When you enter into your first ever real, long-term relationship, there's a huge learning curve. Even if you're totally smitten with your new partner, transitioning from being just a "me" to being one half of a "we" takes some serious getting used to. But of all the things that you'll have to adjust to, by far one of the biggest challenges you'll face with your first serious partner is learning how to communicate in a relationship in a way that's healthy, effective, and works well for both of you. The good news? It's totally doable — it just might take a little time.
"You may not have any actual relationship experience, but if you make an effort and are patient, you should be able to adapt to your partner in many ways — including communicating with and without words," Davida Rappaport, Speaker, Spiritual Counselor & Dating Expert, tells Bustle. "Learning how your partner forms thoughts, ideas and chooses their words and sentences takes time. If you are an active listener and patient, you will be able communicate with ease. Not all partners are open and able to communicate well. It is up to both of you to find a way to communicate — perhaps you will create your own method."
Simply put, no two couples have exactly the same communication style, and it's up to you and your partner to find what works for you (and what doesn't. If you're a relationship rookie, figuring out the do's and don'ts of communicating with your partner is something that happens gradually — but if you want a head start, here are 11 expert tips that can help put you on the fast track to becoming an awesome communicator.
1Don't Make Assumptions
You know what they say about people who make assumptions... and when you're in a relationship, jumping to conclusions about what your partner might have meant by something can be seriously damaging.
"Do not assume you know what your partner’s intention is when they say something," Rappaport says. "If in doubt, ask. Anytime you are confused or unsure about anything your partner may say, ask them what they meant. Hopefully your partner will make an effort to clarify their intention so there are no misunderstandings between you."
2Don't Worry If Your Text Habits Change
When you're in the honeymoon phase, it's not unusual to want to constantly be around your new partner, whether that's IRL or over text. But over time, your digital communication habits might change — and that's OK.
"If you and your partner text a lot, over time, the frequency of you or your partner’s responses may not be as immediate as they were in at the start or your relationship — and that is perfectly normal," Rappaport says. "The immediacy of texts will dissipate at times due to driving, work, and many other factors. You do not need to know why your partner doesn’t respond right away. You just need to be secure in knowing your partner will respond to a text if it is an emergency or if a response is needed."
3Don't Overthink Things
While it's common to have some doubts at the beginning of a relationship — especially if it's your first serious one — it's important not to let yourself get too caught up in those insecurities and start overthinking every little thing.
"The tendency to try to read between the lines or analyze what your partner has said will create doubt and undermine your relationship if you have insecurities about where you stand, or if your partner is not one who easily says, 'I love you,'" Rappaport says. "Not all partners say those three little words, but they may show their affection in other ways. Don’t let your fear or insecurities mess with your head and get in the way of a blossoming relationship. Be comfortable in knowing that your partner chose you and not someone else."
4Let Them Finish Their Thought
Even if you feel like you know your partner so well that you could finish all their sentences, it doesn't mean that you should. Instead, let them have the space to form and articulate their own thoughts, sans interruption.
"It is very easy to want to try to finish your partner’s sentences, especially if they are someone who takes their time to say what is on their mind," Rappaport says. "While you may know what they are trying to say, don’t cut them off in mid-sentence. They may become angry or frustrated. Let them say what they need to say in the time they need to say it and they will be happy and you will learn to accommodate their way of communicating."
5Learn To Argue In A Healthy Way
Every couple is going to have arguments from time to time — that's inevitable. What really matters is how you argue, and whether it's healthy or hurtful.
"Arguments happen," Rappaport says. "Sometimes they become heated and emotions may override common sense and logic. When you have an argument with your partner, and you will have them, try to keep them healthy and respectful. If you cannot resolve your argument right away, learn to agree to disagree and drop the subject."
6Acknowledge Your Mistakes, And Apologize For Them
It's not easy to learn how to say I'm sorry in a relationship, but if you want your relationship to last, being able to take accountability for your actions and apologize for the mistakes you make is crucial ability.
"Sometimes things go wrong and mistakes happen," Rappaport says. "If you made the mistake, acknowledge it and say you are sorry. Your partner should accept your apology. The wrong way to communicate is to blame the error on your partner or someone else. Take responsibility for what you say so you can avoid any communication problems."
7Be An Active Listener
"This means that you pause and stop and really hear what your partner is saying without jumping in and responding," Hope tells Bustle. "Wait, breathe and honor what the other is expressing. So many times people pretend to listen and just wait long enough to respond. This is not good communication. A spiritual truth is that listening to someone is the greatest gift you can give them."
8Don't Sweep Problems Under The Rug
When issues pop up in a relationship (as they're bound to do), it can be scary to voice your thoughts and concerns to your partner — but it's not healthy to bottle up your feelings or sweep problems under the rug.
"Dare to speak from the heart and talk about what really matters to you," Hope says. "If you hold back or pretend things don’t matter when they do, later on you will pay the price. Dare to be the real you all the way through."
9Remember To Take Their Feelings Into Account
When you're single, the only person you have to take into account when you make decisions is you; in a relationship, you have to think about your partner's wants and needs, too.
"People who have been single for awhile get used to making all their decisions on their own and never having to think of anyone else," Samantha Daniels, relationship expert and owner of Samantha's Table Matchmaking, tells Bustle. "However, when you get into a relationship, you need to start thinking differently and making decisions that would work for you but also for your partner and the two of you together."
10Trust Your Gut Instinct
When you're in a relationship for the first time, it's easy to put blinders on and ignore red flags because you simply don't want to see them. But it's crucial to communicate not only with your partner, but with yourself, too — which is why learning to trust your gut in a relationship is so important.
"Even at the beginning, if something feels like it should be addressed, something off, or something you feel may impact the relationship, say it," Laura MacLeod, Licensed Master Social Worker, tells Bustle. "These observations open the door for the person to explain. They also show that you are tuned in — and not afraid to address what might be uncomfortable."
11Have Fun Communicating
Naturally, it takes time and effort to improve your communication skills in a relationship — but that doesn't mean you and your new partner can't have fun along the way.
"As much as it's important to have direct communication it is also important to continue to have fun in communication," Naphtali Roberts, LMFT, tells Bustle. "Look for ways to be silly, make jokes and laugh at yourself because it will help learning to communicate easier."
The ultimate goal? To be able to work through your issues, concerns, and needs as a team that your first real relationship also ends up being one where you're both satisfied — happy communicating!