Randi Gunther Ph.D.

9 Ways Couples Can Fix Broken Communication

7. forget about always being right..

Posted  March 15, 2022 | Reviewed by Michelle Quirk

As lack of trust has increased in the world, many people have become more entrenched in their own viewpoints, and more unable to listen to any that might be different. That increasingly divisive outlook has sadly begun to infiltrate many intimate relationships, making it harder for couples to successfully negotiate when they disagree.

Reasonable and fair negotiations cannot succeed when partners are locked into an individual viewpoint that erases any other. Opinions can rapidly become threats. Flexible thoughts become hard-and-fast beliefs that are cast in stone. The other partner is no longer someone who simply thinks or believes differently but is a threat and their opinion invalidated.

I’ve been working with relationship partners now for more than four decades, helping them to communicate more effectively as they learn the skills of listening and accepting the realities of each other’s thoughts and feelings. Those skills required flexibility and the willingness to incorporate the other’s point of view.

Recall the early battles over role definition and the power struggles that ensued. Or when previously rigid walls began to crumble as people connected outside of their faiths, cultures, and ethnicities. Their commitment to being a team and getting past those challenges helped them through those hard times and often brought them closer together.

These relationship partners were working together to fight the biases they were taught. They would willingly do everything they could to stretch beyond their individual locked-in limitations and find new compromises and possibilities that neither had known before.

Effect of Division in the Outside World

Many of the couples I am working with today seem to be losing those capabilities. As they are exposed daily to divisions and disputes in the outside world that often escalate into violent eruptions, they often don't realize that they are treating each other in the same way.

If they have the same political, social, relationship, religious, and cultural beliefs, they bond more intensely and, even with families and friends, jointly end relationships where these disagreements have become more exaggerated.

But, if they disagree with each other, that same level of extreme emotional reactivity can easily backfire. That reactivity is affecting their ability to hear or negotiate with each other. Rather than working toward mutual conflict resolution as they were more easily able to in the past, they now rapidly harden their biases and fight more vehemently.

Long-effective techniques for negotiation, exploration, and new resolutions are not working in the same way anymore. If couples are determined that if one is right, the other is automatically wrong, they have no way to resolve their differences.

As I’ve witnessed this process occur, I have had to develop new ways of helping intimate partners get beyond bringing these rigid divides in their personal relationships. To help challenge this communication crisis, I’ve changed my way of working with couples, from teaching the well-worn skills of basic couple conflict resolution to the negotiation tactics that professionals use in the outside world to help opposing sides avoid worldwide disasters.

9 New Skills to Combat Communication Crises

The following nine steps clearly illustrate these now-required new skills. I believe that it is crucial to reverse the dangerous trajectory of you-and-me before once-intimate partners on the same team become irreversible enemies for all the wrong reasons.

Facebook image: nimito/Shutterstock

Randi Gunther Ph.D.

Randi Gunther, Ph.D. , is a clinical psychologist and marriage counselor practicing in Southern California.

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March 2023 magazine cover

Men have long been silent and stoic about their inner lives, but there’s every reason for them to open up emotionally—and their partners are helping.

how to solve communication problems in relationship

How to Improve Your Communication In Relationships

Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the " Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition) " and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management.

how to solve communication problems in relationship

Ivy Kwong, LMFT, is a psychotherapist specializing in relationships, love and intimacy, trauma and codependency, and AAPI mental health.  

how to solve communication problems in relationship

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Characteristics of Effective Communication

When to Get Help

Communication is vital for healthy relationships . Being able to talk openly and honestly with the people in your life allows you to share, learn, respond, and forge lasting bonds. This is a vital part of any relationship, including those with friends and family, but it can be particularly important in romantic relationships. 

While all relationships are different and each one has its own ups and downs, being able to talk to your partner means that you'll be able to share your worries, show support for one another, and work together to handle conflict more effectively.

In this article, learn more about why communication in relationships is so important. Also, explore some of the characteristics of good communication, learn to spot the signs of potential problems, and explore tips that can help you improve your communication skills.

Benefits of Communication in Relationships

According to Dr. John Gottman, a clinical psychologist and founder of the Gottman Institute, a couple's communication pattern can often predict how successful a relationship will be. Good communication can help enhance your relationship in a variety of ways:

Communication Isn't a Panacea

While the common assumption has long been that if you want to improve your relationship, you should start by improving your communication, some research has suggested that the answer might not be so simple. 

A study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that while there is certainly a connection between communication and relationship satisfaction, good communication alone doesn't definitively predict how happy you'll be in your relationships.

Other factors—including how much interaction a couple has, the personality characteristics of each partner, and stress—all play a part in determining how satisfied people feel in their relationship.

So while research suggests that communicating well isn't a guarantee for a happy relationship, there is plenty of research indicating that good communication skills enhance relationships and well-being in a number of ways.

Effective communication is one way to foster a positive, supportive relationship with your partner. When you actively listen and respond to your partner (and they do the same for you), both of you are more likely to feel valued and cared for. 

For example, one study found that when people feel that their partner values them, they are more likely to sleep better. And ultimately, feeling more valued, positive, and happy in your relationships can have a beneficial impact on your overall well-being. 

Communication is just one part of a good relationship. Research suggests that people who are happy in their relationships are more likely to communicate well with one another. 

So what do experts mean when they talk about "good communication?" Are you and your partner both on the same page or are there signs that might indicate a problem in how you relate to one another? 

First, it is important to think about what we mean by communication. On the surface, it involves the words that people use to convey information to one another. But it can also involve other ways of transmitting information including tone of voice, body language , and other forms of nonverbal communication . In many cases, what you don’t say can mean just as much if not more than what you do say.

Some of the hallmarks of effective communication in relationships include:

Communicating well in relationships involves actively listening, avoiding judgments, and practicing kindness instead of trying to win the argument.

Signs of Communication Problems

Some signs that your relationship is being negatively affected by communication problems include:

It is also important to learn to recognize some of the more subtle signs of poor communication. This can include avoiding arguments for the sake of keeping the peace. If you never disagree, it means that one of you is hiding what you really feel or think just to avoid a fight. This deprives you both of experiencing authentic, open, and honest discussions.

Withholding issues can be another common communication problem in relationships. Instead of having tough conversations with your partner, you might avoid the issue and then end up dumping all of your anger, irritation, worries, or problems on the other people in your life. 

For example, when you don’t tell your partner you are upset, you might end up ranting to your friend about your frustrations. While this might provide you with an emotional outlet, it doesn’t do anything to resolve the problem. And it might result in passive-aggressive actions designed to “punish” your partner for not being able to read your mind.

Criticisms, defensiveness, silence, and feeling misunderstood are just a few signs of communication problems in a relationship. And a lack of arguing isn't necessarily a sign that you're communicating well. Instead, it may mean you are holding back in order to avoid conflict.

How to Improve Your Communication

If you think that poor communication is having a negative impact on your relationship, there are strategies that can help you improve your connection.

Consider Your Attachment Style

Think about how your attachment style might affect your communication patterns. Attachment styles are your characteristic patterns of behavior in relationships. Your early attachment style, which emerges in childhood based on relationships with caregivers, can continue to affect how you behave and respond in adult romantic relationships.

If you have an insecure attachment style , you may be more likely to engage in communication patterns that can be seen as anxious or avoidant. Recognizing how your attachment style affects how you interact with your partner (and how your partner's style affects how they interact with you) can give you clues into what you might need to work on.

If you or your partner have an insecure attachment style, it can have an impact on how you communicate and interact with your partner. Knowing your style and being aware of how it may manifest as anxious or avoidant behavior can help you find ways to overcome less effective communication patterns.

Be Fully Present

In order to make sure that both of you are listening and understanding, minimize distractions and focus on being fully present when you are communicating. This might involve setting aside time each day to really focus on one another and talk about the events of the day and any concerns you may have. 

Limiting your device use at certain times of day, such as during meals or at bedtime, can be a great way to focus on your partner without having your attention pulled in different directions.

Use “I” Statements

Sometimes the way that you talk to each other can play a major role in communication problems. If you are both focusing on arguing facts without talking about feelings, arguments can quickly turn into debates over who is "right" or who gets the last word.

"I" statements are focused on what you are feeling instead of your partner’s behavior. For example, instead of saying “You are never on time,” you might say “I get worried when you don’t arrive on time.”

