Learning how to communicate effectively with your partner is definitely one of the secrets to developing a solid relationship. You and your partner need to be able to speaking openly and honestly—but respectfully—in order to solve problems, address concerns, and become closer as a couple. Even if you feel comfortable discussing anything and everything with your partner, there’s more to effectively communicating than just talking. In fact, knowing when to talk and when to listen can be quite tricky—and it takes lots of practice.
Here are our tips on how to communicate effectively with your partner.
Don’t keep it all in.
When thinking about how to communicate effectively with your partner, the first rule might sound simple: express yourself. Often, people might feel afraid to share their feelings with their partner (particularly if it’s a new relationship) for fear of dampening the mood or worse, starting a fight. In fact, the opposite is true—by keeping your feelings bottled up, there’s a higher likelihood that you’ll eventually blow up at your partner. If you feel the need to have a serious conversation with your partner, don’t wait. Broach the topic while you’re still relatively calm about the issue, rather than waiting until you’re ready to explode.
Find the right time to talk.
It’s true that you shouldn’t wait too long to discuss an important issue with your partner, but finding the exact right time to have the conversation is essential. If your partner had a bad day at work, is sick, or just generally cranky, you probably won’t have much success bringing up the fact that they continue to leave dirty dishes in the sink. Instead, wait for a time when your partner is in a better mood. It’s all about matching your partner’s mood with the topic at hand—doing so may mean the difference between a calm convo and a blowout fight.
Be honest, but respectful.
We’ve heard it before: Honesty is the best policy. When you’re communicating with your partner, whether it’s about a minor issue (not putting the toilet seat down, for example) or a major one (a disagreement about a new job or a move), it’s so important to tell the truth about how you’re feeling. You’ll feel so much better getting your true feelings off your chest. But learning how to communicate effectively with your partner is not so much about what you say, but how you say it. Speak calmly, clearly, and concisely—if it helps to write your thoughts down before your discussion, go for it. Once you’ve finished speaking your piece, allow for some silence so that your partner can have time to think and respond.
Listen to your partner’s needs—we mean, really listen.
When it comes to how to communicate effectively with your partner, how you listen is just as important as what you say. It’s essential that you respect your partner and allow him or her the time to respond, without interrupting. Show that you’re an active listener by really taking in all that your partner’s said, and responding in a way that affirms that you’ve really heard everything. Nodding, taking your time to respond, and asking follow-up questions are all good ideas. Serious conversations should not be rushed—there’s no need to talk over your partner, especially if you disagree. It’s essential that you’re both able to express yourselves and be heard.
It can be easy to freak out if you and your partner are stuck in a disagreement. Remember that it’s totally normal for couples to disagree, and your best bet is to stay as even-keeled and calm as possible in order to ensure a swift resolution. That means, no interrupting, no yelling, no storming out of the room. Even if your partner starts to get agitated, try not to follow suit. If you can remain calm, you’re more likely to solve the problem instead of making things worse.
Be prepared to compromise.
A major part of a successful relationship is the ability to compromise. This give-and-take means that you might not get exactly what you want, but you and your partner should be generally satisfied with the outcome. For example, if you want a huge wedding and your partner wants a super-intimate affair, you might need to net out somewhere in the middle. This doesn’t mean that either of you “lost” the argument, it means that you’re able to work together to come up with a doable solution.
Practice makes perfect.
Effectively communicating with your partner doesn’t only come into play when you’re having a super-serious discussion. It really happens every day, from deciding what’s for breakfast to figuring out which show to watch on TV. Follow the pattern: Calmly speak your mind, give your partner time to listen, thoughtfully respond, and come to an agreement or compromise. This template works in a variety of situations, big and small, and you’ll find it becomes second nature the more you do it.