What’s the first thing that goes through your head when your partner says “we need to talk”? Uh Oh!…..Damn, what’s wrong now?……I don’t feel like this today! We have all heard this phrase and felt like trouble may be looming ahead. The reason why we feel this way and become so anxious is that it leaves us wondering what’s to come. Could this be the beginning of the end? Usually, you’re caught off guard and now your mind is searching through your memory Rolodex to figure out what the heck happened. But on the other hand, you could very well know why your partner has approached you with “we need to talk” and you’re just afraid to go there. Either way, hearing these words will have you feeling some type of way… but it doesn’t have to.
One of the most important aspects of a healthy relationship is open, effective, and consistent communication. Without it, your relationship will always have bumps in the road. I can testify, being in a 34-year relationship, that communication needs to be at the top of your list of relationship goals in order to survive. Open communication simply means that you can be transparent, vulnerable, and honest when communicating with your partner without fear of being shamed, disappointed, or hurt. Open communication must be a two-way street, with no exceptions. Trust between the two of you cannot be built if only one person is willing to be open.
Effective communication speaks to the way in which you communicate with your partner. Do you blow up in the moment, causing thoughts and feelings to be misinterpreted? Does your language and method of delivery come across in such a way that you can’t be heard because it’s harsh or offensive? Do you listen and take accountability for your actions, or do you just play the blame game and shut down? None of these methods will prove to be successful for you and your relationship in the long run. So here are five effective communication skills that you can develop with your partner ( Jennifer J. Uhrlass, LMFT, GoodTherapy):
- Find an opportunity in which you can communicate calmly. Taking time to gather your thoughts and process the issues may work better than confronting problems in the moment when negative feelings are at their highest.
- Listen, understand, and communicate your partner’s perspective. Let your partner know that you are present and that you are making an effort to understand their feelings as well.
- Be mindful of your language and tone. Employ a communication style that allows your partner to be receptive to your message.
- Think in terms of what you can give to the communication process and not what you can take. How can your message come across in a way that is receptive to your partner? Focus on what you can give to create a positive interaction.
- Notice what you say out loud and what you appreciate about your partner. Expressing your dissatisfaction is okay but showing that you can also be understanding and that there are positives to the relationship is also important when working through your issues
Consistent communication simply means that the communication between you and your partner is often and dependable. Taking time out from busy schedules to talk, share ideas, and create a deeper bond is important in any relationship. Knowing that the communication is open, honest, and coming from a good place insures that it is dependable.
The key is understanding that all communication is not bad communication or always about pressing issues. Making time to just have a dialogue about relationship goals, wants, needs and desires is a perfect way to manifest good communication skills with your partner. One way to do this is to set aside “talk time”. A time with no interruptions, when you can be fully present in a no`judgment, loving environment. If this is new to you, begin with using conversation starters for couples. These are questions or topics that you and your partner can discuss in a fun or romantic way.
You can come up with creative ways to choose your conversation starter such as writing them on pieces of paper or popsicle sticks and putting them in a jar to be chosen randomly. You can also make a vision board together of fun things you want to discuss or romantic conquests you want to create with your partner. There are various websites that will give you ideas for conversation starters but here are a few of my favs (Crated with Love):
- If you could spend 24 hours doing anything in the world together, what would it be?
- What’s your favorite memory from when we were dating?
- Do you have any dreams or things that you want to accomplish that you’ve put on the back burner? How can we bring them to life?
- What do you see our lives looking like five years from now?
- What’s one activity that you’ve always wanted to do together?
There are a million and one things that you can come up with. Just be creative and keep your partner engaged!
The moral of the story is that “we need to talk” does not have to spell trouble. It’s totally up to you and your partner. Focus on creating open, effective, and consistent communication so that the next time you hear those words your heart beats from excitement and not anxiety. All good relationships start with good communication.