Using this type of statement can help conversations seem less accusatory or blaming and instead help you and your partner focus on the emotions behind some of the issues you are concerned about.

Avoid Negative Communication Patterns

When you are tempted to engage in behavior like ignoring your partner, using passive-aggressive actions, or yelling, consider how your actions will negatively affect your relationship. It isn’t always easy to change these patterns, since many of them formed in childhood, but becoming more aware of them can help you start to replace these destructive behaviors with healthier, more positive habits.

Focus on Your Relationship

While good communication is important, research suggests that it is just one of many factors that impact the success, duration, and satisfaction in relationships. 

In fact, research seems to suggest that your satisfaction with your relationship might predict how well you and your partner communicate. The more satisfied people are in their relationship, the more likely they are to openly talk about their thoughts, feelings, concerns, and problems with one another.

If you want to improve your communication, focusing on improving your relationship overall can play an important role.

There are many steps you can take to improve the communication in your relationship on your own, but there may be times that you feel like professional help might be needed. Couples therapy can be a great way to address communication problems that might be holding your relationship back. 

A therapist can help identify unhelpful communication patterns, develop new coping techniques, and practice talking to one another in more effective ways. They can also address any underlying resentments or other mental health issues that might be having a detrimental impact on your relationship.

A Word From Verywell

Effective communication in a relationship allows people to tell other people what they need and to respond to what their partner needs. It allows people to feel understood, validated, and connected to another person. 

Always remember that the goal of communicating is to understand one another. It isn't about sweeping problems under the rug in order to prevent all conflict. Instead, focus on listening to understand and responding with empathy and care. If you and your partner are struggling with communication issues, consider talking to a therapist for advice and tips on how to cope.

Gottman J, Silver N. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work . New York, NY: Crown Publishers; 1999.

Lavner JA, Karney BR, Bradbury TN. Does couples’ communication predict marital satisfaction, or does marital satisfaction predict communication?: couple communication and marital satisfaction . Journal of Marriage and Family . 2016;78(3):680-694. doi:10.1111/jomf.12301

Selcuk E, Stanton SCE, Slatcher RB, Ong AD. Perceived partner responsiveness predicts better sleep quality through lower anxiety . Social Psychological and Personality Science . 2017;8(1):83-92. doi:10.1177/1948550616662128

Rogers SL, Howieson J, Neame C. I understand you feel that way, but I feel this way: the benefits of I-language and communicating perspective during conflict .  PeerJ . 2018;6:e4831. doi:10.7717/peerj.4831

By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management.

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Home » Relationship Guide » How to communicate in a relationship

How to communicate in a relationship

Back to the Ultimate Relationship Guide

Connection: We all crave it. We seek it through family and friends, but often our intimate relationships are where we expect to find the most connection. When we don’t, we feel isolated and misunderstood. We let these negative emotions lead to arguments – or worse, we stop communicating at all.

Communication in relationships is essential to having a happy, healthy partnership. And it isn’t about making small talk. Asking your partner how their day went is nice, but if you want an extraordinary relationship , you must dig deeper. Learning how to communicate in a relationship is about fulfilling your partner’s needs. To improve communication in your relationship, you must discover how to listen, not how to talk.

Improve your relationship with the 9 Keys to Passion & Intimacy

Why is communication in relationships important?

Communication in relationships is essential to having a happy, healthy partnership. Your partner is likely the person you spend the most time with, which means there’s a greater risk of misunderstandings and conflict. But when you perfect communication in relationships , you’ll be rewarded.

✓ Increased trust

Real communication in relationships means that you can go to your partner about anything: sharing happiness and sadness, good days and bad. You’re willing to be vulnerable with them because you know that they will support you and love you no matter what. Absolute courage and vulnerability is one of the Five Disciplines of Love because it leads to total trust in your relationship.

✓ Better conflict resolution

We all know couples who seem to fight all the time – and those who seem to never fight at all. While all relationships have ups and downs, both frequent fighting and no fighting at all are signs of a lack of communication in relationships . The key isn’t to never disagree with your partner. It’s to improve your conflict resolution skills by using the eight tips above so that when disagreements do happen, you’re able to turn them into something that strengthens your relationship instead of tearing it down.  

✓ Increased intimacy

Discovering how to improve communication in relationships is excellent for your emotional intimacy , or ability to listen, understand and be compassionate toward your partner. Developing your communication skills shows that you respect and value your partner and their feelings and opinions. When people feel honored and accepted in this way, emotional intimacy skyrockets – and physical intimacy often follows.

Yes, over- communication in relationships does exist in certain contexts. There are two common defense mechanisms when people are feeling anxious or unsure of how to express themselves: internalizing and externalizing. People who internalize tend to shut down and withdraw during conflicts; those who externalize want to talk it out, sometimes excessively.

In both of these cases, more communication doesn’t necessarily equal good communication. Internalizers may need space before they’re ready to talk; externalizers may need to slow down and refine their message. Before you’re tempted to say more , think about how you can say it better instead.

Communication in relationships can be the difference between a strong, lifelong partnership or a conflict-filled bond that ends in disappointment. Learning how to communicate better is vital.

1. Commit to true connection

The biggest misconception about how to communicate in a relationship is that communication is the same as talking or making conversation. Communication in relationships , at its core, is about connecting and using your verbal, written and physical skills to fulfill your partner’s needs. It’s not about making small talk. It’s about understanding your partner’s point of view, offering support and being your partners # 1 fan .

It’s easy to let real connection and passion diminish, especially in long-term relationships . But the first key to how to improve communication in a relationship is to admit that you’re not connecting the way you used to. Talk with your partner about rekindling your connection and provide a starting point. If your partner isn’t on board, don’t worry. Relationships are a place where you go to give , not one where you go to take. You can still enact many of these strategies without a commitment from your partner – and you may even inspire them to reciprocate.

2. Identify your communication styles

Before you work on learning how to improve communication in a relationship , you need to realize that not everyone has the same communication style . The four main communication styles are passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive and assertive. Passive communicators keep their emotions inside and are the ones who can never seem to say “no.” Aggressive communicators are loud and intense, but typically have trouble making real connections with others. Passive-aggressive communicators avoid conflict and use sarcasm to deflect real communication. The healthiest type of communication is assertive: These people are in touch with their emotions and know how to communicate them effectively .

Communication styles also involve our metaprograms, or the ways that we respond to information. Some people like to talk, some prefer touch and others are more visual or respond better to gift giving than an outward discussion of feelings. You probably know which communication style you prefer, but what about your partner?

Communication and relationships are all different. Effective communication with your partner will come from acknowledging this. Your partner can be telling you exactly what they need, but you have to be cognizant of how they convey this information to you. If there’s miscommunication , you’ll miss the opportunity to build trust and intimacy, and you’ll both feel frustrated.

When striving to learn how to communicate better , watch your partner respond to different perceptive cues over a day or two. Does he or she seem to respond most to seeing and watching? Hearing and talking? Or touching and doing? For example, if your partner is more responsive to language, tone and other auditory cues, making lots of eye contact and gentle facial expressions isn’t communicating as much to them as you think. You’re sending signals but they’re not picking them up. On the other hand, if you find that you are an auditory person and your partner is a kinesthetic person, remember that saying “I love you” may not be enough. Reinforce your love with touch, and remember to do so often.

3. Discover the six human needs

There are six fundamental needs that all humans share, but each of us puts these needs in a different order in accordance with our core values. Once you discover which needs matter the most to your partner, you’ll know how to communicate with your partner and in a way that fulfills them.

The first human need is the need for certainty . It’s this need that drives us to seek out pleasure and avoid pain, stress and emotional risks. Ask yourself these questions: How secure is my partner feeling in our relationship? We all find safety and comfort in different things. Be open with your partner about what gives them certainty and makes them feel stable.

The second human need that affects communication and relationships is the need for variety. Uncertainty isn’t always scary if you know how to communicate with your partner. Relationships need healthy challenges that allow partners to grow together. As you learn how to communicate better , you’ll find that variety keeps things fun and exciting with your partner.

Significance is the third human need: We all need to feel unique and important. Communication is key to this particular desire because your partner needs to know that you need them, in a singular way – that they fulfill your needs in ways that only they can. How do you demonstrate to your partner, not just tell them, that they are significant to you? You can show them through loving touch, offering them support when they need it and spending quality time with them.

