We recently discussed some tips on identifying if your relationship conflict is ‘normal’ or worrisome, but today we’re focusing on a much more positive subject: intentional steps you and your partner can take to boost relationship communication for more love, respect, mutual wellbeing, and overall happiness.
Let’s get into it!
As with all relationship content, please be mindful that these strategies are only ideas recommended for relationships without the presence of abuse or violence. Call 000 for urgent support or connect with Brisbane Domestic Violence Service if you need help.
Eleven Strategies to Boost Relationship Communication
Communicate openly and honestly
One of the most important strategies for improving relationship conflict is to communicate openly and honestly with your partner. Develop awareness on your feelings and concerns, share these with your partner, and listen actively to what your partner has to say.
Practice active listening
It’s important to truly listen to your partner when they speak (and vice versa). Avoid interrupting, and make an effort to understand where they’re coming from. This can help to reduce conflict and improve understanding. This can be a lot harder to do when you’re feeling angry, heightened, and frustrated – so learn what your signals are and mutually agree to take space when you need to.
Take responsibility for your actions
It can be super hard to get out of your head and try to see thngs from multiple perspectives. Just as you want your partner to understand you, try to understand where they’re coming from. Acknowledge your mistakes and apologise when necessary. (This is a win win, because you’re also modelling behaviour you’d love to see from your partner and setting a new tone.)
Focus on the present
It’s easy to get caught up in past conflicts, but it’s important to focus on the present. When discussing a problem, stay focused on the current situation and avoid bringing up past issues. If you have past issues to talk through, make a note of them and return back in a separate conversation.
Conflicts often arise because of a lack of compromise. Try to see where you can help the situation by making concessions, and work together to find a middle ground that works for you both and takes all needs into account.
Try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes and understand their perspective. This can help to reduce conflict and improve understanding. It may also prompt your partner to consider things from your perspective, and create a healthy flow back and forth.
Learn to let go
If you notice yourself holding onto small conflicts (note: not disrespectful conflicts that are potentially abusive), assess what you can let go. Choose your battles wisely so that your time resolving conflict is used on the most meaningful things. If you notice a theme with smaller grudges or conflicts, dig deeper to see if there’s a bigger underlying problem.
It’s important to set boundaries in a relationship. Communicate your needs and expectations and make sure that your partner is aware of them. This is just the start – make sure you’re reinforcing your boundaries on an ongoing basis.
If you’re struggling to resolve conflicts, consider seeking relationship therapy. A therapist can help you and your partner to understand the underlying issues and develop effective coping strategies. For couples therapy, search through directories like The Hart Centre (click here). For individual therapy, we’d love to help you at Golden Thread Therapy.
Take a break
Sometimes, it’s necessary to take a break from a conflict to cool down. Outside the confines of an argument, discuss a new plan for regulating during fights. Make sure you both agree to your terms, for example: “If I notice I’m getting angry, I will take some time out of the conversation to cool down.” This way, taking time to regulate during arguments will be less likely to be perceived as stonewalling. Return back to the situation when you’re both feeling calmer.
Take time to appreciate the good things in your relationship and be grateful for your partner. Every human wants to be loved and appreciated, and just as you crave this from your partner, they crave this from you. Practicing gratitude can help encourage respectful, healthier communication during conflict and can improve your overall relationship quality.
It’s easy to focus on your partner’s mistakes during relationship conflict, but it can often be helpful to consider what you can influence to improve the quality of your relationship communication. Take time to practice skills in:
- open and honest communication
- active listening
- taking responsibility
- focusing on the present
- practicing empathy
- letting go where you can
- setting boundaries
- seeking counselling
- learning to take breaks,
- and practicing gratitude.
Remember that these are just general starter ideas for improving relationship conflict. Your relationship is unique, and what works for one couple might not work for another. Consider these ideas through the lens of your own insight, and seek counselling if you need specialised therapeutic support.