Bridging the Gap | Effective Communication Techniques for Couples

Effective communication in relationships

In all romantic relationships, unless you’re perfect (no one is), getting yourselves through the rough patches that pop up from time to time is just par for the course. It’s like golf; you’re having a great time, you’re going to lower your handicap, and then you shank a drive into a sand trap.

That doesn’t mean you throw your club in a fit of fury and stomp off the course, does it? Of course not! Well, not if you want to improve your game or don’t want your duffer buddies to think you’re a petulant toddler. No, you hit your ball out of the sand trap and keep going.

The same can be said for romantic relationships—you’ll have great days and a few bad days peppered in here and there. But that doesn’t mean that you bolt on a bad day, not if your partner and the relationship are important to you. You communicate your feelings and hopefully get through it.

Misunderstandings, disagreements, and heated arguments are all completely human and natural aspects of being with someone! The way through this is with effective communication. Don’t know what that is or how to do it? There are techniques, and we are going to teach you what they are so you and your partner can get out of the rough. FORE!

Identifying Communication No-No’s

Before you even begin to work on improving your communication skills, you need to know what not to do. Are there flags? You bet there are! Here are some to be aware of:

Passive-Aggressive Tendencies

We all know at least one passive-aggressive person, and it’s no bueno when it comes to communicating in general, never mind romantic relationships. Those who are passive-aggressive tend to hide their anger and avoid confronting any issues by making snide asides and comments. Here are a few examples:

  • Making fun of your partner in certain scenarios as a “joke”
  • Giving your partner the ol’ silent treatment when a conflict arises
  • Criticizing their choices

Being passive-aggressive is a way to vent while sidestepping the actual problem, which may feel empowering for a minute, but trust us, it’s detrimental to your partner and your relationship in the long run.

Sweeping Issues Under the Carpet

Do you think that if you act like something isn’t happening, it’s not actually happening? Avoidance is a common coping mechanism, and non-confrontational people are most likely to use it. But sweeping things under the rug is futile—ignoring something, hoping it will magically go away or fix itself, is a recipe for disaster. Whatever the issue is will fester and breed resentment from one or both parties as time marches on.

Hostile Verbal Exchanges

And, then there are the hostile or defensive “communicators.” If you or your partner find yourself yelling or resorting to low blows during a disagreement, this is super toxic. This can manifest as:

  • Escalating your tone or straight-up yelling
  • Casting blame or criticism
  • Controlling or dominating the conversation

Now that we know how we shouldn’t communicate, let’s move on to effective communication techniques for couples!

Tips to Enhance Communication

If you recognize (or are guilty of) any of the above in your romantic relationship, the following tips can help you become a better and more constructive communicator!

  • Work Through Feelings On Your Own: Before getting into it or talking about something that’s bothering you, you need to calm down first. You could go for a short walk, collect yourself by taking some deep breaths, or go for a drive and put on a chill playlist. This way, you can get your thoughts together and talk about things without blowing a gasket.
  • Consider Timing: Choosing a good time for an important talk can be a game-changer when it comes to communicating. Don’t do it the minute they walk through the door after a long day at work—if something is bothering you, tell your partner that you’d like to talk to them when they have time. But don’t say, “We need to talk;” that phrase is scary! Try to phrase it in a way that conveys you aren’t ending things—it’s a tricky statement.
  • Use ‘I’ Statements: Start the conversation by sharing your feelings, using statements beginning with “I” to avoid the blame game. For instance, “I feel like we aren’t on the same page about such and such.”
  • Prioritize Understanding: Participate in important talks with an open mind and actively listening—focus on understanding rather than one-upping or winning an argument. Encourage your partner to share their perspective, too!
  • Aim for Resolution: Work toward understanding each other and finding a middle ground to resolve any problems or issues. In the end, this will help you feel even more connected and enable you to move forward in the relationship.
  • Establish Clear Boundaries: Setting clear boundaries means less misunderstandings. Agree to discuss and approve any big decisions, whether they be financial or anything else that could impact both of you.
  • Leave Thoughtful Notes: Simple, sweet gestures like leaving notes about where you are can be reassuring and considerate—buy some Post-It’s and tack them up when you’re running an errand or write “I love you” and leave it on the fridge!
  • Maintain Regular Check-ins: Create and keep a steady routine of checking in with each other to maintain solid communication about your schedules or just to say “Hi.”

Avoidable Communication Pitfalls

  • The Silent Treatment: Expressing boundaries and knowing when to step away is important—but silence can be misinterpreted. Let your partner know you need a little time to process and then re-engage.
  • Revisiting Past Errors: Stay far away from bringing up past mistakes—this derails the current conversation about a completely unrelated issue and will activate defensiveness.
  • Shouting: Yelling is counterproductive and only serves to ramp up conflicts while, at the same time, eating away at your partner’s self-esteem.
  • Disengagement: Exiting a conversation abruptly leaves issues unresolved and creates a disconnect along with confusion about where you stand.
  • Negative Humor: Don’t use sarcasm and insults, especially during heated exchanges.
  • Disrespectful Body Language: Show respect by keeping eye contact, and under no circumstances take out your phone or do anything else except give your complete and full attention when having an important talk with your partner!

Final Thoughts

Good communication is so important for a good relationship, but it can be really tough to get right! If you keep having issues, seeing a therapist by yourself or with your partner might help you find out where you’re going wrong and arm yourself with new tools for better communication!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help—and if something isn’t working, don’t quit! You just need to alter your approach; or, in keeping with the golf theme, adjust your stance and maybe use a different club.

Molly Davis
Molly Davis

Molly is an East Coast writer who lives on West Coast time. She’s been in the journalism field for over 20 years — newspapers are her first love but she’s finding digital media to be just as fun and challenging as print! When she’s not giving therapist-quality dating advice, she’s curled up watching movies, reading, or volunteering at local dog shelters.