills you need for healthy and effective communication in your relationship. Plus some communication improvement exercises that you can use today.

Yes! Help is on the way and it’s totally do-able! Before we get into it, did you read the first of this two-part communication series?

To make sure that you didn’t miss the marriage-saving points of the first article, do you know…

  • How to diagnose whether you have communication issues in your relationship? 
  • The common communication style that’s destructive in relationships?

If not, then you better catch up on the foundations in the first part of this article. There you can learn to troubleshoot any dysfunctional communication and how to fix it.

The Essential Guide

The #1 Reason Your Arguments Don’t Get Anywhere

  • Break the cycle of perpetual hurt even if your partner doesn’t want to
  • Find out how to fix misunderstandings in your marriage


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Now that you’re up to speed, let’s dive into some crucial communication skills that are needed in healthy relationships. You might not have guessed, but I wasn’t gifted with these communication skills from birth. Far from it! I didn’t know how to communicate in my own relationships. 

It’s something that Jachym and I had to realize, learn, and apply ourselves. In fact, I grew up in a communication nightmare. Maybe you and I had a similar journey…

My Parents Taught Me What NOT to Do  


Has it happened to you, too? 

Growing up, my parents bickered often. My pulse would quicken and my heart would clench as they threw verbal jabs at one another.

The air was thick with passive aggression. A parent would complain while the other brushed them off like a pestering fly.

I’d be frozen in the suffocating cross-fire. No one understood one another and the arguments never went anywhere.

I’m not sharing this so you pity me and this dysfunctional setting. Truth is: they didn’t know any better. Neither of them knew that they lacked key communication skills.

My parents didn’t have the awareness to seek out practical exercises (which we will share with you in this article) and they didn’t know that their communication could improve.

Just like my parents, many couples settle for a hurtful communication style even though it doesn’t feel right.

If you’re wondering whether my parents resolved their communication problems, the answer is no. Neither of them put in the work nor the effort to address the issues. 

Their marriage ended when my dad passed away suddenly. One partner is no longer here yet the past hurts still linger in my mom.

How long we let things persist is how long the problems stick around for. Don’t wait until the end, like my parents did. Because at some point, it’s too late to save your marriage.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A successful relationship can be built on a solid foundation of proper communication. You can put an end to the unproductive arguments and frustrating fights.

You just have to learn and implement the five key relationship skills. Do you know what they are? Read on to find out.

5 Vital Relationship Communication Skills


Here are the
five vital relationship communication skills to get you started on the right track:

Relationship Communication Skill #1:

Yes, we want to be loved. Yes, we want to feel appreciated.

Most of all, we want to feel seen and accepted as we are.

We want to feel heard, like we really exist. Like we matter. 

But that’s only possible in a real connection with our partner.

So how do we nurture a deeper connection? How can we learn to communicate in a way that gives us that deeply fulfilling connection?

1. Listen With Nothing on Your Mind 

We already mentioned listening in the first part of this article because it’s so important. Can you listen to your partner with nothing on your mind? Can you listen to them without jumping to conclusions?

To listen deeply with nothing on your mind, you have to be fully present with your partner. You’re not spinning a story about what is being shared and what it means about you. This enables you to engage in conversation productively and stay away from defensive communication (more about it in this article).
 
Relationship Communication Skill #2:

Have you ever experienced this? 


An uneasy tension drains you and your partner every single day. But no one brings it up. An elephant pounces in the room wherever you two go. It drags on for days, months, but there’s no productive conversation about what’s wrong.

That’s how it used to be for Jachym and me. I had no clue how I really felt and what was going on. Worst of all, I kept it all inside and couldn’t articulate it. Jachym had to ask me question after question in order to squeeze an ounce of truth out of me.

I was lost and confused. 

It put a strain on our relationship, because it became impossible for Jachym to connect to me. What I really lacked was the key communication skill: to speak up with clarity so my inner world could reach the outside.

2. Be Able to Voice Your Needs

Do you understand fully what your needs are?

Many people don’t. When they don’t know, they can’t communicate it to their partner.

That’s why this communication skill has two stages:

  1. Have clarity on your needs and desires
  2. Voice your known needs with your partner

Both steps are vital and equally important.

For example when there’s a disconnect within yourself, the default mode is to often blame someone else. After all, if we have no clue what’s going on inside, then it’s only natural to think that something outside of ourselves is at fault.