The fourth basic human need is for connection and love . Every human needs to feel connected with others. Effective communication in relationships lets us know that we are loved and can make us feel at our most alive , but absence of love can cause pain like nothing else can. Too often we automatically say “I love you” in order to solve a conflict with our partners and forget to show love in a real, tangible way that speaks to our partner’s needs. Reverse this pattern: Consciously show your partner that you love them every day, in a way that speaks to their personal preferences and needs. Learning how to improve communication in a relationship is about realizing what “language” your partner best understands and giving them love in that way.

Growth is the fifth human need. The human experience is one of motion and without constant growth, our relationships will become stale . We constantly endeavor to evolve along the different paths that interest us the most, whether these are emotional, intellectual, spiritual or otherwise. Your partner has the need for growth as much as you do and when we learn how to communicate better , we can also learn how to better grow together. When was the last time you supported your partner’s growth in the areas that they are most passionate about? How can you continue to support them to the fullest?

The sixth and final human need is contribution and giving. Remember, the secret to living is giving. Contribution is our source of meaning – it determines who we become and solidifies our legacy, who we are and our role in the world. Consider what you give to your partner and how you can give more. Are you giving your time? Your undivided attention? The benefit of the doubt? A second chance? When communication in relationships is strong, both partners are able to continually come up with new and better ways of contributing to the other’s happiness.


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4. Learn the three keys to passion and intimacy

The strongest relationships have polarity : opposing masculine and feminine energies that compliment each other. When the needs of either person aren’t being met, that person will put on a “mask” of the opposing energy and close off from their partner. But when polarity in relationships is fully embraced, a beautiful connection is created.

Masculine and feminine energies each have three key needs that must be met. Feminine energies need to feel seen – they want you to be present with them and appreciate them. They need to feel understood, through listening and validation. And they need to feel safe, both physically and emotionally.  

Masculine energies need to feel appreciated, through praise and celebration. They need to feel free, not micromanaged or controlled. And they need to feel opened up to – so share your emotions and affection freely.  

Communication in relationships is about first fulfilling your partner’s needs. When you do that, they will be more open to communicating and connecting with you to create the relationship you both desire.

5. Determine if your partner’s needs are being met

There is one surefire way to know if your partner is getting their needs met in your relationship: ask the right questions and then deeply listen to the answers. Reflect on what your partner says, and if you’re not sure what he or she means, then ask by restating their point and asking if you understand correctly. The key to how to communicate in a relationship is often not in the actual verbal communication at all – it’s in the way we listen to our partner.

Your partner may be communicating exactly what the problem is, but if you’re not listening, you’ll miss it. Resist the pull of just waiting for your partner to finish what they’re saying so you can launch into your “turn.” That isn’t listening, it’s waiting to talk. Instead, listen with a calm, open mind and really hear what they are saying to you. This will not only help you learn how to communicate better , but will also enable you to connect with your partner on a deeper level.

6. Be honest and open

Being honest and open is at the top of the list for how to improve communication in a relationship . Say what you mean, and make your feelings and your needs clear. Retreating from conflict seems deceptively safe and comfortable, but it’s no substitute for trust in a relationship and it will never help you learn how to communicate better . Walking away from an argument is a temporary way to deal with an ongoing communication issue and must only be done to achieve a brief cooling-down period. When you disagree with your partner, you must be able to trust that what you say will be heard and respected, and so does your partner.

If you or your partner (or both of you) is averse to conflict, you can find yourselves burying your emotions to please each other and avoid problems. This temporary peacekeeping band-aid turns a two-way relationship into a one-way street, and that’s not a sustainable outcome. The happiness and intimacy you used to share will gradually erode, and it will take the relationship with it. Instead of ignoring issues, it’s crucial that you both learn how to communicate better with each other.

making somebody wrong never makes anything right

7. Be present in your relationship

To improve communication in relationships and truly understand what your partner is telling you, be present . Put time aside and dedicate yourself 100% to communicating with your partner. They must truly feel that they have your full attention and that they are your number one priority.

It’s difficult to listen and be fully present, aware and mindful when you’re angry and stressed or are working on things that take time away from your relationship. This is a part of life, but it’s important to realize that it’s not an excuse for neglecting communication in relationships . Remember that intimacy, love and trust are built when times are hard, not when they’re easy. If we gave up at every sign of resistance, we would never progress and evolve. Seize these opportunities to learn how to deal with conflict and stress in a healthy manner and watch as you grow and flourish with your partner.

8. Let things go

Resist letting a discussion about what’s happening now devolve into a rehash of every wrong that has ever happened between you and your partner. This is the opposite of loving and effective communication in relationships . Instead, assess the present situation and identify what you can do at this moment. Pause and remember why you’re here, and remember that your goal, the outcome that you value, is to strengthen your relationship, build intimacy and learn how to communicate better . There’s nothing either of you can do about the past right now, so let it go .

How to communicate better is about more than saying the right things. Also be aware of your body language. You could offer all the loving and supportive words in the world to your partner, but if your arms are crossed over your chest and you have a scowl on your face, your partner is unlikely to respond favorably. How to communicate in a relationship means listening, loving and supporting with your whole being. Lean toward your partner, keep your face relaxed and open and touch them in a gentle manner. Show them through all your words, actions and expressions that you love them even if you are in conflict.

9. Break negative patterns

You know what your partner needs and have thought about their preferred communication style, but there’s something else that affects communication in relationships : how you’re speaking. Experts on communication break down the way we talk into pitch, pace, volume and timbre . The next time you’re in a disagreement with your partner, be mindful and make conscious efforts to modulate these aspects of your voice.

A voice that is overly high-pitched sounds defensive and immature. Also, if you end a sentence with a higher pitch, it sounds like a question; don’t do this unless you’re actually asking a question, or you risk instill ing doubt in your partner.

Pace just means how fast you’re talking. Take a deep breath and slow down – especially when you’re disagreeing. Speak calmly and clearly to get your message across.

Pay attention to volume , especially volume “creep,” and avoid competing to be heard – competition only leads to shouting and miscommunication. Being louder won’t help you communicate with your partner. If your partner is speaking, listen.

Timbre refers to your voice’s emotional quality, attitude and tone. Pay careful attention to this, and watch for red flag timbres like sarcasm that can erode communication in relationships and cause distrust between partners.

When things do get out of hand, break the pattern : Be playful and use humor in a way that keeps the conversation flowing in the right direction. Injecting humor into the situation can make it feel less dire and can yield amazing results for the two of you. That’s because humor helps you regain perspective and balance; it is an essential component of healthy communication in relationships . It also relieves stress and improves your physical happiness in your everyday life. The biggest benefit to laughing in this context is that it reminds you that you love just being together with your partner. It reminds you that you can enjoy your time together, even when things seem challenging.

When learning how to communicate in a relationship , it’s important to break the pattern of hostility, hurt and retreat. For example, when you catch yourself raising your voice or being sarcastic, change your tone. If you’re using “you” repeatedly and blaming your partner, switch to “I” and “me,” or better yet, “we.” There’s no point in offloading all your relationship’s issues on to your partner. There are two people in every relationship, so don’t shift the blame to be entirely on their shoulders.

Breaking the pattern is a powerful way of reframing the discussion and bringing it back to a level where you can get to what matters. Communication in relationships is all about what your partner’s needs are, what your needs are and how you can both feel fulfilled from your relationship.

10. Start over

Sometimes no matter how much you want to improve communication in a relationship, an argument happens. This is when it’s most essential to be aware of your negative patterns and start over before they become destructive.

Tony often shares an incredible story about Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan that speaks to the power of patterns. If you were born before the mid-80s, you remember the Cold War. It was a defining period of world history when two superpowers, with opposite ideologies – i.e., differences in values – confronted each other in a tense political conflict that could , at any point, tip toward war . It was not a productive relationship and in the late-80s the leaders of the two powers met in a series of talks that would forever shape the course of human history.

But, the story of how Reagan, president of the United States, and Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union, resolved the conflict did not start as well as you might think. Gorbachev and Reagan found themselves in the middle of a heated discussion on the merits and demerits of capitalism and communism. Like any discussion on politics, it was going nowhere and neither leader was sure how to communicate better with the other.

