You're Talking but Is Your Partner Listening?

A couple sits smiling on a couch holding hands while improving their communication technique at couples therapy to help their relationship grow

10 communication strategies to help your relationship grow

Key takeaways:

  • Communication is essential for happy, healthy relationships.

  • You need to be willing to be uncomfortable and face hard topics if you want your relationship to grow.

  • Learn how to use “I” statements.

  • Practice active listening so your partner feels heard.

  • Think about your partner's needs.

  • Be respectful even when you are disagreeing.

  • Put away the distractions and be present for your partner.

  • Set aside time for communicating.

  • Consider couples therapy to help your relationship grow.

Communication is the cornerstone of a healthy, happy relationship. Effective communication goes far beyond just asking your partner about their day or making small talk; you need to dig deeper to find growth.

Learning to truly listen and understand will make your partner feel heard. People who don't feel heard, feel isolated and misunderstood. They feel alone even though they are in a relationship. These negative feelings can lead to arguments or cause the communication in the relationship to shut down completely.

Poor communication degrades the quality of your relationship. It can ruin the connection between you and your partner and potentially even end your relationship. You need to be proactive about effective communication if you want your relationship to thrive and your connection with your partner to become closer and more intimate.

Everyone has their own communication style and to help your relationship grow, you need to understand both your and your partner's styles. This guide goes over some key tips you can use to improve communication in your relationship.

1. Let yourself be uncomfortable

Some conversations seem scary. You may not want to talk about your vulnerabilities. You may have concerns about your partner that you don't want to bring up for fear of upsetting them or you may just feel uncomfortable about certain topics – this is particularly common concerning sexual concerns.

Lean in and let yourself be uncomfortable though. Ignoring important issues can backfire. The tension can build and lead to an explosion. You must be willing to get out of your comfort zone if you want your relationship to grow.

2. Use “I” statements

People often lash out at their partners when they are upset. They focus on “you” statements such as "you make me angry" or "you never compliment me" or "you never help with the kids." These statements accuse your partner of doing things wrong and they typically put him or her on the defensive.

“I” statements, on the other hand, demonstrate accountability. They tell your partner how you feel, but they don't blame your partner for your feelings. Here are some examples of “I” statements:

  • I feel lonely when you go to the bar after work

  • I feel overwhelmed by doing the housework on my own

  • I felt embarrassed the other day when you talked down to me in front of the kids

Don't just tack on "I" to a “you” statement. Statements like "I feel like you don't like me anymore" are not “I” statements, they are “you” statements. They don't express how the speaker feels and they put blame on their partner. Try to tap into an actual emotion and avoid words that sound accusatory like “ignored,” “annoyed,” or “pissed off.”

3. Make time for communication

Communication happens all the time in relationships but some conversations deserve a special time and place. Be proactive about setting aside time to communicate with your partner. This is especially important when having difficult conversations on topics that tend to lead to arguments.

4. Use active listening skills

Active listening is key to quality communication. Don't just think about how you're going to respond while your partner is talking. Actively listen to what they are saying and paraphrase what they said when they stop talking. This simple technique can help to ensure you're on the same page.

5. Be assertive

Communication can be divided into four categories: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive. The healthiest communicators are assertive. They share their opinions but they keep their emotions in check. They are kind but they also know when to say no.

Passive communicators, in contrast, don't express their emotions and they never say no. Passive-aggressive communicators tend to deflect true connection, use a lot of sarcasm, and avoid difficult topics. Aggressive communicators are loud and overbearing and they don't listen well.

6. Think about your partner's fundamental needs

People have a fundamental need for certainty, variety, significance, connection, growth, and contribution. Think about how your relationship is meeting or not meeting your partner's fundamental needs and tailor your communication efforts in a way that acknowledges your partner's needs.

Say you know that your partner is feeling insignificant in the relationship, for example. You can try to improve how your relationship fills that fundamental need by letting your partner know that their unique personality is special to you. They play a role in your life that no other person can play.

7. Be respectful when you have differing views

Couples are never going to agree on everything but you need to know how to disagree respectfully. Keep in mind that your partner's feelings and opinions are valid, even if you don't agree with them. Avoid saying hurtful things that you don't mean and if you're in the middle of an intense argument, walk away to cool down but commit to continuing the conversation later.

8. Be present

Put down your phone, turn off the TV, and remove other distractions when communicating with your partner. Give them your complete attention to show that you care, respect the relationship, and want to grow. Stress over work or other concerns can hinder communication. Try to put other issues aside while you communicate with your partner.

9. Ask if your partner wants solutions or support

People vent to their partners about all kinds of topics and if your partner is upset, you naturally want to solve your problems. Your instincts are in the right place but this isn't necessarily the most effective way to communicate. People often just want someone to listen when they are upset.

Ask your partner if they want solutions or support when they start venting about a topic. They may want you to help them brainstorm solutions or they may just want someone to listen and validate their feelings. Don't try to tell them that the problem isn't so bad – instead, just let them know that you understand their feelings.

10. Consider couples therapy

Couples therapy can help you improve communication with your partner and grow your relationship. A couples therapist can help you regain the intimacy you've lost over time, guide you toward more effective communication strategies, and be a partner in the growth of your relationship.

Contact Love Discovery about couples therapy

Therapy is not only for relationships that are in trouble. It can help relationships at any stage, where both partners want to grow. Love Discovery focuses on couples thera