Creative Ideas for Improving Communication in Your Relationship
Whether conducted in the United States or far off lands, many surveys find the number one reason for divorce is poor communication. Beyond having different communication styles, issues often arise when both partners are not comfortable talking about their feelings.
Relationship Communication tends to be either transactional or relational. Transactional communication is discussing things that simply put are not meant to bring the partners in the relationship to a place of connection. An example would be you are discussing with your spouse or partner how to plan your schedules for the week around having a car being repaired. Relational communication is discussing things that are meant to bring the partners in the relationship to a point of greater emotional connection; increase closeness; intimacy. An example would be making a point to talk to your spouse or partner about how much anxiety you are experiencing due to a new job project that has kept you from sleeping well all week.
I think it is very important to avoid the labels of “good” or “bad”. Having too much transactional communication tends to decrease relational connection. A great place to start is to just notice for a week or so how you would classify the balance of both in your relationship.
The good news is, talking about feelings is not the only, or even necessarily the best, way for couples to maintain a happy and healthy relationship.
Here are some ideas to improve communication in your own relationship:
Small Talk Can Offer Big Gains
While you may assume that discussing the impending nor’ easter or last night’s season finale is far from connecting emotionally, the truth is, small talk can positively impact communication even more than discussion about feelings. Many couples find it easier to reconnect over the mundane events of life rather than during a serious discussion, most likely because they each feel safer in the mundane space.
The key is to really engage during these small talk sessions. Be interested and curious. Ask questions. By doing this you let your partner know they matter and you care.
A recent study published in Psychological Science found that partners feel closer to each other when discussing shared experiences. For instance, many spouses can come together when discussing their children, particularly if they are remembering happy moments.
A second study published in Psychological Science uncovered something very interesting! It turns out that words are not even necessary for shared experiences to improve relationships. Silent communication from enjoying an experience can also heal. Doing something together like riding bikes, going to a movie on date night, or even shopping for new furniture can help you reconnect.
Balance Asking and Offering
Good communication is a dance where each person takes a turn in leading. This means sometimes YOU need to offer up the information and share something about yourself. It could be something as simple as what happened to you in line yesterday at Starbucks.
Other times, let your partner share what they want. Be sure to ask questions and actually LISTEN to the answers. If you don’t understand something they’ve said, ask for clarification. This is a wonderful way to show them you care and are fully engaged.
These communication ideas are deceptively simple, but don’t let their simplicity fool you. If you use these techniques you will find your skills improve and your relationship deepens. And, if you feel you need more help in the communication department, seeking guidance from a therapist is a great idea.
If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.