How to Communicate Better in a Relationship

Published on: 04 Oct 2022
Clinically Reviewed by Ashley Ertel, LCSW, BCD
man yelling at woman

Even though communication is essential to maintaining a healthy relationship, it’s something that many people — and couples — struggle with. When you don’t know how to communicate in a relationship, you and your partner will be more likely to argue, have miscommunications, or hurt each other’s feelings.

Thankfully, communication is a skill that can be taught and developed. With the right strategies and tools, you can learn how to communicate in healthy, productive, and effective ways. Strong communication skills will allow you to resolve conflicts and strengthen the bond between people in any relationship. 

Read on to learn more about how to improve communication in a relationship. Knowing how to effectively communicate is a skill set that will reach across all areas of your life, not just your relationships, making the effort you put into it well worth the payoff you’ll see. 

What Does Good Communication in a Relationship Look Like?

It’s difficult to figure out how to improve communication in a relationship when you’re not sure what healthy communication looks like in the first place. When many people talk about communication, they often focus on words and conversations, but good communication involves much more than that. 

  • Nonverbal communication, such as body language and tone of voice, can influence how people interpret the things you say. For example, a facial expression or rolling your eyes at your partner during a disagreement can upset them, even though you’re not using words with any negative connotation or negative tone.
  • Active listening is a great communication skill to have, and it’s the idea that communication is a two-way street, which is why it’s so crucial that you listen to your partner. Active listening can lead to more intimate relationship communication, and better and more meaningful conversations. When someone feels ignored, they might not be comfortable bringing up their feelings or concerns, which can further exacerbate poor communication issues and relationship struggles. 

Many couples have relationship communication problems, and it’s virtually impossible to fix those issues overnight. However, you can learn how to communicate with your partner with time and practice. You can first focus on identifying unhealthy or destructive communication habits. Then, you can replace them with more positive ones. Sounds simple, right? But how do you go about all this? We’re giving you 10 solid ways below.

“Communication is key in any relationship. The lack of communication can cause misunderstanding, lack of trust, and confusion. In order to improve any relationship, communication needs to be a priority.”

Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, LMHC

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10 Tips for Effective Communication in a Relationship

If you’re not sure how to communicate in a relationship, try introducing these strategies the next time you interact with your partner. Over time, with practice and knowledge, you’ll become more aware of problematic communication habits and learn better ways to express your thoughts and needs to one another. 

1. Find the right setting

When you’re exhausted or overwhelmed, it can be difficult to have a real (let alone positive) discussion. If you and your partner need to talk about something important, or if you’ve been struggling with an issue, be sure to give yourself time to process your feelings before, during, and after the conversation. Staying in a neutral, peaceful environment can also help, especially during particularly difficult conversations. 

What to do: Schedule a conversation at a time when you can both be engaged, present, and most importantly, calm. Do it in a place you’re both comfortable and feel safe. 

2. Work on being an active listener

When it comes to communication, listening is just as important as talking. If you’re not sure how to improve communication in a relationship, start by honing your listening skills. 

What to do: Listen carefully to what your partner is saying and make a point of engaging with their words. Ask questions or request clarification if you’re not sure what they’re trying to say.  

3. Avoid distractions

If you’re busy checking your phone, scrolling through Instagram, or watching TV when your partner’s trying to talk to you, it can be difficult to focus on what they’re saying. It can also make them feel ignored and it’s overall an unhealthy communication problem. 

What to do: Shut out electronic distractions so you and your partner can pay attention to each other and really listen to what the other is saying.

4. Validate your partner’s feelings

If your partner says something you disagree with, you might have negative feelings towards them and feel defensive. While that’s a natural reaction, and you won’t always agree, you should respect and acknowledge that your partner’s feelings are sincere and valid. Validating your partner’s feelings will curtail gaslighting in relationships.

What to do: Instead of arguing, try to remember that it’s important to learn to accept your partner’s feelings. You can disagree without discounting your partner and causing hurt feelings. 

5. Be kind and respectful

When it comes to how to stop fighting in a relationship, a little kindness can go a long way, especially when emotions are running high. Make a point of being kind to your partner when you’re having a conversation. We can all practice a little more kindness in life, and it’s a great place to start if you’re not sure how to communicate better in a relationship. If you constantly feel as though the kindness and respect isn’t being reciprocated, it’s a sign you may be in a one-sided relationship.

