How Do I Improve My Communication Skills With My Partner?

By: David Lechnyr, LCSW

Learning to communicate together takes practice and time. You have to agree to work on it together and use several important steps. Understanding these important steps will help improve communication between you and your partner.

Allow for Alone Time

  • Do not try to communicate with your mate immediately upon their coming home.
  • Give each other some time and space initially.
  • Don’t try to solve all your problems at one time.
  • Know that it is fine for you and your mate to have time alone.
  • Some time alone is necessary to wind down from work.
  • This time alone though should not be overdone. Some time alone is fine, but too much time alone is known as withdrawal and causes more problems.
  • In an argument, upset, etc., it is important to withdraw and be away for a time to let things cool down–don’t try to solve it then.

Listen, But Be Responsive

  • This requires your suspending your judgement and reactions.
  • It is not easy, because we are use to responding, especially when others push our emotional buttons.
  • A sign, a look, etc., can be judgmental.
  • You have to not be looking to find things that you can point out to your mate that are wrong–don’t’ find fault–or play who knows best.
  • It requires that you check out what is being heard to make sure you receive the message your partner intended to send.  Don’t jump to conclusions.  Mirror back what you heard (I heard you saying…, is that right?)
  • The sender of the message must not feel hurt that the message is being checked out, or maybe not heard the way you intended it.
  • Listening is one of the most tangible ways to show another person we care about them.
  • It requires learning the Value of Silence (also known as Keeping your mouth shut).
  • We each must invite our partner to correct us if we have ‘misread their feelings.
  • It is hard to do this if we have been hurt for a long time and then want to find a way to hurt back, or to justify our position/feelings.

Keep Each Others’ Problems Separate

  • Make sure not to go into your partner’s problem area; keep it separate.
  • Stop and ask where the problem lies before your respond.
  • Try and see it as separate from your problem area. You only work on your area, not on their problem area.
  • Remember, it takes awareness, work and time to learn to separate issues.
  • When vulnerable & needy we try to change others to feel more secure.
  • Your value as a person is not dependent on how much you can change them, or keep them as dependent persons.

Use I Statements

  • The use of I-statements rather than blaming You-statements.
  • This can help to resolve problems and conflicts.
  • Know that you cannot force communication.
  • Know that 80% of communications are non-verbal; tone of voice, body movements, eyes, etc.
  • Your changing can be resisted by your spouse who feels threatened.
  • They fear losing you.
  • They may fear losing control of you.
  • They may worry that you will leave them if you become assertive.
  • They probably do not have the skills to respond and need to learn.
  • You need to learn how to express your feelings in an assertive, non-aggressive, or self-denying manner.
  • Men have to learn how they can grow with their spouse without feeling threatened.
  • To communicate effectively we must be honest and open about our fears and our expectations and desires.
  • We need to be able to feel free to talk about our feelings, needs, sexual desires, –about each other.
  • No two people are the same. We cannot make each other the same.
  • We have to give each other the freedom to develop one’s full potential as a person–this requires free choice.
  • Choice, freedom actually can strengthen a relationships.  It is not a threat.
  • Have the courage to be imperfect.
  • Remember, we tend to move toward what we expect, and become what we fear.