10 Tips On How To Better Communicate With Your Partner
If you’ve been here for awhile, you know that my husband and I were on the verge of separation in 2015. If you haven’t, of course there are some posts to read about it here and here. That year held some pretty dark times for both of us and it required a lot of work on both sides to be able to repair and essentially restart our relationship. We learned a lot during that time that we have been able to carry through year after year and I wanted to be able to share with you, so without further ado, here are my 10 tips on how to better communicate with your partner.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the (almost) ten years we’ve been together, it’s that Neil still can’t read my mind. Things that seem obvious to me may not be to him and vice versa. As nice as it would be for our partners to just understand what we need, it’s impossible and a recipe for disaster if you continue expecting it.
Talk about things as directly as you can and if you need something, want something, feel something, etc., just tell them. Sure, it’s not as romantic, but it’ll save you a lot of time and energy in fighting and resentment.
As simple as it sounds, just talking about things can be really difficult. Sharing things that make you feel vulnerable is hard, even if it’s with someone you love and trust. To the best of your ability, just talk about what’s on your mind and what you’re feeling.
When your partner is talking to you, listen. Don’t interrupt, don’t daydream, and don’t purposefully ignore. They are trusting you with information and in order to keep that trust, make sure to give them the time to listen. If they are trying to talk to you at an inconvenient time, politely stop them and let them know that you want to give them all your attention, but it may be better to do at a later time. Then, make sure to schedule that time with them (hopefully within the same day). Sometimes, how to better communicate with your partner is just to listen.
I shared a quick story on my Instagram account one night that ended up getting way more responses than I expected. I was on my phone when Neil came up to me and asked “what are your expectations for tonight?” I shared it because he asked it so formally and I thought it was funny, but I realized that it’s something we do often that other people may not (based on my DM’s).
Taking a few seconds to ask this questions allows you and your partner to be on the same page about what to expect in a situation. For instance, the previous example was around our nightly routine — something that has been a point of contention when not handled appropriately. Sometimes we watch TV together, sometimes we have it on, but half watch while we are doing other things, sometimes we keep the TV off and spend more one-on-one time interacting. When one of us assumes that we are spending the evening one way and one of us assumes it’s another, it can cause feelings of frustration or resentment that could easily have been avoided.
Another thing that has been helpful for us is to ask this question when the other is having a tough time: “Do you want a solution or do you just want me to listen?” I know that Neil can’t solve all my problems, but it makes me feel better to be able to tell him about what’s going on with me and what I may be feeling. Often, when he asks me that, I just want him to listen and it’s helpful for him to know that so he knows how to best support me.
Use “I” statements
The quickest way to shut another person down is to accuse them of doing things, whether it’s a generalization or something specific. If you’re feeling hurt by something your partner has done, make sure that you speak only to your own feelings. This can look like “I feel hurt when you spend all day on your phone” or “I feel unimportant when you choose to spend your free time doing ______ .” These statements are much more effective than accusatory ones such as “You’re always on your phone” or “You never spend any time with me.”
Have a regular check in
How to better communicate with your partner? Have a regular check in. This was a really important tool in helping us learn to communicate with each other over the years. We have done some variation of it since we got married — whether it’s a quick one in passing or a dedicated, sit down one. If you have trouble consistently communicating with your partner, it may be a good idea to check in every day at the same time so that you become more comfortable and accustomed to opening the lines of communication. For awhile, Neil and I would sit down every evening and discuss our days with each other, including how the other person made us feel — good or bad. These days, we’ve tried to be better about checking in after the kids are asleep and before we sit down to watch TV together.
Make a plan around potentially tough situations
If there’s a potentially tough situation coming up in the future, it’s a good idea to talk about it before it happens. A good example for me to share is about Remy’s recent birth. It was planned, which helped me know when she would be delivered. It also caused me a lot of stress because of all the unknowns surrounding the delivery. Rather than keep that to myself and potentially lash out or break down unexpectedly, I brought Neil into my thoughts around it. I told him that I was scared about the delivery and afraid that I wouldn’t love her as much as I already loved Miles. Because of this communication, he was able to ask what I needed and have a better understanding of what I was going through leading up to her birth.
Make sure to talk about any upcoming situations that could be potentially triggering or stressful for one or both of you so that you can either come up with a plan together or just better understand the other person.
Figure out your love languages
One thing that was eye-opening in our relationship was that we have different love languages, or ways that we feel loved. Early on in our relationship, I would do things for Neil to show my love based on how I feel loved. They ended up falling flat because Neil didn’t share the same love language as me and I felt that he didn’t appreciate the things I had done. This, in turn, led me to feel rejected and sad. We later learned about the different love languages and by taking the quiz, we realized that we were trying to show love to each other in unproductive ways. It’s important for you to find out both your own love language AND that of your partner so that you can know the best way to let them know they’re appreciated and also how they can show that appreciation in return.
To see what your love language is, take the quiz here.
Tell them what you need
This one goes along with not assuming. Your partner can not read your mind, so if you need something, tell them. This has come in especially handy with the addition of a second child because there’s simply less time available. Now, I’ve gotten more comfortable saying things like “I need you to make lunch” or “I need you to take Miles for a little bit.” Obviously this goes for situations outside of parenting as well, such as “I need some alone time to recharge” or “I need you to help me with _______ .”
Even though this is the last tip on my list, that doesn’t mean it’s a last resort. Neil and I went to couples therapy when things were really bad and we couldn’t seem to figure out how to resolve them on our own, but that doesn’t need to be your breaking point. In fact, I would suggest you not let it get to that point if possible. It’s helpful to be able to discuss things in a neutral space with an objective third party. The same arguments we would have between the two of us weren’t as volatile with a third person in the room and we were both better able to listen to suggestions that came from that person vs. each other. We also learned important communication strategies and tips that we’ve continued through the years (and I’ve included in this list).
I know that therapy isn’t accessible for everyone. I wrote this post about more affordable therapy options which hopefully can help if you need it.
These were some of my most important tips – what do you have to add on how to better communicate with your partner?