But why are we blaming our spouse in the first place? What triggered this response?

To really understand, we have to go beyond the surface reactions. 

When we stop the criticism of our partner and focus inward, we can notice the deeper processes within:

  • Sensations of emotional pain. 
  • Feeling devalued or unimportant.
  • Realization that something your partner did or said hurt you.

By pausing the default mode of blame, focussing inward can reveal how you really feel and what you need.

Case Study:

For example, it always ‘bothers you a bit’ whenever your partner comes home late from work. It often resulted in you giving them the cold shoulder or criticizing them for not coming home earlier.

If you take a moment to feel within, you might notice that your partner’s tardiness has violated an essential need of yours.

Diving deeper and asking yourself such essential questions will lead to a healthier and more fulfilling relationship. Why? Because you’re getting to what’s really troubling you.

Once you know, you can communicate it to your partner. After all, your partner may have no idea what your needs are. How could they if you don’t express it?

When they don’t know your needs, they’ll also not know when they’re violating them.

Your partner may have no intention of making you feel bad! Do you see the difference between blaming and truly addressing what the problem is?

Let’s break it down so you can move forward with this new understanding:

  1. Stop the blame and start feeling what you need. 
  2. Communicate those needs to your partner. 
  3. See if you and your partner can solve the problem together and create a win-win situation.

Doing this will shift the conversation and make it deeper and more focused on helping each other rather than hurting each other. You’ll be closer to know how to communicate in your relationship!

By practicing this skill, you can avoid communication breakdowns that you may face at the moment:

  • Something bothers you, but you can’t bring yourself to say it to your spouse.
  • You know that something is wrong, but your partner doesn’t reveal what’s really going on.
  • You feel insecure about a topic and fear the reaction of your partner, so you keep quiet.

You’re probably thinking: ‘that’s easy for you to say! What if getting in touch with the emotions is something new and feels uncomfortable? How do I get my point across when something hits home so personally?

We get you completely. That’s why the next communication skill has you covered for those emotional moments.

Relationship Communication Skill #3:


Imagine this: 

you’ve been struggling with a topic in your relationship for a while now. But, lucky you! You came across this article and even started to implement the tips from the previous section.

By looking inward and bringing your attention to your experience, you realize that you feel hurt by some things that your partner did. You know that the suggested next step is to communicate those needs with your partner, but all you want to do is tell them off!

They hurt you after all. Getting in touch with your emotions has made the pain fresh and raw. It slices through you and makes you want to get back at your partner. Throw it in their face so they can see how they’ve made you feel.

You don’t know what to do. You’re stuck in this dilemma, where:

  • your emotions are raw and the pain feels fresh,
  • you feel like blaming your spouse but you also know that it won’t help,
  • You want to have an adult conversation about how you feel,
  • You want to communicate clearly about your needs.

Feeling emotional and getting in touch with how we really feel is the foundation of healthy communication. But how can you communicate while being true to your emotions?

What you need is the third essential communication skill. One that will help you to bring up even the most challenging issues. It’s the ultimate fight decelerator and crucial in effective communication.

3. Learn to Communicate Without Attacking

When we blame, shame, and attack in a relationship, the other person feels invaded and has a difficult time hearing your message. (If you want to make them feel heard click here)That’s why defensive communication often keeps relationships stuck in one place.

The solution is to go back to understanding your needs. And then use non-threatening language to communicate:

‘I feel….’

‘It seems to me that…’ 

‘When XYZ happened, I felt like.’ 

The principle behind it is simple: You’re making it about you and not blaming your partner.

When you communicate from your own experience, you are:

  • Starting a transparent and honest dialogue about where you are at.
  • Staying open to empathy and love from your spouse
  • Being neutral and inviting your partner to also share his/her point of view.
  • Creating the space so any misunderstandings can be cleared up.

It isn’t selfish to share your personal experience. In fact, it is crucial.

Sometimes we jump two steps ahead in order to resolve a conflict. When in fact, we should start off with what is happening within us right now.

That information is key to establishing that neutral ground where both of you can share freely. It’s the best way to share how you really feel and what you are thinking. 

Give this communication skill a go! It’ll help you stop unnecessary fights and recurring arguments before they even begin.

Here’s how to ensure that you don’t attack your partner:

  • Connect with your personal experience.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions about the other person and their intent.
  • Stay with how you feel and express that.

