Strategies for Effective Listening in a Romantic Relationship

Create safe communciation space by not judging or criticizing your partner.Create safe communciation space by not judging or criticizing your partner.

A healthy relationship is impossible without good communication, including effective listening skills. Effective listening builds understanding, reduces conflict and helps you work together as a team. It can save your relationship by ensuring that you and your partner have fewer misunderstandings through miscommunication.

Did You Say That?

You can hear something your partner says and assume one meaning when he meant something totally different, suggests marriage and family therapist Rita Bigel-Casher. For example, he expresses his exhaustion and frustration at the end of the day and wants time alone. You assume, based on tone, that he's angry with you when he isn't. Clarify using a technique relationship expert Gary Smalley calls LUV talk -- listen, understand, validate and repeat. Listen fully before considering what you heard. Validate by acknowledging the emotion or words communicated. Repeat what was said in your own words. In repeating back what you think he said, he might identify miscommunication that snarled your conversation.

Listening Is Active

When you listen, give your partner total focus instead of thinking about what you plan to say in response. Concentrate on understanding her point of view, thoughts and feelings, suggests marriage and family therapist Irene Hansen Savarese. As your partner talks, try to see what she is saying through her eyes. Imagine the situation. If you can’t get a feel for it, ask questions until you do, but don’t interrupt her narrative to do so. Be courteous and wait until she pauses and then say, “I’m not quite sure I understand. Can you explain that to me?” Avoid giving advice unless you are asked.

Speaking the Same Language

Gals tend to communicate in terms of relationships and feelings. Guys tend to be more factual and direct. Accept that sometimes you don’t speak the same language, affirms Smalley. Allow for the differences and remember that highly emotional conversations can be difficult to hear, especially when the emotions include anger, frustration, jealousy or pain. Consider your intention to support your partner and the importance of the relationship before you fly off the handle. Try to control your emotional response while your partner shares his.

Non-Verbal Communication Helps

Maintain eye contact when you talk face-to-face. An open and relaxed posture with arms down and your chest uncovered communicates acceptance. Sit forward as you listen to every word. Gentle touching or hand-holding can offer comfort and make difficult topics easier to hear and talk about.

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About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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