Tony had the pleasure of speaking to both Reagan and Gorbachev years after and he asked them, “What was the moment you decided for peace?” Gorbachev related that, in the middle of the argument, Reagan stood and walked away, only to suddenly turn and exclaim, “Okay, let’s try this again. I’m Ronald!” If Reagan and Gorbachev can start over after so much animosity, there’s hope for communication in your relationship, too.

Always remember that you are together because you make each other smile. Problems are obstacles that need surmounting, and while it’s easy to give up, the truth is that these are the moments that will define your relationship. Listen to your partner, discover the needs they value the most and fulfill them. When you understand that giving is the secret to a fulfilling relationship, you’ll put constant work into how to communicate with your partner in a way they can understand.

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The 6 Most Common Communication Issues in Relationships

how to solve communication problems in relationship

By Relationships Australia

one man sitting in bed arms crossed, another sitting on the bed with head resting on hands

Feel like you’re hitting a brick wall every time you try and talk to your partner? It’s probably because your communication is out of whack. We’ve outlined the six most common communication issues in relationships, and how you can address them.   

When couples are struggling, separating or divorcing, they’ll often say they are having ‘communication problems’. But what does that really mean?

Communication issues can arise when people misunderstand or misinterpret each other, which may lead to tension or arguments.

But the good news is, while communication may be the problem, it will also usually be the solution.  

Common communication problems

These are the six most common communication issues we see in relationships.

There’s an old joke that the couple out at dinner sitting in silence simply have nothing to say to each other anymore, after all those years together. However, in some couples, it may be the opposite. They have so much to say, but all of it feels risky or sparks a full-blown argument. So, silence reigns and the distance between them grows.  

2. Talking on repeat

Couples might feel they openly talk about a lot, and in detail. But in reality, they may be going over and over the same ground, resulting in no change. Each partner might be able to predict exactly what the other is about to say, as they’ve played it out so many times before.  

3. Defending and justifying

This is a communication killer, and significantly damages the relationship overall. If one or both of you expresses a concern, and the only response is denial or deflection, it’s hard to move forward. Couples in this situation will commonly feel like they’ve reached a dead end.

4. Control or righteousness

Not everyone sees the world as we do. Living with someone means learning to distinguish between when we have the right to assert or insist on our own preferences, and when we have to compromise. For example, you might be a neat freak while your partner is much more relaxed. Saying ‘ my way is better ’ will only lead to a power struggle and imply your partner is falling short – a sure- fire way to get their back up.  

5. Escalations and risk

A ny ‘ conversations ’ that quickly go off the rails, snowball, or result in yelling matches, name calling, dismissal and contempt, will also be unproductive, harmful and over time, really damage the relationship.  

6. I’ll change if you change

This happens when n either partner wants to put themselves on the line or be entirely accountable for their actions . A s soon as the other trips up in their commitment, all bets are off again.  

How to fix communication in a relationship

Want to be one of those couples that can communicate more clearly with each other? Here are our top pieces of advice, straight from the therapy room.  

Start as you mean to go on

If your opening line is an accusation, then it’s all downhill from there. Instead, start by clearly stating what you’d like to achieve from the conversation. 

For example: “I’d like us to be closer and to find common ground. I’d like to find a way to discuss this differently.” Learn the difference between using ‘I and you’ statements.

Pick the right time

Organise a time when you can talk freely. Don’t ring during the middle of the workday, or pounce as soon as your partner comes through the front door. If you’re breaking old habits, ask how things could be different. 

For example, “I just need you to hear me out for ten minutes. I don’t need you to problem solve.”

Own up to your own problems communicating

Reflect on your part in previous negative discussions, or how the issue is being progressed. Owning up to some of your own flaws or missteps is always more engaging, and models behaviour that your partner may then reciprocate. They may in turn be more willing to reflect on their own mistakes.

Be a leader and tolerate some vulnerability

Many people wrongly think that relationships should always be 50/50, in every single aspect of the partnership. But the truth is, one of you may contribute more in certain areas, while the other takes the lead in other areas. 

Be prepared to go out on some good, well-chosen limbs for the greater good of the relationship. Offer up what you can commit to, and don’t be disheartened if your partner doesn’t match that straight up. If one person changes, the other inevitably shifts a little too. For example, if you commit to being the one to organise date nights, then you’ll both benefit when it happens.

Find common ground

Remember that if one of you is unhappy with how things are going, inevitably the other may be struggling too, even if it doesn’t look that way. When arguing, couples often become polarised versions of themselves. If each can tone things down, both of you will be able to relate better from a softer position.

For example, if you prefer more nights on the couch than your partner, that’s not inherently good or bad – but you may need to come to some sort of compromise.

Pick your battles, but don’t sweep things under the rug

It’s true that ignoring the small stuff in service of a good relationship is useful. However, you need to be honest with yourself about whether you’re really just avoiding things that need to be said.

If you’re ruminating or talking to friends about grievances or erupting in the therapy room while speaking to your counsellor alone, then it’s time for a conversation with your partner.

Remember: having communication struggles doesn’t mean you’re wrong for each other

Couples can get stuck in poor communication habits, and their disappointment in not being able to get through to each other can end up leading them to fear the relationship itself is not working. But you can take comfort in the fact that this may not be true at all.

While most people don’t want to seek professional help as they believe that it’s a bad sign about their relationship, nothing could be further from the truth. Even a few sessions of couples counselling could free up the gridlock and get an otherwise well-connected couple moving closer again.

If there is deeper trouble, then being able to talk more effectively will help you to look at things in safer and more productive ways. Seek out a well-qualified couples’ therapist to assist.   

Relationships Australia NSW offers  a number of Group Workshops  throughout the year to help you learn the skills to talk through issues with your partner more effectively. These include Couples’ Communication , and Building Better Relationships – For Couples .

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7 Ways to Improve Communication in Relationships

7 Ways to Improve Communication

But what does a healthy conversation look like? How can you avoid over-communicating? And how can you improve communication in a romantic relationship?

Read on for a summary of some important models and theories in the field of communication.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Communication Exercises (PDF) for free . These science-based tools will help you and those you work with build better social skills and better connect with others.

This Article Contains:

The importance of communication, what is healthy communication.

How to Better Communicate in Personal Relationships

How to improve communication in romantic relationships.

How to Spot Defensive Communication (And Non-Verbal Signs)

Avoiding over-communication, books on communication in relationships.

A Take-Home Message

We all have a strong need for connectivity and belonging. This is why positive social interactions increase our subjective wellbeing and provide greater life satisfaction (Lyubomirsky, 2008).

“It is the encounters with people that make life worth living.”

Guy de Maupassant

Nursing social relationships enhance happiness because spending time with friends or colleagues builds positive emotions—a key component of happiness (Fredrickson & Joiner, 2002).

Interactions with people can be verbal or nonverbal—we can even connect with each other through a smile. A vital element of positive social interaction, however, is good communication. But what does that signify?

Communication is a Vital Part of any Social Dynamic.

It also includes feedback, the response of the receiver to the message, as well as noise, which is anything that can disrupt communication.

Encoding refers to the sender transforming thoughts into communicable messages. The receiver interprets what they receive as the message—both verbal and nonverbal parts. Although this seems simple in theory, as you can imagine a lot happens in between and no message is ever decoded without bias.

The way we decode a message is never the objective reality. We all have our own filters and explanatory styles which create the picture of the world as we see it.

What makes the process of communication even more complex is the fact that the message of the sender is hardly ever just factual information.

“We speak not only to tell other people what we think, but to tell ourselves what we think. Speech is a part of thought.”

Oliver Sacks

In his Four-Sides model of communication, Friedemann Schulz von Thun (1981) points out that every message has four facets to it:

There is never the same emphasis put on each of the four facets, and the emphasis can be meant and understood differently. For instance, a wife saying “the sugar jar is empty” may be less about the fact that there is no sugar left in the jar and more a prompt for her husband to go and fill the jar.

To make it even more complex, as a receiver we tend to have one of the four “ears” particularly well trained (factual ear, relationship ear, self-revelation ear or appeal ear).

So if the husband has a well-trained relationship ear, he may decode the sentence to be something like “you are unreliable since you have forgotten to refill the sugar jar,” and he might retort with something like, “Well you are not very reliable, you still haven’t fixed the light in the kitchen!”

Do you recognize this type of conversation? Things unravel quickly when we are not hearing each other.

