Guide to Effective Communication in a Relationship

If you had a couple that’s been together for fifty years sitting in front of you, would you ask them how they have made it work for so long? If so, isn’t that kind of a weird thing to ask, when you think about it? The question makes it seem as if they should have split a long time ago, so why didn’t they?

The reason that so many people are in awe of a couple staying together for so long is that separation and divorce are so much more common. Not just in our own relationships, but in society at large. So, to see a couple that made it through rough patches intact is an inspiring sight.

While there is no right answer for every couple, one of the biggest reasons that people can stay together is communication. Too often, we hold back what we want to say, which opens up space between our partners and us. When this void gets too large, then that’s where problems happen. Communication is filling in the gap, which can usually stop major issues before they would begin.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at good communication habits that you should be practicing with your significant other. Again, each couple is different, but these guidelines will help you understand why it’s so important to communicate freely.

Talk About the Future

Where do you see yourself in five years? Where does your significant other see his or herself? Do you both like your current trajectory, or do you want to make a change? Do you both want to live in a nice neighborhood and raise two kids, or does one of you want to travel the world instead? No matter what you think the future holds, odds are that you won’t find someone who has your exact vision in mind.

A big reason that couples split is that they want different things, and this is where communication could help you figure this stuff out before it becomes a bigger issue later on. Talk about where you want to go, even if you’re not sure that your significant other will be there. The more that you can open up about the future, the better off it will be for both of you, because then you have a good idea of where your relationship is going, or if it has an expiration date. Don’t enter into something without knowing what you’re getting into first.

Be on the Same Page

You’ve probably heard this a million times, but that’s because it’s so imperative to your relationship. If you think that things are going well but your SO doesn’t, then you need to stop and talk about why there is a discrepancy and correct it. Similarly, you may be thinking that your relationship is heading in one direction, and your SO imagines something entirely different. If you feel like there is space between you, then talk to your partner and open up about what’s going on. In many cases, we drift apart not because we don’t love each other, but because we feel neglected. If you open up the lines of communication, then you can find out what is happening. Sometimes, what feels like rejection is a matter of stress or other things happening in our lives. You don’t want to miss out on something because of a misunderstanding.

Learn to Repeat Yourself

One of the biggest problems I used to have was repeating myself. I would always get so frustrated if I had to say something over again, especially if my partner didn’t hear it the second time. Unfortunately, this eventually lead to problems, because she started to avoid asking for clarification to prevent me from getting mad. Usually, that would make things worse. Getting angry because you have to repeat yourself will teach your SO that he or she has to hear you correctly all the time, no matter what, which will make it seem like your word is law. Over time, it will lead to resentment, and that can end a relationship.

It took some work, but now I have unlimited patience when it comes to repetition. Part of that was having a child, but it was also because I found out what my actions were doing.

Don’t Assume Anything

You’ve most likely heard the saying that if you assume you make an ass of you and me, and that is perfectly true for relationships. Don’t assume that your SO will do anything. Not because he or she can’t be trusted, but because things happen. People forget stuff; plans change, or anything else could happen.

This works for almost everything, no matter how trivial. If you assume that your SO will wash the dishes, then you will get annoyed when he or she doesn’t. Similarly, you could assume that you two will get married, then be blindsided when he or she says that marriage is evil. If you are operating under any assumptions, don’t be afraid to broach the subject and make sure. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Talk About Things ASAP

One of the biggest pet peeves I had with my wife was that she would never tell me what was wrong. If I did something to upset her, she would make it obvious that I made her angry, but would never open up about it, forcing me to guess, which would always be incorrect. That would only make her madder, and we’d wind up sulking for the rest of the night.

Now, though, she is much more forward about bringing things to my attention, and instead of us fighting about it, we make up and then move on. Bottling things up will never resolve them, meaning that if you do that, you’re going to make things worse in the long run. More often than not, your SO can tell that something is wrong, and usually, he or she will feel bad or want to make you feel better. Holding your anger over him or her may seem like you’re “evening the odds,” but it will just make both of you feel miserable.

Thus, when your SO does something that upsets you, talk about it as soon as you can. Maybe you will have to wait until an appropriate time or place, but don’t let it fester, and certainly don’t avoid it later. Bring it up while it’s still fresh, so you can resolve it and move on. If you don’t, then it will nag at you until you do.

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