Effective communication is essential for healthy and secure relationships. Here are eight easy steps to follow to help improve and deepen communication with your partner.
Expressing your needs to your partner may be challenging. You may feel lonely in the relationship or like you have drifted apart. This often leads to unresolved issues, resulting in resentment and can create further distance within the relationship.
#1. Remain curious
We often forget to keep discovering our partner's inner world in long-term relationships. We may have been more curious and asked questions during our dating days, but that curiosity often fades over time. As individuals, we continue to grow, and sharing our development with our partners is essential. Therefore, it's crucial to start exploring and asking each other questions to understand who they are and what their dreams and aspirations truly are. It's amazing that even after being with your partner for many years, you can still learn something new about them daily. Try asking these famous 36 questions to build a deeper connection and get to know your partner better.
#2. Know your attachment communication styles
If you have an avoidant attachment style and feel uncomfortable or upset with your partner, you may distance yourself or criticise them instead of talking it out. This can happen because having our own space feels safer than confronting the problem with our loved one. If you tend to be someone who pursues your partner and has an anxious attachment style, you may hold onto your feelings, afraid to confront the issue, until they build up and explode later on. When this happens, you may become more demanding and critical in an effort to make your partner understand your perspective. However, both of these approaches can lead to feelings of loneliness and pain for both partners. By working on your attachment style, you can create a more secure relationship where you feel comfortable discussing concerns with your partner and fostering a sense of safety and trust. This can help you address deeper issues and strengthen your relationship.
#3. Utilise the afterglow
After you have had sex, you and your partner experience the release of oxytocin, which is known as the bonding hormone that enhances feelings of love. Taking advantage of this opportunity to communicate and connect with each other can strengthen your relationship. Studies have shown that prioritising this time together leads to greater relationship satisfaction. To fully embrace these precious moments, consider discussing what you appreciate about each other, your aspirations and dreams, and the positive qualities you admire in your partner.
#4. Soft start-up
When things aren't going well, and your partner's behaviour is bothering you, you may find you criticise them. This is a common response; however, it often leads to defensiveness, which can escalate the situation or prevent communication altogether. Criticism can cause pain and make us feel blamed. To avoid this, it's better to take a softer approach when discussing important issues with our partners. This creates a sense of safety, allowing them to listen to our needs without feeling attacked. According to relationship expert John Gottman, soft start-ups such as using "I statements" can improve communication. These statements focus on expressing your own needs rather than blaming your partner for their faults. An example of an "I statement" would be "I feel hurt when you don't contribute to washing the dishes because it feels like I'm taking on more than my fair share of the housework." This approach is much softer than "You are lazy for not bothering to wash up after yourself". Next time you want to chat about your partner's behaviours, give this method a go and see the difference.
#5. Listen to your partner
It is often said that we have two ears and one mouth, meaning we should listen twice as much as we speak. In relationships, it is important to genuinely listen to our partners instead of simply hearing them. We can establish a deep and intimate connection by being present and holding space for our partners. Avoid interrupting, fixing, or correcting your partner - simply being there for them can be more powerful. To demonstrate active listening, turn towards your partner, make eye contact, and show them that you are fully present and there for them.
#6. Use focusing
Establishing a true connection requires more than just exchanging words; it involves being aware of the emotions we feel in our bodies. To recognise and understand our emotions, we must pay close attention to them. For example, you may focus on a specific sensation in your body when your partner does something that moves you, be it positively or negatively. An example may be a heavy feeling in your stomach. By focusing on this sensation, you can identify the underlying emotion - feeling fearful, for example. Focusing on the sensation will also help the feeling to ease. The more attuned you become, the easier you can express yourself clearly with your partner. Focusing can be especially helpful for partners who struggle to express their needs, but it takes practice and time. Working with a trained therapist can be beneficial if you struggle with this.
#7. Have fun
Having intimate conversations with your partner may be challenging, but don't be afraid to have fun with it! Laughter releases endorphins, feel-good chemicals that can strengthen your romantic bond. Adding a playful twist can make awkward topics feel less heavy, making them easier to discuss and encouraging deeper conversations.
#8. Be authentic
Authenticity is vital in any relationship, but revealing your true self may feel challenging. There may be fear that your partner will not like you as much if they discover the real you. However, being vulnerable can strengthen your relationship. Take time to explore your inner self and be honest with your partner. Believe that they will accept and love you for who you are, and if they don't, it may be time to think about the validity of the relationship. As you become more authentic, communication will become more effortless and deeper. Be honest with your partner and admit when you feel nervous or uncomfortable about a particular conversation. Deep conversations with your partner can help bring you closer without risking your relationship.