The underlying emphasis of both the sender and the receiver on the four facets can create a barrier to healthy communication. It is important to understand that what we hear may not be what the other person was trying to get across.

Think about it: which one is your best developed “ear”? For instance, do you tend to hear an appeal in every sentence? Or do you often feel questioned (hence you are listening with your relationship “ear”)?

In order to engage in healthy communication, we need to be aware of the four facets. So the next time you feel questioned, go back to the original statement and think about the four facets. How else could you have interpreted the message? Focus on the actual facts of the message and use questions to clarify whether you understood what the other person was trying to tell you.

For some more information on the theory and some examples watch this 3-minute video:

What to Do If There’s No Communication in a Relationship

One of the most important communication skills is listening. Deep, positive relationships can only be developed by listening to each other (Weger, Castle, & Emmett, 2010). If there is no communication in your relationship, maybe neither party is truly listening; instead, are both people just trying to prove they are right, or maybe listen while “doing something else” too?

You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.

M. Scott Peck

Here are the most common listening mistakes:

But active listening is so much more than not talking. It is an art that requires a genuine interest in the other person, a curiosity rather than an anticipative mind. Active listening involves:

To revive communication in a relationship try the following exercise: Person A gets 10 minutes to talk about their day, while person B is listening actively and with a genuine interest. Person B is allowed to ask clarifying questions but should not interrupt person A.

If there is a silence that’s fine. Relax.

After person A’s 10 minutes are up (all of the allotted time needs to be used), person B gets to talk for ten minutes as well, while the same listening rules apply to person A. You will find that 10 minutes is a very long time to listen.

You may be amazed at how much you learn about each other, and how this exercise adds value to the quality of your relationship and your communication. It could be something you try once a week, as an intentional way to practice active listening together.

Here are some additional techniques to improve communication in personal and intimate relationships.

How to Better Communicate in Personal Relationships

It is based on the willingness and the ability to approach and perceive issues in a non-judgmental way. This is important because whenever you want to change someone, you will create resistance.

This technique is great to discuss an issue that is on your mind. For instance, your partner arrives late for your date and you feel angry and disappointed.

For a positive outcome of the conversation follow these four steps:

1. Observation ≠ Interpretation/Evaluation

Firstly, try to communicate your observations without labeling or interpreting them. In the case of your date arriving late, it is just that: he is late.

Your interpretation may be that the date (or you) doesn’t mean a great deal to him or that something else was more important.

So rather than buying into your interpretation, you could simply say “I realize you were late for our date”. This is a factual observation without any evaluation.

2. Feelings ≠ Thoughts

Secondly, it is important that you communicate your feelings. An argument often develops from hidden emotions. Make sure you understand your emotions and express them in a non-judgmental way.

In the case of a late arrival of your date, you could say “I am feeling annoyed”, or “I am bothered by this because it makes me wonder whether you are looking forward to spending time with me”.

3. Need ≠ Strategy

Thirdly, you need to understand and express your needs. In doing so, you give your partner the chance to decide whether they can and want to meet them. For instance, you could say: “I would like to be treated with consideration and I would like to feel important to you“.

4. Request ≠ Demand

The fourth step is to make a clear request. What does your partner have to do for you to feel that your needs have been met? You could simply say: “That is why I ask you to arrive at the agreed time”.

The four-step process is, as Rosenberg (2003) puts it, “simple but not easy” and it will take some time to get your head around it. It may feel clunky at first, but you will find that with practice your communication will become clearer. You are accepting your partner with all their flaws and asking them in a nonviolent way for what you need in order to be happy.

Active Constructive Responding Model

While nonviolent communication is a great way to improve personal communication, there are also ways you can improve the way you respond as a receiver. Barbara Fredrickson (2003) has shown the benefit of positive emotions for wellbeing. Conversations provide great opportunities to increase positive emotions .

Appreciative feedback in its nature needs to be supportive, inspiring and focused on the strengths of the situation. A common model used is the Active Constructive Responding Model (Gable, Reis, Impett, & Asher, 2004).

According to the model, messages can be active or passive, and constructive or destructive. For instance, if your friend tells you that a presentation he gave went well, here are different ways you can respond to him.

The way you react falls in one of four response types:

For more examples, visit the following article: Active constructive responding .

If you aim to improve communication, make sure you respond in an active constructive way. Be enthusiastic and show genuine interest. If you were truly happy for him, offer feedback like, “ That is great! Well done! I’m so happy for you, I know how hard you worked on the powerpoint slides and preparing for the speech .”

Also, you could ask your friend what it was that went so well or to share the positive comments they received. By asking more questions you will allow the other person to relive the positive experience—encouraging all the positive emotions to resurface.

Let them feel the upward spiral of positive emotions and float on the wave of happiness. For more information on this theory watch the following video:

Unhealthy verbal communication often starts with negative thoughts or difficult emotions rather than words. If you are in a long-term romantic relationship, you have spent enough time with your partner to feel like you know them inside-out. You anticipate how they react in certain situations, however, your idea of who they are may lead to missing an opportunity to re-discover them.

This often has a negative impact on how we communicate in a romantic relationship—relationships are all about remaining curious about who the other person really is and how they see the world. But, after so many years, how can you see your partner in a different light?

Marva Collins, an American educator known for her tough but respectful teaching methods, has worked with impoverished and troubled students who have a challenging time  succeeding in school . Her teaching methods helped them to succeed. Her approach is valuable in any relationship.

At the beginning of each semester, Collins would make a point to tell students they had already received their grades for the school year ahead. She told them that they had all received top marks and their job during the semester was to make sure they did everything not to lose this standing.

So rather than having the students prove to her that they were able to get top grades, she showed them that she believed in them—that they were worthy of the best education. This proved to be highly motivating and inspiring (Collins & Tamarkin, 1990).

Collins’ approach was based on creating the right perception for herself and others. She would treat students as if they were top Harvard graduates, as long as they did not prove her otherwise. Students began with her full trust, encouragement, and appreciation.

Applied to a romantic relationship, this can greatly improve communication. Try the following experiment and see where it takes you.

Assume only the best for your partner. Put them on a pedestal for being so great and then talk to them in an appropriate way. Wouldn’t you like to be spoken to as if you were valued, appreciated, respected, and loved no matter what? In response, how would you react to someone who thought so highly of you? What comes around goes around. You will see your communication improve drastically.

Communication in Long-Distance Relationships

Communication Devices while Long-Distance Dating

In long-distance relationships, effective maintenance strategies are crucial. Being optimistic is important.

Studies also found that openly discussing the relationship and assuring commitment to the relationship are also important strategies (Dainton & Aylor, 2002). Access to technology has made communicating in long-distance relationships much easier, faster, and cheaper. But technology also leaves room for plenty of miscommunications.

While being in touch can be tricky in a normal relationship, in a long-distance relationship the real challenge is the time in between.

The fact that your partner hasn’t replied to your Whatsapp or Voxer message even though she has been online several times since you sent it causes your mind to run free, jumping from one assumption to the next.

The distance between you exacerbates these feelings since you can’t drive over to talk in person. Sound familiar?

If you are caught in a downward spiral like this, you may stuck in one of the main types of thought distortions.

1. Awfulizing/Catastrophizing

We exaggerate the negative consequences. For instance, if your partner does not respond to a message immediately or fails to call you at the agreed time, you jump to the conclusion that it must be because they have fallen head over heels in love with someone else and have eloped to Vegas.

This thinking trap is particularly dangerous as our mind has a tendency to “close the gap”. We look for information to feed our story and once you have decided that your partner is unfaithful, you are likely to see evidence in every corner.

2. Black & White Thinking

You have finally agreed to meet again in a few months’ time, but then your partner tells you that May is actually not a good time. Therefore you decide that if he is not willing to make May work, you do not want to catch up with him this year at all.

It is either black or white for you, with no room for gradients of truth.

3. Emotional Reasoning

You feel misunderstood after you hang up the phone. The conversation was not flowing and you feel anxious and low. You reason that because you feel that way, it must be true. This is a thinking trap and will not be helpful in creating positive relationships.

The first step to getting out of a thinking trap is recognizing it. Once you have realized what is happening you are ready to pull yourself out of the downward spiral of negative thoughts.