It makes communication so much easier because you’re both staying within your subjective experience. You aren’t adding another layer of interpretation on top. That way, your partner can truly hear what’s happening within you. 

Both of you will have a much deeper insight into each other’s inner world. It’ll bring you closer together and put an end to those unproductive arguments.

 Relationship Communication Skill #4:


You’ve probably been hurt before.

Maybe it was in a previous romantic relationship or a fallout with a friend.

Some time or another, life throws at us some mighty sour lemons and we have to pick up our heart and put it back together.

What does this have to do with communication in relationships?

EVERYTHING.

When Natasha and I first met, we were both guarded with our emotions. Even though she was expressive and could talk your ear off, she never went deep.

Very quickly, I learned that Natasha was a chronic conflict-avoider. Even when something bothered her, she wouldn’t let me know. Because of that, we couldn’t address any disagreement successfully. 

Her half was missing in the conversation and it takes two to communicate effectively.

I wasn’t much better myself. Despite my affection for her, I had difficulty opening my heart and revealing my true emotions.

I lost my dad when I was young and it really impacted me and how I dealt with my feelings. I believed that love was dangerous. I thought that loving meant getting hurt. 

So I was pushing Natasha away unconsciously, hiding my insecurity under the name of ‘freedom’. I thought that I wanted more ‘freedom’, but what I actually needed was liberation from my past hurts. To make peace with the emotions within me.

I wanted love and didn’t want to lose her. This kind of push and pull deeply affected our relationship. It was only when we both worked through our own issues that we were able to drop our guards and truly state what we wanted.

Our relationship transformed from two impenetrable walls to an open and deeply rewarding partnership.

We hit the ‘eject’ button and stopped repeating the broken record of our past hurts.

We chose to face the beautiful emotions within us and to share it with our beloved partner.

Was it scary?

Absolutely.

Was it worth it?

1000x over.

When we finally revealed ourselves, the vulnerability and emotions only brought us closer.

Through expressing how we feel, we found greater connection, love, and trust. There’s a deeper sense of acceptance and respect for each other. Since then, our relationship has just gotten better and better.

That’s why the fourth essential communication skill is so important for your relationship.

4. Express Your Emotions

Your partner can’t read your mind.

If you don’t express your emotions, your partner will never have the chance to really meet your heart. You don’t have to shout or cry uncontrollably to express your feelings. You can do it verbally. 

The key is to connect to your emotions. The magic isn’t in the words that you speak, but the connection you have with yourself. If you don’t feel your emotions, the words are empty. 

Emotions drive so many interactions in our lives. They are what made you choose your partner. If you cut out the emotions in communication, you’re restricting the love that brought you together in the first place.

Yes, it can be scary to show your emotions fully; you may feel exposed and vulnerable. However, it’s the way to deepen your relationship with your partner, beyond what you thought was possible.

Communication in a relationship is successful when both of you are able to share your worlds and it becomes one. Oftentimes we are so busy trying to meet in the middle that we miss the first step, which is to share your world. Only then can we create a harmonious and healthy exchange.

This is a skill where you can get more and more comfortable with topics that you might have avoided in the past. That’s how you can resolve even the toughest challenges in your relationship.

When we’re comfortable and alright with the emotions that are lodged deep in our hearts, we’re able to dive into a much more fulfilling emotional connection with our partner.

Relationship Communication Skill #5:


Being together with your spouse for a long time can sometimes work against you.

Why?

We start to make the assumption that they know us inside out:

  • How we work
  • What we think
  • How we want things done.

We expect them to read our minds.

We expect them to agree with us half, if not all, the time.

These assumptions are a slippery slope. Your partner might know you quite well at this point, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t their own person with their own thoughts and ideas.

I’m guilty of having such expectations of Jachym. Let’s take an example from the kitchen, where Jachym had the best intentions and I still wasn’t happy with him:

I’m usually the one with the meal plan in my mind and Jachym is my sous-chef to help put it all together.

Often, I would get quick-tempered and annoyed whenever he didn’t follow my instructions exactly. When in reality, I was barely communicating in the first place! I just assumed that he knew what I was thinking and how I liked things to be done.

At the beginning, I used to blame the mistakes on Jachym. I would think that he was too ‘slow’ and ‘useless’ for not being able to ‘follow’ my quick thinking. Later on, I realized just how judgmental and unfair my thinking was. What I was saying and projecting upon Jachym was actually really hurtful.

