If you want to build a healthy, lasting relationship, learning how to effectively communicate with your partner is absolutely crucial: a couple can't stand the test of time if they're unable to express their needs, feelings, frustrations, and fears. It's not always easy to look at your relationship objectively and evaluate how good your communication is, but it's important to try — otherwise, you won't have a sense of what you and your partner are doing "right," and what could use some improvement. So what are some of the telltale signs your communication skills are on point?
"People who communicate effectively in their relationship collaborate and are truly a team," Lisa Concepcion, Life Coach, Relationship Expert, and Founder of LoveQuest Coaching, tells Bustle. "There's no feeling of competition and no desire to be right but a big desire to be happy. There's agreement, respect, more connection sexually, and the ability to problem solve, set goals and meet them. There's also a high level of security in oneself and in the relationship. People with enough communication feel connected to the other person yet not in a codependent way. They feel as if they can say anything to their partner and commit to communicate with love and respect."
No one is perfect, and it's not realistic to always expect flawless communication with your partner. What's really important is that you're both willing to improve your communication skills — as individuals and as a couple — and are committed to making each other feel loved, respected, and understood. If you want to make sure you're on the right track, here are nine ways to know there's already plenty of healthy, effective communication happening in your relationship.
1. You're Honest With Each Other
As cliche as it sounds, honesty is seriously the best policy in a relationship. Even if a small white lie seems like NBD at the time, it's better to get in the habit of telling the truth so you don't slip further down the rabbit hole of dishonesty in the future.
"This will vary from couple to couple, but a good foundation for healthy and strong communication begins with honesty at all times," relationship expert Ben Weaver tells Bustle. "There is no exception here. The moment either of the parties begins to try to mold a relationship around lies it is eventually destined to fail. From honesty come good communication in understanding and practicing vulnerability and active listening."
2. You Feel Seen And Heard
For a relationship to last, both partners need to feel safe expressing their feelings — the good and the bad. In order for that to happen, it's important that you feel truly heard by your partner whenever you communicate something.
"Each partner [should be able to] answer honestly that they are being seen and heard," Weaver says. "Interestingly enough, this will vary for each couple — especially on the medium. I know couples who text like crazy and feel as if they are connected and have good communication while others swear that face to face contact is a must. The important part is that each person feels valued and a part of something."
3. You're Willing To Listen
Although it's important to learn how to speak up in a relationship, learning how to listen to your partner is an equally valuable skill.
"Communication is everything in relationships however, it's not just about communicating to speak but to listen as well," Concepcion says. "Oftentimes we are too consumed in being right that we fail to listen with the intent to understand and reach a solution. Having a clear intention and communicating always from a place of love and respect is key."
4. You Never Feel Belittled
One sign that you and your partner are great at communicating? Whenever you disagree, you never feel lectured, belittled, or judged by each other; instead, your 'arguments' are focused on understanding one another's point of view and finding a solution together.
"Good communication isn't long-winded lecturing, it isn't critical or judgmental," Concepcion says. "When someone describes communication with their partner as such, they're in big trouble with deeper issues. Good communication is inquisitive. The goal is to understand the other person so asking questions oftentimes helps people reach their own conclusions and they feel heard, validated and supported which builds a bond of trust."
5. You Talk About More Than Day-To-Day Stuff
Communicating with your partner is not the same thing as talking to them. Small talk about your day-to-day lives is necessary, but it's not enough to sustain a deep emotional connection over time.
"One sign that communication in your relationship is lacking is when you only talk about your day-to-day: dinner decisions, schedules, chores, etc.," Kait Scalisi, MPH sex educator & founder of PassionbyKait.com, tells Bustle. "This is common in longer term relationships, but doesn't have to be the case. One way to counteract this is to ask deeper questions. For example, instead of 'how was your day?' you can ask what their least and most proud of from their day."
6. You Don't Feel The Need To Hold Back
It's OK if you sometimes feel nervous to discuss certain topics with your partner, but you should never feel like you have to hold back your true thoughts and feelings out of fear your partner won't accept you and hear what you have to say.
"If there is enough communication in a relationship, the couple may feel at ease with each other and not feel the need to hold back," speaker and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport tells Bustle. "They can talk easily and comfortably."
7. You Talk About What's Bothering You Right Away
One mark of a couple with awesome communication skills? If something is bothering them, they bring it up to their partner right away instead of letting it fester.
"[A couple with good communication] discusses situations when they arise," Rappaport says. "They may also wait until they calm down to communicate with their partner if they are angry rather than say or do something they may regret."
8. You Don't Have Blow-Up Fights
If every little argument turns into a screaming match, that's a huge red flag that your communication could use improvement. On the other hand, if you and your partner tend to work through any disagreements quickly, calmly, and maturely, that's a sign that you're communication-savvy.
"Couples who communicate well often work through disagreements without 'blowing up' or blaming each other," Rappaport says. "They reach compromises and often agree to disagree."
9. You Know *When* To Communicate
As wonderful as healthy communication is, it's not always the "right" time to have a serious talk with your partner: couples who communicate well know that certain times are better than others for bringing up serious topics of conversation.
"Choose your time and place [to communicate]," April Masini, author and relationship expert at Relationship Advice Forum, tells Bustle. "If you wait until right before your partner is about to drop off to sleep, to talk about your medical test results, your being fired or your mother coming to visit for a month…. you’re not being respectful of the relationship's communication. Right before bed should be off limits to any triggering news. Same goes for right before sex, right before an important meeting, and as you’re leaving for work. When you choose the time and place wisely, you’re way more likely to have a successful delivery and reception of any communication, and this is key for relationship health."
Why Is Having Enough Communication In Relationship Important?
Ultimately, it's hard to know what exactly it means to have "enough" communication in a relationship. As long as there's plenty of honesty, respect, openness, and trust from both partners, communicating your feelings and problems should be a piece of cake. "When communication is good it flows easily, the individuals feel comfortable addressing topics and discussing issues that they disagree on, and they both feel heard by their partner," Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, Psychotherapist, and Relationship Coach, tells Bustle.
But if you feel your relationship is lacking these vital communication skills, beware: if you don't work on improving how you communicate with your partner, it might spell doom for your relationship in the long run. "When communication is poor, people shut down or become defensive/combative rather than discuss potentially difficult topics," Coleman says. "They often walk away from a conversation feeling frustrated and badly towards their partner. Partners feel as though they aren't being heard and/or that what they are saying is not getting communicated correctly — and resentment and hurt are the usual result."
So if you want your relationship to go the distance, start working on being more open, honest, and empathetic when communicating with your partner — if you do, you'll be much better prepared for any relationship speed bumps in your path.