Next, remind yourself that most events are neutral. It is the way you decide to look at them which categorizes them as good or bad. Your partner may be on Facebook after you hung up the phone, but this is just a fact—no need to interpret or judge it. Allow yourself to adjust your lens and focus on yourself. What have you got planned for the rest of the evening?

Remember, what you focus on grows, so invest your thoughts wisely.

So thirdly, change your focus. A great way to do this is mindfulness —a non-judgemental presence at the moment. Mindfulness can help tame those wild running thoughts and studies also show that meditation can reduce emotional and cognitive bias (Hanley et al., 2015).

Watch Jon Kabat-Zinn explain mindfulness:

Some apps, such as Buddhify, provide guided meditations and offer episodes specifically designed for those dealing with difficult emotions. Here are the top 20 mindfulness apps . It is a great way to label thought distortions, and bring the mind back into the living and breathing body.

How to Spot Defensive Communication (And Non-Verbal Signs)

A destructive communication climate can have a negative impact on the conversation.

If people feel comfortable talking to you, they will be more inclined to speak openly and share information. However, when they are feeling uneasy during the conversation they may shut down. This stems from the fact that humans behave much like all other animals when we are stressed: we either attack (fight) or run away (flight).

There are certain communication patterns that tend to increase or decrease defensiveness between people. Jack Gibb identified six behaviors that are likely to trigger an instinctive defensive reaction. Among them are judgmental language, hidden motives, or lack of concern.

If we spot any of those behaviors, we can react defensively without even realizing it. Our body freezes and muscles tense up, arms may be crossed in front of the body. We can no longer accurately perceive the motives, values, and emotions as we devote a considerable amount of mental energy on defending ourselves—the actual message in the conversation gets lost.

A defensive communication climate creates a barrier to open, clear, and genuine communication

(Forward, Czech, & Lee, 2011).

Gibb also identified six contrasting behaviors that can help maintain a supportive climate— a genuine desire to understand, respect, and openness to finding a solution.

The following table shows the 12 behavioral characteristics divided by either supportive or defensive communication climates:

Source: Forward, Czech & Lee (2011)

A defensive climate will never provide a good basis for a constructive conversation. So it is important you identify defensive communication patterns and turn them into supportive ones. Ask yourself if what you are planning to say may trigger defensiveness and actively try to create or maintain a supportive emotional tone in a conversation.

For more information on defensive communication watch this lecture:

We tend to not communicate enough, rather than too much. However, there can be too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to smartphone habits. Some couples are in touch via social media throughout the day even when they see each other every day, while others do not feel that need.

There is no rule as to how much communication is healthy—if a couple finds something that works for them, there is no need to change it.

However, if you felt you are over-communicating and would like to change, ask yourself why you need to be in touch? What is it that makes you want to reach out and connect? What is your motivation behind the message you send or the call you make? What are you hoping to get out of it?

Positive psychology is all about flourishing in life—finding solutions rather than trying to understand problems. It is a human need to connect with others but we can’t forget the importance of connecting to ourselves. Are you communicating with yourself as much as you are with others? What are the conversations you have with yourself? Is your inner voice your best friend or your worst critic?

Remember that what we focus on grows. What would happen if we try to meet our own needs rather than hoping for other people to do so for us? What if we communicated kindly when we were upset, rather than suffered or acted in ways that caused further pain?

It is crucial, especially in intimate relationships, to communicate in a way that feels good for both partners.

Here is are our three picks on improving communication in relationships:

Quotes on Communication in Relationships

Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.

Roy T. Bennett

When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.

Shannon L. Alder

Having not said anything the first time, it was somehow even more difficult to broach the subject the second time around.

Douglas Adams

We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.

Zeno of Citium

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

William Shakespeare

Like painting or singing, communication in relationships is a skill that requires practice. If you would like to improve communication in your relationships, remember the following three things.

Firstly, unhealthy communication starts with negative thoughts or difficult emotions. Words are only the result of those thoughts and emotions. So be mindful of what is going through your mind when you talk with someone. Try to understand and communicate your emotions.

Secondly, be aware of your inner lens which is responsible for how you decode a message. Paraphrasing is a great tool when you are unsure whether what you have understood is what the other person was trying to say. Simply use your own words to summarize how you understood the message.

And thirdly, listening is the better skill to practice than talking. Focus on your friend’s facial expression as they tell a story. Try to listen without thinking of what to say next and try not to judge what you hear.

You will see your relationships improve with these three simple steps. Why? Because good communication is a sign of appreciation. Easy examples of showing appreciation are: I am curious what you have to say, I enjoy speaking with you, or I value our time together.

You don’t have much time? I understand! Here is the Essential Skill to Improve Communication in Relationships  in a nutshell, but make sure you read the article for better use of the tools and models.

What are some of the ways that have helped you communicate positively with a partner or friend? Leave a comment below.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Communication Exercises (PDF) for free .

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What our readers think.


Powerful insight, thanks a million. I enjoyed reading your post.

Nicolas Nicolaides

Excellent information. Life changing knowledge.


Hello, I had to smile when I read about the four ears. The old saying about two ears, one mouth was enough of a challenge for me and now I find I have four ears!! A light and enlightening article and the videos made a big difference. Thank you

Shirley Ellison.

Can you purchase this in a book form. Where can I purchased it. Love the information. I need Help.

Nicole Celestine

Hi Shirley,

We do not currently have this post available in the form of a book. However, if you’d like more practical resources, I’d encourage you to check out our other post with 49 Communication Activities and Exercises here.

Hope this helps and good luck!

– Nicole | Community Manager

Jon Buckland

This is a great resource, thank you!

I just watched the Active Constructive Response video and have a quick question. it was stated that the active destructive response was the second most constructive response on the spectrum, but I would think that it is actually the most destructive. Not sure why it considered so constructive?

I was as surprised as you when I noticed this, but here is a response from the video’s creator with an explanation:

“The research came from the University of Pennsylvania, I believe. This concept is part of Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness (CSF2). Passive constructive is the most destructive because you never actually engage. A person who responds like that seems put off by the person. At least with active destructive, you’re giving input. An active destructive responder probably really cares about the person and believes that they’re making a bad decision. Example: your teenage child comes to you and says “guess what, I just put a down payment on a Porche.” Your response is probably “You idiot, you work at McDonalds, you can’t afford that!” The response, while destructive to the news, shows a level of concern. The Passive constructive approach of “That’s nice” shows no actual interest.”

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How to Fix Communication in a Relationship once and for all!

how to solve communication problems in relationship

When there is an issue with communication in a relationship, its entire foundation can start to get shaky.

As I am sure you are well aware, proper communication between two people in a relationship is a fundamental element that will help the relationship withstand the test of time and when there is a blockage, tensions will start to rise.

If it’s particularly bad, it can even start to feel like you two are speaking two different languages to each other and you don’t know how to get back on the same page.

I work with people who are struggling with this issue on a daily basis, so I think that this topic warrants its own article. We are rarely taught  proper communication in romantic relationships , and many people grow up in families where they don’t necessarily learn it either.

So people often wind up in relationships where they have the best intentions in the world, but they somehow can’t seem to  communicate with the person they love , and the relationship starts to fall apart.

So my goal is to give you some pointers on  how to fix communication in a relationship  so that you can  strengthen your bond  and make sure that your relationship will  withstand the test of time .

There are so many things that you can start doing today to build new patterns that will help you in the long run, so it’s great that you’ve gone out of your way to read up on this topic. Your future relationship will thank you for it, so let’s get started!

The importance of Communication in a relationship

A lot of people come to me because their relationship is on the brink of ending because they just don’t know how to talk to each other without things turning into an explosive fight.

And it’s important to note that no communication at all is the end or the slow death of any relationship, but you CAN change things.

So many people make the mistake of subconsciously thinking that their partner can read their minds, and they get upset when they do something that doesn’t resonate with what they were expecting.

Learning proper communication in a relationship is something that takes time and when it is established in a way that doesn’t quite work, you need to  work together  to hit the reset button and lay out a new foundation.

That’s where we can help! I was just working with a client, Gabriel, who couldn’t seem to express what he was trying to say his to girlfriend and it kept leading to fights.

He is someone who has a rather closed personality, and he explained to me that he had always been the type to just bury his feelings away when something was bothering him. So of course, when an issue would arise in his relationship, he would choose to sweep it under the rug instead of address it with his girlfriend, Lianne.

