Communication is vital in a relationship. We all desire to be seen and heard, especially by our romantic partners. It is difficult to work together and create shared meaning when you feel like you keep missing each other.
Perhaps it seems like your partner just doesn’t understand you anymore or vice versa. Sometimes, you need to decide if the issue at hand is you simply being irritated by your partner or if there is something deeper eating away at you. Conflict is normal. We still need to be able to talk through it. Whether you are struggling to navigate a situation, or you cannot make it one day without arguing, everyone can benefit from improved communication.
Here are 5 tips to engage in meaningful connection and mutual understanding with your partner:
1. Make time for one another.
Sometimes, life gets busier and busier. It never stops and you feel like you’re being pulled in every direction except closer to your significant other. It’s so important to check in with each other so that each person’s needs can be assessed, vocalized, and subsequently met.
Have you lost track of weekly dates or shared rituals? Incorporate them again. Share a cup of coffee in the morning and talk about your dreams. What’s something you’re excited about? If mornings aren’t really your thing, then try and find time to stay up a little later (if you have kids and/or busy schedules) to connect. Maybe you can try cooking a meal together or making a new dessert. Being intentional with each other and spending time together will help you feel more in tune with the other’s needs, dreams, and desires.
2. Understand your partner’s perspective.
It’s difficult to step into someone else’s shoes and really understand their point of view, especially when we feel passionate about a particular issue. It’s important to take a step back, look at the situation from their perspective and gain emotional understanding of how their feelings and emotions have taken root. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with them, but there is a space in between where we can exist and offer our significant other empathy and consideration.
Just as it is important to hear your partner out, remind yourself that you will also have a turn. Set an example for them by tuning in and listening so that they will do the same for you when you speak. Make eye contact and engage with them. Don’t get on your phone to disconnect and disengage. Mirror their language back to them so they know you are listening and trying to understand. Say something along the lines of “This is what I’m hearing you say - is that right?” because again, it is better to clarify than make assumptions.
3. Be mindful of your language and tone.
There is a difference in saying “I’m trying to understand” versus “you don’t make sense.” Recognize if your anger and frustration are causing you to be defensive and aggressive. This can become more obvious if you feel the need to accuse or use more “you” statements instead of “I” statements. Voicing your concerns on the fact that a particular issue may cause more tension or anxiety can relieve the tension in an argument or disagreement. This allows both of you to be more patient with each other and yourselves.
Your partner may shut down, withdraw, or lash out if you have harsh language and tone. That will lead the conversation nowhere and both of you will emerge from the argument or fight licking your wounds. If it becomes too heated, take a moment - or five - to reconvene. Go for a walk or spend some time alone to cool down. Be sure to vocalize if you need that, however, because it can be disconcerting if you just storm off without articulating that you need a moment before continuing the conversation.
4. Remember that relationships are about equal parts give and take.
If both you and your partner are constantly taking from each other, what will either of you be left with? Constantly attacking each other with no end in sight and no semblance of compromise can lead to turning away from our partner. It becomes a negative cycle that breeds misunderstanding, discontentment, and a habit of viewing our partners as untrustworthy and unreliable. If you are not listening to each other to really hear what the other person needs, then how would you be able to address and meet them?
It’s important to give to each other and that can be in kindness, caring words, respecting each other, etc. When partners focus on giving to each other, it’s easier to navigate conflict and disagreements. When we act and speak from a place of kindness and care, we are more likely to receive that in return. When we feel cared for by our partners, we are more likely to act with warmth and generosity. It’s a positive reinforcement cycle that can become a habit if you increase your self-awareness.
5. Verbalize positive sentiments about your partner.
It’s important to end a conflict or disagreement by reiterating that you still love and appreciate your partner. There’s nothing more disconcerting than abruptly ending a conversation. Someone is bound to feel shut down or uninterested in continuing the discussion later. Even if it seems like it is going nowhere, vocalize that you consider the conversation important and that you feel you both need to continue it. Tell your partner what you appreciate about them and even what you love about being in a relationship with them.
Saying something like “I really appreciate your passion on this subject, and I would like to continue discussing it again soon.” Make the statement more specific and set a time so your partner knows you’re being intentional.
Keeping these five things in mind regarding your partner will help you improve how you communicate. The quality of your relationship will be enhanced by your ability to stop and listen so that each of you feels seen and heard. This will guide you both into deeper and more meaningful connections with each other.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Mindsight if you and your partner are interested in extra support and guidance!
Caitlin Bloom, LPCA
Caitlin is a Behavioral Health Clinician who helps clients guide themselves into deeper meaning and purpose for their lives. She focuses on finding resources, techniques, and coping skills on their journey for further fulfillment.
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