I had to reflect on how I was reacting. Only then did I notice that I had impossible expectations! I expected Jachym to think, act and be like me. How is that even possible?

He is Jachym. He’s ready to help. But I need to clearly communicate what I need and not just force my partner to mindread me and get angry when he can’t. Which brings us to the fifth essential communication skill…

5. Patience

Even if you’ve been together for years, don’t forget that you and your partner are separate people. Your spouse has their unique communication style, and sometimes it takes time to find the groove. Be patient with each other and yourself.

Even if you feel like you’ve beaten a topic to death, don’t assume that your partner is always on the same page as you. Maybe for your partner, it isn’t settled yet.

Instead of seeing it as an annoying barrier, become curious. It’s time to move beyond your own understanding and find out why.

Consider these questions:

  1. What is happening for your partner that this issue keeps bothering them? 
  2. How does the world look through their eyes? 
  3. What needs to happen for them so that the problem is settled?
  4. What are their needs that aren’t met?

You’ll never know by making assumptions on your own. Give your partner the space to express themselves. Support them to go deeper into the issue for a potential resolution.

Practicing patience means respecting your partner fully. You might know them well, but are you willing to put your ego aside and let them show you who they are and how they understand the world?

Sometimes, we hold such strong and old ideas about our partner that ‘seeing’ and hearing them with a blank slate might be a total surprise. Who knows how much they have changed or grown in the last few years?

That’s the power of patience and giving the relationship space to work out its kinks.

Bring in patience to work out any unnecessary misunderstandings and to find common ground and respect. Take the glasses of assumptions off and meet your partner for who they are today. You might just fall in love all over again.

Now is a good time to pause and reflect on how these five pillars of communication play out in your current relationship: 

  1. Is listening without an agenda or a busy mind something that you do regularly with your spouse? 
  2. Does expressing your emotions and needs come easily to you? 
  3. Are patience and non-violent communication a norm in your relationship?

An honest assessment can give you invaluable clarity. What skills do you need to develop? Which do you need to simply nurture and upkeep?

Remember, the magic isn’t in memorizing these five communication skills. The real lasting results come from:

  1. Having insights about your relationship and where you are at, and
  2. Taking actions consistently. 

Now that you know the five vital relationship communication skills, let’s get into some practical exercises you can use to improve your relationship today.

3 Easy Exercises to Improve Communication With Your

Partner 

 
1. What Have You Heard?


Want to have less misunderstandings in your relationship? Here’s a trick I learned at a coaching seminar:

At the coaching course, I had to tell a real life story to three people at the same time. They then repeated back to me what they heard.

I was amazed at the three different versions that I got. I realized that just because I say something, it doesn’t mean that it’s heard the way I intended it to.

Benefits: This exercise helps to minimize misunderstandings between you and your partner. It also prevents these misunderstandings from building up in the future. With an emphasis on listening skills, it can reveal where you’ve added your own interpretations and where you’ve misheard your partner.

Exercise: Talk to your partner for five minutes about something important to you. After you finish, ask them what they’ve heard. Split the answer into two parts:

  1. What have you heard content-wise? (Relay what they told you)
  2. What did you feel behind the words?

When you feel behind the words, you feel the emotions and energy your spouse brings into expression. This kind of listening can be incredibly profound as you’re getting a sense of where your partner is coming from. The actual words only carry so much meaning. The rest of the communication must be felt intuitively.

Switch roles and repeat with the other partner.

The exercise will show you how a message can be understood differently than you thought. Sometimes those misunderstandings are innocent and can be avoided through more awareness.

Isn’t it great to know that there isn’t anything wrong with you or your partner? Communication is something that we can get better at, especially when we work on it together. Give this exercise a try!

2. What Is Hurting You?


Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s really hard to bring up a difficult topic with your partner. Even when you know what you should say, you can still doubt yourself:

Are you opening up a can of worms? How do you know that it won’t backfire?

We understand that improving the communication in your relationship means going beyond your comfort zone. It’s a gradual process of opening up and letting go of your doubts and fears. That’s why we created this exercise for you.

Benefits: This exercise helps you to foster honest and transparent communication with each other. It’s a safe and gentle way to uncover any hurtful communication in the relationship. Identifying destructive behaviors that have unconsciously found their way into the relationship can prevent much bigger problems in the long-term.