The things that were bothering him, like how she would still talk to her ex from time to time, or the fact that she would leave the dishes in the sink, started to accumulate in his mind over time.

The result was that when another thing that bothered him would happen, no matter how big or how small, he would blow up. Lianne was then left confused because his reaction to the issue at hand would feel disproportionate. As Gabriel and I began working on  how to fix communication in his relationship , I had him start to train himself on speaking up when something that bothered him had recently happened.

Not always in the exact moment, if he was too upset, but we wouldn’t let more than a day pass without him defusing the issue with Lianne. This also helped her to learn how he operates and what she can do to anticipate avoiding issues.

They are doing really well today, and he has told me that opening up this channel of communication has started to bring them closer than ever before. It feels like they’re a team now, rather than two people coasting along, trying to get on the same wavelength.

So let’s take a look at some of the tools I share with clients in these types of situations so that you can start to transform your relationship as well.

How to Fix Communication in a Relationship

How to fix communication in a relationship: The keys to success

There are a couple fundamental elements of  Communication in marriage: How to build and protect it  healthy communication in a relationship that everyone can benefit from. As I was saying in the introduction to this article, not everyone has the reflex to incorporate these things in their relationships but when they begin doing so, they notice that there is a huge shift in the dynamic and it is very positive!

The key to fixing communication in your relationship  lies in empathy.

It’s so easy to want to get your point across and inadvertently ignore your partner’s side of the story. I often see that when two people are having an argument, they don’t listen to understand; they listen to have something to bounce off of with a retaliation and I can tell you right now that this isn’t going to get you very far.

But I can also tell you what will get you far!

Establishing  good communication  can be done by leading by example. If you make a conscious effort to take the high road and not engage in unnecessary hostility, you can start to create a shift because your partner will start to match you. You two can then focus on rebuilding the friendship and the bond between you, and you’ll start to  feel like teammates  instead of opponents!

How to fix lack of communication in a relationship: Putting yourselves in each others’ shoes

First things first, if there is an issue at hand, I encourage you to start training yourself to listen with intent. What does this mean?

Well, when you listen with intent, you set yourself up for understanding what your partner is saying, where they’re coming from, and what is in your power to change. If you approach the situation with the mindset of “ This will help me to understand how I can do things differently to improve our relationship ” you’re going to set yourself up for success. Like I said, it’s so easy to put up your defenses and just try to defend your point of view, but the more you are able to practice empathy and understand what your significant other is feeling, the easier it will be to  defuse the argument at hand .

So when you want to know  how to fix communication issues in a relationship , don’t be defensive. Don’t feel like you need to reply right away. Give yourself the time to digest what your partner said and remember that if you listen with intent, you’ll see that your partner is giving you the blueprint to help them fill a void. So make sure that you develop empathy and strive to see their reality from their frame of reference.

By the way, something that I always tell my clients who want to know  how to fix communication in a relationship  is that people tend to criticize their significant others in the areas where they feel a great  emotional need …

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How to fix communication problems in a marriage: Validate their emotions

When it comes to  how to fix bad communication in a relationship , don’t condemn, criticize or complain. Instead, work on affirming the validity of their emotions. This is especially important because your partner won’t listen to you until they feel that you understand them. In most arguments, the unspoken truth is that your partner actually feels that they are not good enough for you or that you cannot understand their pain.

So let’s say you’re arguing about something. Let your partner talk and make a conscious effort to listen. Then validate what they’re saying to you by acknowledging a specific emotion, and justify the emotion they’re feeling. It’s a simple exercise actually:

Summarize your partner’s point of view, and validate what they just said to you by saying, “I totally understand…” Repeat back to them what they just told you so that they can feel heard and see that you understand what they wanted to get across. Making your significant other feel appreciated when you want to learn how to  communicate effectively  is one of the absolute best gifts you can give to them.

Improving communication in marriage and relationships: Being compassionate

After all these years of working as a relationship coach, I’ve noticed a few patterns like the fact that many times, men will argue for the right to be independent, and women will argue because they want to feel heard. It’s very important to be  compassionate  with your partner, especially if you two are having an uncomfortable conversation. In addition to that, keep in mind that man women will actually talk about their problems to  build an emotional connection  and not necessarily to  hear solutions .

So, many times, people who vent or complain already know how to handle their current situation; they’re just looking for someone to be there and validate what they’re feeling at the moment.

When it comes to  communication in relationship , show your partner that you care about them to open their heart to you and start to communicate again. If you shut them down whenever they try to communicate with you, it’s going to create a negative pattern that’s only going to create more of a divide between you.

So encourage your partner to tell you what they’re feeling and what they would need in order to be happy. When they do, you need to do more than just show the you hear the words that they are speaking to you and you have to make them see that you are  connecting  with the emotions they are feeling. Don’t let them feel that you’re taking them for granted and make sure you love them like you know you could lose them.

Make sure don’t keep tabs after arguments and that you let go of resentment. Don’t live in the past and work together to create a gratifying future for yourselves. You can do this by giving them genuine compliments on a regular basis and by being careful to not think of your relationship as a problem that needs to be resolved.  Remind yourself why you are together!

Communication in marriage: How to build and protect it

Communication in a marriage or a relationship can be fixed!

If you’ve gone through the trouble of finding and reading this article in its entirety, then you are someone who is willing to put forth the effort to fix communication between you and your partner.

You’ve just got to keep these elements in mind so that you can implement positive changes in your relationship starting today:

We are also here to help you every step of the way. Each relationship is entirely unique so I’m sure you have individual questions.  To work with me or a member of my team, all you have to do is click here.  Join the Happily Committed Project and learn how to  transform your relationship in a meaningful and dignified way . In addition to this, in order to boost the attraction between you and the one you love, I encourage you to  check out our new product  specifically designed to help you do this!

I sincerely wish you all the best in life and love,

Your coach when you want to know how to fix communication in your relationship

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5 Easy Ways To Communicate Better in Your Relationship

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I’m sure you’ve heard this saying before: communication is the key 🔑  to any relationship. It sounds cliché but it’s true. I think it’s really easy to tell people that communication is important in a healthy relationship but it’s not as easy to explain how to communicate. And if we’re never taught how to use this key, then we’ll never be able to open the door to healthy communication. Communication is defined as a lot of things but my favorite definition includes, “the successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings”. I always say I’m a great talker, but I have to also be an equally great listener in order to be a great communicator. Communication is about expressing yourself in a healthy way , listening to your partner when they are doing the same, and really hearing and absorbing what the other person has to say.

Below are 5 tips for communicating better in your relationship:

1. ask open-ended questions .

5 Easy Ways To Communicate Better in Your Relationships Learn 2

Communication is not just about talking about each other’s days and saying what you had to eat for lunch.  It’s about being able to dig deep and get to know this person as well as you can. It’s not always easy to dig deep, especially for those who have never been comfortable talking about their feelings. And it’s not necessary to make every conversation a heart to heart.

There are ways to do this without pressuring your S.O. to spill their deepest secrets. For example, i nstead of asking yes or no questions like “Did you have a good day?” try asking more open-ended questions like, “How was your day?” Yes, they may respond with a brief non-answer (“good”, “fine”, “the same”), but asking open-ended questions gives them an opportunity to share more if they choose to. Keep in mind that not everyone opens up very easily. Be patient with your partner if they are not sharing all the time. We set boundaries around our emotions and everyone’s boundaries are different . So, be mindful and respectful of their emotional boundaries, and they should be equally mindful and respectful of yours.

Ultimately, the more you get to know your S.O. on a deeper level, the more open and honest you may be with each other. And honesty breeds trust, which are two very important pillars of a healthy relationship (hint: communication is another super important pillar!).

2. Pick Up on Nonverbal Cues

5 Easy Ways To Communicate Better in Your Relationships Learn 3

If your partner says “my day was fine” but their tone sounds irritated, upset, or angry, then there may be something else that they’re feeling but not yet ready to communicate. Communication is not just about the words we say but also how we say them. Our tone and our attitude give away a lot more than just the words coming out of our mouths. And it’s honestly a skill to be able to pick up on those nonverbal cues. Look at your S.O.’s facial expressions, their hands (are they trembling/fidgety?), their body language (Are they making eye contact? Are they crossing their arms?) and listen to their tone of voice.

