Maintaining a healthy, long-lasting romantic relationship requires strong communication skills that acknowledge your needs and goals as a couple. During the first weeks or months of dating, communication is often playful and romantic, offering a time for you to get to know each other. But once you're past the honeymoon stage of your relationship, communication becomes more important than ever.
Listen. When your partner speaks, it's easy to fall into habits of only hearing what you want to hear, misinterpreting your partner's meaning or tuning out. Make a conscious effort to listen carefully, and give your partner your full attention. If something he says is confusing, don't jump to conclusions. Ask for clarification. Develop a habit of listening respectfully.
Observe body language. Nonverbal communication is just as important as verbal communication. When your partner looks away, crosses her arms and avoids eye contact, this may signal that she doesn't want to talk. Note these signals, and adjust your communication. For instance, give your partner space if her body language suggests she needs it. Also, adjust your own body language. When you want to communicate, smile and make eye contact.
Speak out. Hoping that your partner will read your mind leads to confusion, frustration and resentment. Even when you believe that you're hinting strongly at your meaning, your partner may not understand or notice. Make a habit of saying what you mean and expressing yourself honestly, respectfully and openly. Don't wait for your partner to guess.
Use "I" statements. When you start sentences with "you," it sounds accusatory and always places the focus on your partner. Instead start sentences with "I," such as "I feel" or "I believe." Speaking from your own experience keeps the right perspective and avoids blaming your partner.
Compromise. Recognizing and admitting that you're wrong is an important step in a relationship. When both you and your partner insist on being right, it creates constant resentment and disagreements. When possible, try to find a healthy middle ground. For instance, if you're arguing about a wedding date, choose a date halfway between your two ideas.
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- Set aside time to assess the types of communication you and your partner use most frequently. Aggressive communication occurs when a person seeks control of the conversation and ignores the other person's feelings or needs. Passive-aggressive communication occurs when a person struggles to express himself honestly and uses methods such as sarcasm. Passive communicators are shy and have trouble addressing problems. Assertive communicators are honest and direct while also showing respect. Aim for assertive communicating, which is the healthiest style and helps avoid conflicts and hurt feelings.
- If you and your partner are fighting frequently or feel unable to move past old habits, counseling may be your best solution. A professional, licensed counselor offers insights and advice that break through your old habits and help create healthier new patterns.
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