07 May 2023 

Couples laughing and talking, indicating that their relationship has improved through couples therapy or couples counselling.

4 Tips to improve your communication in your relationship

In a healthy relationship, we express our thoughts and feelings in an open way without worrying about being judged or criticised. We accept that we all have different perspectives and our partner’s perspective is as valid as ours.  We feel a sense of equality (we don’t need to over-power or feel controlled). We feel free to pursue our own desires, interests and aspirations, while being connected to our partner.  Here are four tips to improve communication in your relationship.

When we experience roadblocks in our relationships, this puts a strain on our bond with our partner. We may become more entrenched in our individual viewpoints: ‘Surely, my reality is more valid than yours’! If only our partner can see that we are right, then all will be well. The more we long to be heard, the more we may shut down from listening. It may come as a surprise that the most important part of communication is listening.

In their book 'Getting the Love You Want' Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, emphasise the importance of active listening in communication and recommend the 'dialogue' technique. This is a concept in Imago Relationship Therapy where one partner listens to the other without interrupting, then repeats back what they hear. 

When we actively listen, we fully focus on what the other is saying rather than preparing for a response. We might ask questions to clarify and make sure that we understand them correctly. Our questions and mirroring convey to our partner that we are genuinely interested and invested in understanding them. 

Once, we are able to really listen to each other, we are in a better place to express our side of the story. There is a general agreement in the research literature that communicating with ‘I’ statements reduces defensiveness in communication. When we express ourselves with ‘I’ statements (‘I feel angry/sad/unheard..’) rather than with ‘You’ statements (‘You make me feel...’), we take responsibility for our experience. This shifts the dynamic from ‘the blamer and the blamed’ (or the Parent and the Child dynamic). This is a good start to evoke a willingness to listen to the other partner. Here are some examples of how to do that:

Couples spending quality time with each other, improving their communication following successful couples counselling.

3. Dedicate Time For Each Other 

Gottmans, renowned researchers in the field of couples therapy, suggest that good communication skills are not enough for a strong relationship. According to Gottmans couples need to dedicate time to check-in with each other on a regular basis and show interest in each other’s worlds.

In today’s fast-paced world, this is not often easy to achieve and ‘time together’ can be the first thing to let go off in a relationship. The trick is that dedicated time needs to be something for both partners to look forward to; rather than another chore in a long to-do list. It does not need to well-planned or perfect, it just needs to be something that nurtures your relationship.

4. Repair 

Conflicts and ruptures happen in all relationships. We are all familiar with this statement. However, ‘repair’ is an understated but very important aspect of a healthy relationship. Hearing each other out (our perspectives, needs and desires) is an essential part of the repair process.  This process is not about finding out who is right/who is wrong, nor is it about establishing ‘the facts’. It is about engaging with each other in an open way, approaching the differences with acceptance, and together coming up with a way forward that meets both of our needs. 

Book a session today to start your journey toward a happier, healthier relationship.