What to do: Even if you’re angry, try to be polite and respectful in both your words and in your actions. Practice deep breathing when you’re heated, and remember that it’s OK to pause and calm down when you need to. 

6. Avoid placing blame

If you phrase your feelings the wrong way, your partner might feel attacked or blamed, which leads to insecurity in relationships. When you’re expressing how you feel, try to use “I” statements. 

What to do: Instead of saying, “you always come home late,” you could say, “I feel worried when you come home late.” 

7.  Don’t avoid conflict

Dealing with conflict is never fun, but ignoring issues won’t make your problems go away; open communication is key. When you don’t properly deal with (even minor) pain points in a romantic relationship, there’s a good chance things will eventually turn into a major source of conflict.

What to do: Work with your partner to address and resolve problems, big and small. In the beginning, it can be hard to tackle tough issues if you don’t know how to communicate in a relationship, but it really is worth the effort, and with practice, you’ll both become better at it.

8. Check in with your partner throughout the day

It isn’t always easy to spend time with your partner, especially when you’re both busy. When it comes to how to fix a broken relationship, simply reaching out to check in every so often can go a long way in letting them know that even when you’re busy, you’re there, and you care. 

What to do: Try to take a few minutes to check in with each other a couple of times each day. During these check-ins, you can let your partner know how you’re feeling and ask them about their day. A quick “I’m thinking of you” text can go a long way. 

9. Set boundaries

If you’ve noticed that you and your partner are frequently arguing over the same things, try setting boundaries that’ll help you nip things in the bud. 

What to do: Boundaries can be great for anything. If money is a constant source of stress in your relationship, you might set a rule about discussing any purchases of more than $200 (or whatever amount makes sense). If your partner is always late and that bothers you, try asking them to send a text when their plans change, or they’ll be later than expected. As long as you stick to the boundaries you set, it can help you avoid miscommunication. 

10. Have a positive attitude

Positivity is key in better communication. You and your partner are a team, and keeping things on a positive level can help your relationship in so many ways. Your common goal should always be to work through problems that you’re having, and try to arrive at a mutual understanding. 

What to do: Try to be open to what your partner has to say. Avoid bringing up conflicts from the past. Above all, go into every conversation with an in-it-to-win-it attitude. 

Strengthen Your Relationship with Talkspace

Research shows us that healthy communication is a strong predictor of a satisfying and successful relationship. Thankfully, even if you don’t know how to communicate in a relationship yet, you can work to build strong, healthy communication skills. There are many steps that you and your partner can take to improve the ways you communicate. 

Learning how to communicate with your partner might feel overwhelming, especially when you’re not sure what positive communication looks like. If you’re having a hard time, you might benefit from online couples counseling. During therapy sessions, you can work to identify unhealthy patterns together and find better ways to talk to each other.

If you and your partner are ready to take steps toward a healthier, stronger, kinder relationship, where you know how to communicate and value what each other has to say, you might want to try Talkspace to get started. Talkspace is an online therapy platform that makes working on things like communication in a relationship easier, more affordable, and more convenient. The fact that sessions are virtual means the process is simple, eliminating the stress of fitting in getting to and from therapy into already-busy schedules. 

“Therapy can help couples communicate more effectively with each other. The therapist can serve as a facilitator between partners so they can learn to express their honest thoughts and feelings with each other.”

Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, LMHC

Sources: 

1. Noller P. Misunderstandings in marital communication: A study of couples’ nonverbal communication. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1980;39(6):1135-1148. doi:10.1037/h0077716. https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fh0077716. Accessed July 15, 2022.

2. Weger H, Castle Bell G, Minei E, Robinson M. The Relative Effectiveness of Active Listening in Initial Interactions. International Journal of Listening. 2014;28(1):13-31. doi:10.1080/10904018.2013.813234. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10904018.2013.813234#. Accessed July 15, 2022.

3. Lavner J, Karney B, Bradbury T. Does Couples’ Communication Predict Marital Satisfaction, or Does Marital Satisfaction Predict Communication?. Journal of Marriage and Family. 2016;78(3):680-694. doi:10.1111/jomf.12301. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4852543/. Accessed July 15, 2022.

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

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