3. Don’t Try to Read Their Mind

5 Easy Ways To Communicate Better in Your Relationships Learn 4

Sometimes you can tell just by looking at someone what they may be feeling. It’s not always easy to do this and let’s face it: as much as we want to be mind readers, we aren’t and shouldn’t have to be. So, if you’re not sure what your partner is feeling, ask them.

If you’re the one holding things in and expecting your partner to read your mind, take a moment to appreciate the fact that your partner is making an effort by asking you what’s going on rather than ignoring the problem. Do your best to let them know how you’re feeling when you’re ready to open up about it. It’s not healthy to say you’re okay when you’re not and then get mad at your partner for not figuring it out. Be honest about how you feel to the best of your ability, and try to express it in a healthy way before it gets to the point where it blows up and someone says something they regret. Being direct is always better than being passive aggressive .

If your partner is the one who is guilty of being passive aggressive, try letting them know that it’s not really helpful for either of you when they’re not honest about how they feel. Of course, it’s awesome when we know each other so well that we can practically read each other’s’ thoughts and know exactly what to say in the right moments, but we’re human and we may make mistakes sometimes or miss cues that seem obvious to our partner or vice versa. It’s important that you both make an effort to better understand each other and be patient with each other, too.

4. Conversations are a Two-Way Street

5 Easy Ways To Communicate Better in Your Relationships Learn 5

As you communicate with your partner take note of how many times you say “I”, “You”, or “We”. If the conversation is mostly about yourself, it’s not really a conversation. Remember to turn it back to your S.O. and ask questions about how they feel, what their thoughts are, and what’s going on with them. If you find that you’re saying “You” a lot, what’s the context?  Are you pointing fingers and placing blame ?

Relationships are about both people, and each should have an equal say about things . Both people need to feel heard and be able to share what’s on their mind. If you feel like your partner is the one overtaking the conversations and you can’t get a word in, it’s important to let them know this. They may not be aware that they’re dominating the conversation. Conversations are like a tennis match; it should flow naturally back and forth to each person.

5. Set Aside Time to Talk

5 Easy Ways To Communicate Better in Your Relationships Learn 6

My partner and I recently moved in together and we were warned by practically everyone that it’s a “make or break” situation for couples. We were nervous, but we both had an arrogant attitude of ‘we got this’. We have always been great at communicating openly and honestly with each other. We had no idea how living together would change the way we had to communicate, but it certainly did.

The first three weeks together, we bickered constantly. We were so upset about the bickering (rather than the thing we were actually arguing over), that we ended up bickering about the fact that we were bickering! Have a headache yet? Yep, we had one for about three weeks straight. Because we are so not that couple, we finally sat down and talked it out.

We had to learn a completely new way of being with each other since we were now sharing the same space. We talked about the things that mattered (like how to spend our money) and the things that ultimately didn’t matter (who takes out the trash). Talking about those things were crucial because we would never have known what actually mattered to the other person had we not sat down to discuss it.

Ultimately, we learned that none of our bickering was about the actual things we were fighting about, but rather it was about not feeling heard or appreciated. From that day on, we decided to have what we call “Bae Sesh”, a weekly ‘session’ where we set aside an hour to speak our mind in a judgment-free space. This allows us to feel heard and respected.

Obviously, our hour-long “Bae Sesh” may not work for everyone, but it definitely works for us. We’ve been able to avoid larger conflicts, actively listen to each other, and bond and feel closer to each other because of our Bae Sessions. We may talk every day, but with both of us being so busy with work and life it’s nice to set aside time for something a little deeper.

6. Tell Them What You Need From Them

5 Easy Ways To Communicate Better in Your Relationships Learn 7

Sometimes I just want to vent and feel validated by having my partner support me by saying, “Yeah that really sucks I’m sorry!” Other times, I want advice. Like I said before, none of us are mind readers, so it’s important to try to keep your partner informed so that you’re on the same page. Saying something beforehand like, “I need to vent right now and I’m not looking for any advice, just your support,” or, “I really need your advice on this situation,” will let them know exactly what you need in that moment. 

Being direct about what you need can alleviate some of the miscommunication or stress in a given situation, too. By letting them know ahead of time, we can maybe prevent those unnecessary disagreements brought on by a miscommunication.

Communication is a Skill

Ultimately, communication is a skill, which means there’s always room for improvement. Work together with your partner to figure out how you can maintain healthy communication and stay on the same page. Be as honest, direct, kind, and thoughtful as you can. Whether it’s with a Bae Sesh, or simply making a bigger effort to open up to each other.

Relationships may be complicated but relationship advice doesn’t have to be . Learn more about healthy relationships and take the pledge to #LoveBetter .

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I’m a Couples Therapist, and These Are the 6 Biggest Communication Issues I See in Relationships

how to solve communication problems in relationship

Obviously, communication issues in relationships aren't limited to television characters (I know this all too well from personal experience). In fact, at some point, nearly all of us have had real-life run-ins with a communication problem because, as relationship and sex therapist Vanessa Marin says, "it's not like anyone ever taught us how to be amazing communicators, right?"

Furthermore, it's possible that the coronavirus pandemic is making matters of communication even trickier. "On an individual, relational, and societal level, COVID-19 has highlighted so many issues , many of which were not created by the virus, but have been amplified by it," says psychotherapist Kate Deibler, LCSW . "People are being forced to sit and look at things within themselves and their relationships that they have successfully avoided in the past."

But, just because communication issues in relationships are common doesn't mean they need to be constant. "The reality is that communication doesn't need to be that difficult, but we're just not taught the practical tools that we need," says Marin. Below, learn the six most common communication issues the psychologists see in relationships, plus, how to fix them.


The 6 most common communication issues in relationships, and how psychologists suggest addressing them.

1. just not communicating.

"People ignore uncomfortable communication, thinking that it will pass without being addressed, but this sort of denial rarely works," Deibler says. "This type of thinking and subsequent inaction can lead to years of avoiding issues that are ultimately hurting the relationship."

To fix it, you're going to have to communicate about your communication patterns with your partner. It's important to make sure the aim of this meta-style check-in is to explore how you and your partner can improve communication itself, not to resolve any other issues that have arisen as a result of the root communication issues.

Try asking the following three questions from Marin to get started:

Can you imagine how the plot of Normal People might have been different for Connell and Marianne if those two had just asked each other these questions? Marin also recommends having a regular check-in so you're able to address issues before they come up, instead of bottling them up inside until they explode, and suddenly your misguided frustration manifests into a fight about whether or not it's okay to leave the spatula in the pan while you're cooking.

2. Worrying things will get worse if you delve deeper

"People often fear that if they dive deeper into their difficulties, things will get worse. However, it is quite the opposite: Friction grows when it is ignored," Deibler says. "Conflict is inevitable, and the only way to successfully resolve tension is to communicate about it." So while working through issues head-on in this way can feel very scary and uncomfortable, it's important to do nonetheless.

3. Expecting your partner to be a mind-reader

Apparently, you can't expect your partner to read your mind, so it's key to know what you personally want and need, and—yep, you guessed it—communicate that. Marin says to successfully get introspective, "take a few minutes by yourself to figure out what's really going on for you. Ask yourself questions like, 'Why is this so important?' and 'What do I need?'"

4. Trying to be right

It's not effective to approach any issue with the goal to be deemed correct. "There are three truths to every situation: your truth, your partner's truth, and the objective reality," Marin says. "You have to be willing to accept that your partner is having the experience that they're having, even if it's a wildly different experience than what you're having."

5. Getting defensive and not really listening

"The goal for communication should be understanding, not agreeing. Most couples think they're supposed to get to agreement, which can cause so many problems," Marin says, adding that it's actually pretty likely that you're not going to agree most of the time. What you are able to do, though, is understand each other, which requires listening and not try to "win."

" When couples fight , they often do not fight well; they are mean to each other, blaming or shaming to get their point across," Deibler says. "Continuing to fight in a way that is harmful can be incredibly destructive for a relationship. If one can view the argument as an opportunity, tension actually has the possibility of leading to increased understanding and empathy."

6. Shutting down and refusing to talk

"Oftentimes people stonewall because they're feeling overwhelmed," Marin says. To prevent this, she recommends taking a 20 minute time-out next time an inclination to retreat within presents itself. "Tell your partner that you want to return to the conversation once you're in a better space to have it," she says.

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