Exercise: You have to be open for this exercise to give you the best results. You can start with something simple, like calling each other certain nicknames. 

  1. Are there certain names you and your partner have made up for each other that are subtle jabs? 
  2. What are some small, subtle behaviors that are hurtful to the other party?

Make sure that you do not start with the major issues in your relationship. You are at the beginning stages of exploration and it’s important to build upon this exercise slowly.

Take some time to reflect on what you’d like to discuss, then share with your partner.

Stay with your experience: express how you feel. Stay away from blame. Let both parties talk without interrupting.

When finished, you can ask some questions to understand each other more deeply. In the end, the partner listening can say what they’ve understood and see if their partner agrees. Repeat and switch roles.

3. Aggression vs. My Experience


It’s one thing for us to teach you what works and another to choose, from your own preference, how you want to communicate with your partner. This exercise gives all the power back to you.

Why?

Because you innately know what kinds of communication is healthy and what is destructive.

We might have been exposed to all sorts of non-functional communication styles in the past and some might even feel ‘familiar’. But that doesn’t make them feel good and right.

Benefits: This exercise gives you a contrasting experience of one communication style to another, Do you know how different ways of communicating impact you? By doing this exercise, you can experience how it feels to deliver and receive each of them. By living the impact first hand, you can become more aware of the underlying intentions and attitude behind your everyday communication with your spouse.

 Before doing this exercise, make sure to establish that this is a safe space for learning. The exercise is solely role-playing.

Make up a fictional annoyance then do two rounds:

  1. Blame your partner for your irritation by telling them that they’re wrong and what they should do instead.
  2. Share your annoyance again. But this time, stay with your experience: no blame, no finger-pointing, or aggression. Just talk about you and your experience. 
  3. Switch roles

Next, pick a real annoyance that’s quite insignificant to you and repeat the same steps as before.

Make sure with all exercises that you focus on yourself and that you remain present with your experience. Questions that can help you to focus on yourself are: 

  • What am I feeling? 
  • What thoughts are coming up for me?
  • What would I like to do when I hear those things?

Don’t actively think of those questions during the exercise. They’re just a guideline on what to be aware of during the interaction. Feel free to expand the list if you notice other ways to connect with your internal experience.

Discuss with your partner: 

  1. How did you feel during the exercise? 
  2. What felt good? What felt bad? 

You can also review the questions above. This reflection can help deepen your understanding of the impact of each communication style. 

After doing this exercise, it’ll become crystal clear why improving your communication is so important. 

Why?

Because you know how it feels to be hurt by someone else’s words. Even though it’s role-playing, knowing that you can be the perpetrator can be a huge wake-up all.

If you care about yourself or your partner, having gone through the experience yourself will change the choices that you make. The desire will come from you and that’ll lead to the best results.

Now you’re all set! You’ve now learned the different aspects that can turn the communication in your relationship around.

You might be thinking: ‘Wow, that was a lot of information. Where do I go from here?’

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Here’s how you can make the biggest difference with what you’ve read so far. Here are your simple next steps…

Sit back, have your favourite drink and reflect on how the five vital communication skills apply in your relationship:

  1. Listen with nothing on your mind.
  2. Be able to voice your needs.
  3. Learn to communicate without attacking.
  4. Express your emotions
  5. Practice patience.

Maybe some of them seem less intimidating than others, then start with those. Make this process right for you!

When you feel ready to have your second cup or glass, pick one of the three exercises and give it a try with your spouse:

  1. What have you heard?
  2. What’s hurting you?
  3. Aggression vs. my experience.

Make sure to set the time aside and go through the steps with your partner. Put your heads (and heart) together and you can create some magic today. So what are you waiting for?

Seriously, Jachym and I didn’t come from households with healthy and effective communication. We had to learn it the hard way. But we broke it all down for you right here.

Maybe you’re facing something more urgent like emotional arguments that go nowhere. If that’s the case, then make sure to get our essential guide to end fights (down below). Sometimes, it’s best to put out the fires first before you establish that solid foundation.

Want to stop getting caught up in the same frustrating arguments over and over again? Make sure to get the goodie below.

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This 25-page FREE resource helps you to break the argument cycle. Stop fighting and have more connection and trust in your marriage again.

 

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