We learn how to talk and communicate (or not) through the environments we’re in. Social, religious, or familial, they all contribute to how we express ourselves. The examples we have at home with our parental units feed into how we’ll converse with loved ones as we move into “adulting.”
I believe we need to find ways to create a common vocabulary. Communication exercises and tools help provide the solid foundation required for that deeper connection. You can better understand and connect because you’re speaking the same language. So, here are three different communication tips to help you and your partner communicate better.
My Experience in Couples Communication
I didn’t learn healthy communication growing up. Things were always loud and confrontational. When my parents divorced and they found new partners the examples were still just as challenging and upsetting.
Without a good foundation I married quite young and took these ineffective communication habits into the relationship. My partner had his own inadequate communication habits he brought to the table. Things were often rocky and neither one of us knew how to express what we were feeling or how we were hurting. Eventually, the marriage began its downfall and we tried couples therapy. It was a beacon in the storm for me.
I learned about the give and take required. I learned about balance and effort. I learned how to accept my feelings as valid and worthy. While I found my voice in our relationship, it was a double-edged sword. Therapy was one-sided and futile, at best. I discovered the necessity for both partners to be vested in healing and growth.
That marriage failed because we didn’t have a strong foundation or vocabulary. We didn’t have tools to help us nurture and encourage each other while honoring our own needs and growth.
When I chose to enter into another relationship, it was a culture shock. One evening while we were talking about life’s deeper things he calmly let me know he was getting angry and was going to head out….and then he left. This experience introduced me to a completely new way of communication and self-expression and I’ve been a sponge for learning ever since.
3 Communication Tips For You and Your Partner
1. Using “And” vs “But”
How many times have you heard, “I’m sorry, but…” or “I love you, but…”. It never sits quite right and can leave you just as upset, if not more so, than before the conversation. Why is that?
Generally speaking, the word “but” negates everything stated before it. Using “but” in an apology removes the responsibility of the offense from the person who took the action and places it elsewhere. It fails to fully acknowledge the pain caused. “I love you, but…” illustrates a love conditional upon whatever comes next.
On the other hand, “and” is a magnifier. “I’m sorry, and…” maintains an understanding of the action while adding thought behind the next statement. “I love you, and…”, again improves upon the meaning and maximizes the sentiment.
In standard conversation we often use “but” without even thinking about what we’re attempting to express. Consciously substituting “and” helps us be a bit more positive while adding awareness and ownership to our interactions.
2. Do you have time for The Meadow Report?
Long ago, tribes migrated along with the food they needed for sustenance. For the hunters it was easy: “animals are over there.” For the gatherers, it was a bit more complicated. From their memory of being in different places they would need to explain – in great detail – how to find this nut, that herb or medicine to dry, and bring along on the journey.
This anecdote has been shared by many relationship experts to help illustrate differences in communication styles and I whole-heartedly embrace it.
Relationships fluctuate. What we’re doing and the demands on our time feed directly into how much time we have to stop and listen or enthusiastically share what’s been going on in our day. One moment you may want to describe every detail from dawn to dusk. At another “just the facts” may be more your speed and attention span. Your partner’s life vacillates as well which can lead to frustration when one wants to talk yet the other doesn’t have the time or ability to listen.
An easy answer to this challenge is another question. When you want to share and know you’d like your partner’s attention ask: “Do you have time for the meadow report?” Alternatively, if your partner launches into a meadow report and you need a moment before you can listen and be present you can say, “I’d love to hear what you’d like to share and I’m in the middle of something. Can I have a few minutes to finish up and then we can chat?”
These simple statements help you and your partner to connect more fully while honoring your time and expectations.
3. Do you want my input or for me to listen?
Loving someone means we have a desire to help and protect them. Our partner comes to us with a challenge. We listen and begin jumping in with suggestions on what they should do and how they can fix the issues presented. They get frustrated we’re not “listening” and what could have been a moment for connection becomes a disagreement to overcome.
An easy trick to avoiding the entire situation comes from one simple question, “Do you want my input or would you just like me to listen?”
This powerful question lets you know exactly where your partner is. Do they want help? Do they just need to vent? Is this a moment they need a listening ear and safe place to land while they process the emotion they’re experiencing? Or are they seeking your intuition and support in finding a solution to the challenge they face?
Keep in mind – sometimes you need to advocate for yourself instead of expecting your partner to magically know your needs. You may need to be the first one to say, “I’m frustrated and need you to listen while I vent.” or “I’d really like your input on an issue.”
Taking pause and checking in allows you to show up in the way your partner needs and mitigates irritation. It means easier communication and a deeper connection.
Are You Ready to Take Your Couples’ Communication to the Next Level?
I offer a four-day course called Illuminating Connection for couples who want to celebrate what you’re doing right and find ways to make it even better. If you’re looking for a fun way to expand your connection and add foundational concepts strengthening that bond, this is the course for you.
In this four-day experience, you and your partner will:
- Stretch your heart, body, and mind while exploring hopes and dreams.
- Learn new ways to communicate while ensuring you understand and are also understood.
- Brag about your partner and be bragged about in return.
- Revel in your individual strengths while cherishing your partner’s.
- Enjoy guided meditations to deepen your personal connections.
- Strengthen your coupleship while celebrating individuality.
*Please, note: I am not a certified counselor. The lessons taught in this course are in no way meant to replace the advice of an accredited therapist or any other health professional.
If you’d like to join us in-person for Illuminating Connection, register here and take 10% off with code IC10!
If you take one tip from this article, let it be this: patience and awareness are absolutely key. It’s all about checking in with each other and maintaining a sense of respect for one another. What do you need? How can your partner help you achieve it? What does your partner need and how can you support them?
No matter how intimidating improving your communication may be, everything can be broken down into simple steps and actions, which feed into a solid foundation of love and trust. My life has been forever improved by compassionate and understanding communication. I pray these communication tips struck a chord with you and you’re able to apply them to your relationships.