Understanding The Importance Of Communication In Relationships
By: Lindsay Hamilton
Updated March 25, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn
Communication is very important for all relationships, not just romantic ones. Communication is important for families, friendships, coworkers, and all of the other relationships throughout our lives. Not all relationships work the same way. We share different things with different people. We might not get super close with a coworker, but we want to share our deepest fears with a life partner. But even that isn't the case for everyone. Opening up about feelings is hard. Even when you love someone deeply, you might still have a hard time talking about your feelings with them. It could be because you feel shy, but perhaps it's just not in your personality to share your feelings all the time.
If you have a hard time with this, know that it's okay. Using words to communicate feelings is hard for a lot of people, and it's not the only way to engage in communication. You don't always have to use words. According to Dr. Michele Kerulis, a professor of Counseling at Northwestern, what good communication does is give us a space to express our wants and needs and provide opportunities to grow in love, romance, sexuality, and even conflict resolution. Both people in the relationship should speak and be heard, and finding that balance is what is the crucial element for good communication. To help you understand more why communication is so important, take a look at these elements of communication and how you can implement them.
Talk About Your Day
To get communication flowing, talk about your day with your partner. A study published in Psychological Science found that couples feel closer when they have shared experiences. So when you share with your partner how your day was and are willing to share stories, you build up a bank of shared experience that helps you to feel closer together. It's a great first step for couples who have a hard time learning how to communicate. Instead of jumping right into feelings, talking about your day is an easier alternative.
An alternative to talking about your day is sharing your day. When you can, spend time together. Go to fun events, take each other out to lunch, see a fun movie, or whatever else seems like something you two would enjoy. Communication doesn't have to happen in words. Sometimes it looks like sharing experiences and creating memories.
Because communication goes both ways, asking questions is a way to keep the conversation flowing without there being danger of one person doing all the talking. A quick Google search can show you many lists of questions for deeper intimacy or how to get to know your partner. You can take turns asking each other those questions, or you can come up with your own. Think about what makes you curious about your partner. What do they talk about that you love to listen to? You won't monopolize the conversation when you are genuinely interested in what your partner has to say.
To go back to the first point, asking your partner "how was your day" is a perfectly acceptable way to open communication with them. After a day spent apart, taking some time to fill each other in on what you each did, will help you to feel closer and give you something to talk about. If neither of you had an interesting day or you don't know how to talk about your day, move on to other questions.
Be A Good Listener
There is a big difference between hearing and listening. When communicating, you need to pay attention to what your partner is saying just as much as you are intentionally speaking. Letting what your partner says go in one ear and out the other is just hearing, not active listening. You should give your partner your undivided attention, using your body language to show you not only hear but understand what they are saying; face them head on, nod your head, make eye contact, things like that. When you pay attention like this, you should be able to repeat back to them what they are saying. This is a good skill to use if you want to clarify something.
Allow Yourselves To Just Be
Conversation won't always flow between you and your partner. That's just life. Once you get to know each other well, silence can become routine. Don't let that make you nervous. Sitting in silence with your partner can be just as effective as a deep conversation, depending on the circumstance. Your ability to remain comfortable in long blocks of silence when you're watching TV, listening to music, eating dinner, or watching the sunset shows how close you are as a couple. You don't have to fill in the silence with words. Small talk has its place, but it's not always needed. Acknowledge how comfortable you are in the silence. That's a form of communication in and of itself.
Be Mindful Of Your Relationship
If you know you struggle with communication in your relationship, you're halfway to a solution. Being mindful of your weaknesses and what your relationship needs is the first step towards fixing any issues you have. It's also important that you know why you want to make a change. Be mindful of what it is that you think your relationship will get out of you making some intentional changes to be a better communicator.
Do you want to feel closer to your partner? Do you feel like you aren't able to tell your partner things that they should probably know? Are they great at communicating and you feel sort of left behind? All of those are great reasons to work on your communication skills. Once you have why think about what you will intentionally change in your behavior. By taking the time to think through your decisions, you will ultimately show yourself that you are capable of doing much more than you thought.
Be Flexible To Change
When you get into arguments or disagreements, remember to be as flexible as possible. Keeping rigid opinions or thinking that your partner is incapable of change will only hurt you both when you can't come to a resolution. Licensed mental health counselor Monte Drenner says that change happens all the time. When you have open communication and are willing to dig into your feelings and issues, a change in your relationship can happen. When you have in your bank all of the above elements for good communication, you'll find it's easier to open up about your feelings, even if it isn't second nature for you. Building up good moments also helps you want to come to a solution when a disagreement occurs. It helps you call to mind the reasons you want to be in a relationship with this person, even when you don't see eye to eye. Nobody is perfect, and we all make mistakes, but good communication will help you remain a strong couple, even when things start to get rocky.
Communication, whether verbal or otherwise, isn't an inherent skill. It's something everyone needs to work on. This means putting it into practice with all of your relationships. Share your days with your family, listen to your coworkers, sit in a comfortable silence with your friends. When you can practice these skills with others in your life, you strengthen your ability to do it in a relationship as well. Practice makes better, not perfect, so give yourself the space to make mistakes and grow from them. Communication is a team effort, but that doesn't mean you will always be on the same page. One of you may be ahead of the other emotionally, but you can still work together to be on the same page eventually.
Since communication takes work, it makes sense that there are professionals who are willing and able to help those who need it. Communication is a huge part of couples counseling and often the very first thing that people work on. If you can't tell your partner how you are feeling or what you need, they won't be able to give it to you. Since none of us have a mind reading superpower, communication is the next best thing.
You can even do couples counseling online to help with your communication skills. Regain is an online service that connects counselors to couples and singles to help them with their communication skills. When you sign up, you will be matched with the right counselor for you and given a secure chat room that you can use with a partner or just yourself to talk to the counselor through messages. You will correspond in your own time and will never need to be inconvenienced by a real time therapy session.
If you are interested in this counseling service or want more information, go to www.regain.us/start.