You feel disconnected from your partner. Even when you’ve been home together all night you don’t feel that spark of sense of connection. It’s like there’s a distance between you. When you talk, you don’t feel heard. Sometimes there are large misunderstandings. Arguments even. You just aren’t hearing one another and the friendship part of your relationship feels gone. Maybe it boils down to this: you’re not communicating well.
Communication is important in a relationship. In fact, research consistently finds the number one reason for divorce is poor communication. Beyond having different communication styles, issues often arise when both partners are not comfortable talking about their feelings.
The good news is, talking about feelings is not the only, or even necessarily the best, way for couples to maintain a happy and healthy relationship. The good news is that communication skills can be learned and if both parties in a relationship are willing to put forth some effort, you can improve your relationship by working specifically on your communication.
3 Specific Ways to Improve Communication in Your Relationship
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Small Talk
You may think that talking about that annoying person at your spouse’s job, the highlights of your favorite spots program or you last night’s season finale is far from connecting emotionally. However, small talk can positively impact communication even more than discussion about feelings. The truth is, many couples find it easier to reconnect over the mundane events of life rather than during a serious discussion. Perhaps they each feel safer in the mundane space. Regardless, it is important that you find a way to connect with your spouse on a day to day basis.
The key is to really engage during these small talk sessions. This is the perfect time to practice those active listening skills. Show that you are interested and curious in what your partner is saying. Ask questions. By doing this you let your partner know they matter and you care. Small talk gives you a chance to show your spouse that you care, are listening and respect them. In fact, most of our communication is “small talk,” and those short interactions tie a relationship together.
A recent study published in Psychological Science found that partners feel closer to each other when discussing experiences they have shared. For instance, many spouses can come together when discussing their children, particularly if they are remembering happy moments. Talking about shared experiences reminds a couple what they have in common including shared values and goals.
A second study published in Psychological Science goes a step further. It turns out that words are not even necessary for shared experiences to improve relationships. Silent communication while enjoying an experience can also be good for a relationship. For instance, riding bikes together, going to a movie on date night, or even shopping for new lawn chairs can help you reconnect.
Be Open & Even Vulnerable in Your Relationship
It’s hard to be vulnerable in a relationship; particularly when you’ve been feeling disconnected for a long time. However, good communication is a dance where the man and woman take turns leading. This means sometimes YOU need to offer up the information and share something about yourself. It could be something as simple as what happened to you in line at Whole Foods yesterday or how you had to drive to Montgomery for work.
Other times, let your partner share what they want. Be sure to ask open ended questions and actually LISTEN to the answers. If you don’t understand something they’ve said, ask for clarification. Some people worry they’ll look like they aren’t listening if you ask for clarification. In fact, asking for clarification shows that you are paying attention and that it truly matters what you partner is saying. It’s a wonderful way to show you care and are fully engaged.
Good Communication Takes Practice
These communication ideas are deceptively simple, but don’t let their simplicity fool you. Just reading about a few communication skills may seem pretty easy. However, change doesn’t happen until you practice regularly. Even when you have the help of a professional, you need to practice skills outside of session to get the most from couples therapy. If you use these techniques you will find your skills improve and your relationship deepens. And, if you feel you need more help in the communication department, seeking guidance from a therapist is a great idea.
Help Improving Your Communication & Relationship
If you and your spouse are struggling to improve communication in your relationship and live in the Cincinnati area, please contact me today for a free, brief phone consultation. I would be happy to speak with you about how marriage counseling may be able to help you and your spouse improve your communication. It is absolutely possible to reconnect and bring romance back into your relationship.
At my Cincinnati counseling office, I specialize in marriage and couples counseling. Relationships at all stages in their relationship from premarital counseling to marriage counseling for couples who have been together for many years. You and your partner don’t have to stay stuck at a crossroads. If you’re ready to begin truly hearing one another and find meaning in your relationship again, I can help you apply the techniques described above and others in your relationship.
Individual Therapy Services
Sometimes, couples choose to start out with individual counseling. In fact, individual counseling can also benefit your marriage or relationship. If you and/or your partner want to attend individual counseling first, I can help with that as well. I offer anxiety treatment, cbt depression counseling and career counseling.
Still Unsure about starting Counseling Services?
Still have questions? Beginning couples counseling can feel like a bit step. It’s normal for one partner or the other to have a lot of questions. You can read my answers to common questions about marriage therapy here or simply schedule a couples counseling intake today to get started!