Posted by Soribel Martínez, LCSW
Good communication skills are vital for a relationship to stay healthy. Unfortunately, many couples don’t realize their communication skills need help until things have become quite rocky.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. You can develop healthy communication skills at any point in your relationship. It doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming, either. It just takes a little planning and practice.
Whether you’re already contemplating couples’ counseling or just want to deepen your happy relationship, these are tips you can use.
1. Checking in Daily
It can be easy to forget to check in regularly with your partner in the busyness and routine of everyday life. Each of you is likely consumed with your own responsibilities: work, more work, cleaning and cooking, errands, child rearing, community involvement.
In the mix of all of this, sometimes you’re so worn out by the end of the day that you forget to check in with your partner. But with time, this habit can lead to a growing distance between you. It can happen so gradually that you don’t even realize it until it’s become a large problem.
Some couples take 10–15 minutes before supper to sit down and ask each other how their day went. You might ask what the high and low points were for each other. The main point is to maintain regular, authentic communication.
2. Paying Attention
When you talk with your partner, how much are you really paying attention? Do you put down your phone or device and give them your full attention?
Even if you think you can listen to them while simultaneously scrolling through your social media feed or texting, you really can’t. They’ll sense your divided attention and feel resentful. They’ll feel unheard. You’ll miss important points or the unspoken nuances in a conversation that add deeper meaning.
Try to make a habit of screen-free periods when you’re together. Put your phones in a drawer or somewhere out of sight. Turn off notifications. Make each other the focus.
3. Body Language
As they say, actions can speak louder than words. And body language can speak volumes. What does your body language say when you’re communicating with your partner?
Of course, this will vary depending upon the topic you’re discussing, what else is happening around you, and how stressed each of you feel in the moment. But it’s worth paying attention to.
Do you stay halfway turned toward the computer screen or TV when your partner is talking to you? If so, this shows that you’re not completely interested. Do you look irritated and impatient when they’re talking (even if it’s not something you need to be impatient about)? Keep these things in mind.
4. Active Listening
Active listening occurs when you pay attention to what your partner is saying and then ask clarifying questions to make sure you really get it. You provide empathy and understanding rather than trying to solve their problem. You let them know that you really hear them.
When you live with someone, it can be so easy to take them for granted and get sloppy about social niceties. You might roll your eyes, sigh, and make sarcastic remarks. Your reactions and responses to each other might be much less thoughtful and polite than they would be with friends.
But this is another habit that wears on a relationship over time. Remember to treat each other with the same respect and kindness as you would to a good friend.
If communication issues are creating problems in your relationship, couples’ counseling is a good option to consider. As an experienced therapist, I can help you uncover the patterns and misunderstandings that contribute to these issues. If you’re ready to learn more, please give my office a call.
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Soribel Martinez, LCSW, CEO of SMPsychotherapy