5 Communication Tips For Couples

While working through conflict is a normal part of any healthy relationship, fighting doesn’t have to be. Hitting below the belt, taking personal shots, and exhibiting physical intimidation are signs that communication needs improvement.

couple holding hands and talking at the kitchen table

Don’t give in to the games. Improving your communication as a couple not only decreases fights but also opens you up to a new level of love and trust with each other. Try these tips if you feel like you’re out of options when things get heated.

1. Work Against the Problem, Not Each Other

When you position yourself opposite your partner, everything they say or do can feel like an attack or accusation. Even if the stress arose because of something your partner did, now it’s a problem facing both of you. Knowing how to overcome things as a team will leave you feeling stronger as a partnership and less like two lonely people riding in the same boat.

If your partner promised to pick up groceries for the third night in a row and forgot again, try not to blame them for being careless, forgetful, or lazy. Instead, think of it as you two vs the problem: Filling the kitchen with groceries.

Perhaps you could try placing a curbside or delivery grocery order. Or you could move grocery pick-up to the weekend. Either way, focus on the problem that still requires a solution, not the person behind the failed solution. Our first try often doesn’t solve everything.

2. Use “I” Statements

Feeling like you’re being attacked only causes you to bottle up your feelings, which is counterproductive to problem-solving as a couple. Instead of accusing your partner for making you feel a certain way, stick to your feelings. We often don’t know the reasons behind a person’s behavior; we only know how it made us feel.

couple talking in the living room

For example, let’s say your partner left the car’s gas tank empty for a second time. When you turn it on to go to work, you realize yet again you have to stop for gas. Instead of saying something accusing, like, “You don’t respect my time or my job because you keep leaving the gas tank empty,” simply express what you’re feeling. “I felt frustrated when I turned on the car and the gas tank was empty again. Can you try to keep it above a quarter tank before parking it at home?”

3. Take Breaks

Everyone knows what “too far” feels like to them. For some, it’s breaking down in tears; for others, it’s wanting to punch a wall. Either way, your partner shouldn’t regularly work you up to the point where you feel out of control of your reactions. If passionate point-making turns into yelling, it’s best to step back.

Ask to pause the conversation and return when you’re in a better state to discuss. Resolutions can be harder to reach when emotions like rage, despair, and shame blind you.

4. “The story I’m telling myself is…”

Shame and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown recommends using this statement when you think your partner did something hurtful but know they likely didn’t do it on purpose. “The story I’m telling myself is…you don’t like my family, so you keep pushing to spend the holidays with yours.”

Now, your partner knows where your anxiety lies and where they can clear things up. You may be surprised to find out your partner loves your family but has a hard time saying no to their parents. You could support them by discussing how they can turn down their family invite this year or offer to host the holiday so both sides can come.

5. Work With a Couples Counselor

Sometimes, an outside perspective clears things up. Couples counselors can help identify patterns, offer solutions, and guide communication so you can repair your relationship.

Ready to go to the next level? Schedule your first session for couples therapy today.

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