10 Things Therapists Want You To Know About Communication In Relationships
There are many different factors that contribute to a relationship's success. But one thing that tends to get talked about more than anything else is communication. Good communication skills can solve and prevent a lot of problems that occur between you and your partner. According to therapists, there are a few key things you need to know if you want to have good communication in your relationship.
"Communication is important in relationships because it's the single most useful way for partners to connect," Dr. Connie Omari, clinician and owner of Tech Talk Therapy, tells Bustle.
Without communication, there's no way to let your partner know what's important to you. It gives you the chance to connect with your partner on a deeper level. According to Dr. Omari, healthy communication will help you lay a safe and strong foundation for intimacy in the relationship. Because of this, you and your partner will be able to solve any problems you may come across in the relationship. It's a good sign that you're in an emotionally mature relationship.
Unfortunately, communicating isn't always easy. In fact, as Amy McManus, licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle, "Much of the time when couples come to me looking for therapy, what they're saying is that they're looking for help with communication."
No one knows how to navigate the ups and downs of communication in relationships as much as therapists. So here are some things therapists want you to know about communication in relationships.
1. There Is An Explanation For Why You're Having The Same Argument Over And Over Again
If you keep having the same argument over and over again, McManus says you're likely triggering each other's sensitive issues. Unfortunately, having good communication skills isn't the only thing you need to break out of this. "A good way to approach this is to identify what each of your core issues are, why they're sensitive spots for each of you, and how they're usually triggered," she says. In doing so, you can find ways to manage your own anxiety before you respond to your partner in a negative way. "When you have learned to manage your own anxiety better, you can each learn to support the other in managing their anxiety," McManus says.
2. Sometimes All Your Partner Really Needs Is For You To Listen
If your partner just needs to vent or express their feelings, it's important to let them do just that. "Sometimes all they need is for you to say 'I understand,' or 'that must be hard/frustrating/awful/whatever for you,'" McManus says. "Sometimes just a long hug will help." It's only natural to respond back. But if you know your partner just wants to vent, give them a safe space to do so. You don't always need to give input. Sometimes listening is all you really need to do.
3. Expectations Typically Get In The Way Of Having Good Communication
If you want to have good communication in your relationship, it's important to be OK with the fact that you and your partner won't always see things the same way. "Poor expectations typically get in the way of good communication," Dr. Omari says. "This comes from not having strong communication skills yourself, or your partner not having strong communication skills." Having good communication doesn't mean you always agree with each other. It means you never assume to know what your partner thinks, wants, or feels. You actually know because you talk to each other.
4. There's No "Right" Way To Communicate, But There Is A Wrong Way
If you have good communication in your relationship, there shouldn't be any name-calling, manipulation or avoidance. According to Dr. Omari, these are tactics often used by those who have poor communication skills. "You want to learn how not to do these things in order to communicate effectively with your partner," she says. "A general rule of thumb, is that 'it is better to be nice, then to be right.'" If your efforts to communicate comes off genuinely nice, you'll likely see a lot of success.
5. Don't Be Afraid To Say Sorry
"Many times, people get in trouble with not being able to take ownership from their behavior," Dr. Omari says. But if you make the mistake of offending your partner, don't be afraid to apologize. It doesn't matter if what you said was meant to be a joke or was taken the wrong way. "Apologizing lays the foundation for the other person to genuinely believe your remorse and builds a bond to reconnect in an intimate manner," she says.
6. Try The "Sandwich Method" If You're Having A Difficult Conversation
Like a sandwich, positive things should be used to both introduce the conversation as well as conclude the conversation. In the middle of the two positive points, you should be direct about your concerns. "By introducing an argument positively, it decreases a person's likelihood of becoming defensive," Dr. Omari says. "By concluding positively, a person is less likely to feel attacked."
7. There Is A Difference Between Talking At Your Partner And Communicating With Them
"There's a pop psychology pressure to communicate every little thought you have with your partner," Dr. Caroline Madden, marriage therapist and author of How to Go From Soul Mates to Roommates, tells Bustle. But when some people share, they have a tendency to talk at their partner instead of communicate with them. When you're talking at your partner, it's easy for them to tune out. "If you're in a habit of doing this, then please don’t blame your partner for not paying attention or remembering what you've said," she says. This is a one-sided conversation. Communication involves both talking and active listening. If you're talking and your partner is barely listening, it's a one-sided conversation. Asking for feedback is the best way to make sure you're actually communicating.
8. Communication Doesn't Only Mean Talking
There are lots of ways to communicate with your partner that doesn't involve talking. For instance, actions can say a lot more than words. "It can be especially confusing if a person's words and actions don't match up," Dr. Tiffany Towers, clinical psychologist based in Beverly Hills, tells Bustle. Your actions and behaviors can say things that words cannnot.
It's also important to note that how you say things can also communicate a lot. For instance, your partner can say they're "fine" but not actually mean it. According to Kiri Maponya, divorce coach and founder of Battle Free Divorce, good communication means "being open to hearing beyond the words that are being expressed, but also the needs and feelings being expressed."
9. Get Help If You're Really Having Trouble
If you're constantly struggling with communication, getting an objective third party to come in can be helpful. As Dr. Towers says, "Couples therapy can be an excellent way to clear the air, gain insight and learn new communication skills."
10. Communication Can Be Fun
Learning how to effectively communicate with your partner can take some work. But it'll be so worth it in the long run. "If communication is viewed as the food needed for the relationship a couple can learn fun ways to communicate their needs and get ahead of the difficult stuff to manage it," couples and family therapist, Latasha Matthews, LPC, tells Bustle.
It's often said that communication is key, especially in relationships. As these therapists have expressed, that's actually true. So if you want your relationship to flow smoothly, good communication will help you do that.