Any happy, healthy, long-term couple will tell you that one of the building blocks of a good relationship is figuring out how to communicate better with your partner. No two couples are the same, but the basics of good communication are constant: you need to be direct, open, and honest when it comes to your feelings or any issues you're having in the relationship. Bottling things up will only brew bitterness and resentment, so it's crucial to learn how you and your partner communicate — both as a couple and as individuals.
"Good communication is a critical foundation piece of a healthy relationship," Lesli Doares, couples coach and marriage expert, tells Bustle. "No two people are going to agree about everything so no issue can be effectively addressed without being able to talk about it. Good communication means that you can engage in a dialogue, not mutual monologues. It means that you can both state your position clearly and calmly and be able to really hear your partner’s position. Being able to communicate well means no one is walking on eggshells, agreeing to things they don’t want to agree to, or remaining silent out of fear of the other’s reaction."
If you're in the habit of using more passive (or worse, passive-aggressive) communication styles, it can be difficult to adjust to tackling issues head-on, with no beating around the bush. But if you want your relationship to last, improving your communication skills is a must — so you can argue, compromise, and express your feelings better. Here are eight questions to ask your partner that will help to improve your communication.
1What Can I Do To Make It Up To You?
Because we're all human, there will come a time in your relationship when you screw something up. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, it's important to focus on how your partner is feeling, and to sincerely want to make it up to them. "We all make mistakes, and we can't change the past," Chad Elliot, communication coach, tells Bustle.
"So when we hurt our partners feelings, it's important to find out what will make amends. And when we've done that, for the person to let go of resentment."
2What Are You Most Passionate About?
Sometimes, communication issues happen because two people aren't on the same page about what they really want out of life or out of the relationship. Asking your partner what they're passionate about can give you some insight into what things you can compromise on, as well as those you won't be able to.
"It's important to be on the same page with each other, and to know what the other finds important," Elliot says. "This can help you unite your goals and dreams."
3What Can I Do To Make You Happier?
Even if you've been dating for a long time, it can be difficult to know how to ask for what you need in a relationship. Instead of bottling things up, you and your partner can make a habit of asking what you both can do to make each other happier in the relationship — like having more date nights or celebrating anniversaries differently.
"Whether it's in day-to-day events, or in the bedroom, the more we can ask for and get what we want from our partner, the more exciting and fulfilling our relationship will be," Elliot says.
4Can You Help Me Understand What's Bothering You?
Instead of asking "what's bothering you?" (which can come off as abrasive), try asking your partner to help you understand what it is that's bothering them. Rephrasing such an important question in a way that shows you're on the same team can make all the difference.
"Asking about what your partner [is] experiencing shows openness and empathy — vital components for a successful relationship," Doares says. "It shows a willingness to go beyond the surface of either one of your positions and into what’s behind your partner’s."
5When Is A Good Time To Talk?
Asking your partner when they want to talk about an issue shows that you respect their time, and recognize that when emotions are running high, it might be better to wait until you're both calm to discuss the issue at hand.
"People think that good communication only involves speaking and listening, but the timing of a conversation is crucial," Doares says. "If you want to be effective, both of you need to be in the right frame of mind and be able to be fully present. The more serious the conversation, the more important for both of you to be ready to have it."
6How Can I Make You Feel Loved?
Everyone has different preferences for receiving and expressing love and affection. It's OK if you and your partner have different love languages, but if you have a conversation about what makes you feel loved, it'll improve your communication going forward.
"While we all want to feel loved, we often have different criteria," Elliot says. "You may need to hear your partner say they love you; they may need you to really listen to them share their thoughts. Other possibilities: getting small gifts or handwritten notes, enjoying time together, or cuddling. You can also change the word love in this question to words like respected, appreciated, supported, or important."
7What Do You Need From Me?
The simplest questions can be the ones with the biggest impact. If your partner is ever stressed or worried, the best thing you can do is ask what they need from you — it's much easier than guessing and getting it wrong.
"This [question] conveys love, caring and compassion," Justin Lavelle, dating expert and Chief Communications Officer of online background check platform PeopleLooker, tells Bustle. "This can also help get the conversation on neutral ground which can help minimize arguing."
8What Can I Do To Support You?
One of the best parts of being in a relationship is having someone by your side when life gets tough. If your partner is going through something difficult, ask what specifically you can do to support them.
"Since people have different ways of coping with stress, or more challenging times in life, it is good to know how your partner prefers to receive support," Lavelle says. "Some like physical support, like holding and hugging, others might prefer to talk about it while there are some who prefer to have some alone time."
Ultimately, good communication is all about honesty and mutual respect. If you and your partner can learn to talk about your feelings and resolve disagreements without getting heated, then your relationship will have a much better chance of lasting long-term.