Communication is the key to all human relationships. It’s especially important within families, friends, and romantic partners, but even quick five-minute interactions with other people require communication skills. A healthy relationship between two people involves a lot of communication and you may run into some problems with your partner at times. Don’t worry, there are many ways to start working on communication.
This article breaks down the importance of communication in a relationship, signs that your relationship might be facing some issues, and how to fix a lack of communication in a relationship. Strong, healthy relationships require a bit of maintenance and work to keep improving and growing closer together. The steps to improve your communication aren’t difficult, they just require time and dedication. So, no matter where you’re at in your relationship, we’ve got ideas to help you build a stronger connection with your partner.
Prompts and Activities to Get the Conversation Started
Did you know that you can purchase a book that includes fun, interactive elements to deepen your relationship? Adventures from Scratch: Date Edition is more than relationship advice. It helps you put tips into action! Each of our Adventures From Scratch books includes over 50 activity ideas, tear-out cards, conversation starters, journaling spaces, and more. Even better, you’ll get to uncover each new adventure together and complete tasks as a team!
The Importance of Communication in a Relationship
Communication is the basic building block for your relationship. It’s the method in which you learn about one another and how you navigate daily life together. Communication covers those quick five-minute phone calls on your lunch break, your text message thread, and the more intense emotional conversations about deep thoughts and life goals.
Think of a relationship as a sporting event. You and your partner are a team and you have a common goal (most likely being happy and enjoying life together). There will be all kinds of obstacles that you will encounter throughout the game, but if you work together and know where your partner is and plan your moves together, you’ll succeed. You can run down a soccer field alone, you need to be able to pass the ball back and forth with your teammates and set each other up for a shot. A baseball game would be impossible without the help of teammates and supporting roles (like coaches and fans.) The same goes for a relationship. You need to be able to work together and communicate to have positive forward momentum.
What Happens When Communication is Lacking?
If your two-person team is struggling to work with each other and communicate, not only does your relationship suffer but your individual happiness does, as well. Relationship issues can impact your mental health and happiness as well. If your communication begins breaking down, it can cause doubt in your partner which can start to impact your trust and security in the relationship.
Any communication breakdowns can eventually drive two people apart and break up your relationship, so it’s important to be aware of any issues that are coming up and start actively working on them right away. This next section covers the signs to look for in your relationship.
Signs of Communication Issues in Your Relationship
So, how do you know when you need to work on communication? There are a few simple signs and if you find yourself nodding along because you experience these with your partner, then you are probably at a point in your relationship where you need to put a little work in. Don’t worry, we’ll give you some ideas later on.
There is a difference between a toxic relationship and some simple communication problems that you and your loved one need to work on. If you are ever experiencing any fear or abuse, it’s important to reach out to a professional and get some assistance exiting the situation safely. These signs listed below are meant to help those in relationships understand when it’s time to work on better communication.
Increased Bickering and Arguing
Miscommunication or lack of communication can often lead to arguments or a little back-and-forth bickering. It’s completely healthy to have some disagreements because every human is unique and has unique needs and opinions. But the majority of conversations you have with your partner should be positive and enjoyable.
Take inventory of your recent interactions and if there have been quite a few that have been frustrating or upsetting, it’s probably time to do a deep dive into the issues that your relationship is facing.
Romantic relationships should offer the appropriate amount of affection for each person. Everyone has different needs and wants, but partners should understand the level of physical intimacy and signs of affection that the other person needs. If your relationship normally involves a lot of displays of affection and something shifts and that changes quickly, there might be some issues that need to be discussed.
The same thing applies if you feel like your needs aren’t being met by your partner. Communicating that with your loved one is required because they cannot read your mind. A strong relationship with good communication involves a lot of conversations about things like that, so if you haven’t approached important topics and your needs with your partner, it’s important to figure out how to do that.
Feeling Annoyed With Your Partner
Poor communication can create a lot of annoying situations. Do you feel like you asked your partner to do a specific chore 100 times and it still isn’t done? Have you reminded them about a certain date on the calendar over and over and somehow they still missed it? These are examples of poor communication. Your partner may need things communicated in another way, but you haven’t both figured that out yet.
If you find yourself annoyed with each other over little things, it could be a sign that you need to spend a little time focusing on the communication between you two. It might be time to switch up the method or practice active listening.
Worry and Concern Over Life Decisions
Big life decisions can be stressful and overwhelming for any person, but once you have another person and their feelings to consider, it can be even harder. Whenever you’re in a relationship, it’s important to involve the other person in decisions that will have an impact on them. If you are feeling dread or are worried about bringing up big things, there might be a need to work on your communication. If you’ve been open and honest about the challenges you’ve been facing, your partner will already be informed and able to be supportive in this process. If you’ve left them in the dark and then you want to spill everything all at once, it can be unfair to them. Finding yourself in a spot where you are nervous about looping in your partner means you both need to spend some time connecting, working on communication, and being open.
The Silent Treatment
You’ve probably heard of the phrase the silent treatment. It’s also known as stonewalling. This is where one person completely shuts down and the other person is stuck doing all the work. If you or your partner tends to go completely silent during a conversation or a conflict, it’s important to do some work on communication. Stonewalling can sometimes be confused with taking a few minutes to organize thoughts, but the difference is the willingness to revisit the conversation when ready rather than simply shutting down or acting as if nothing has happened.
How to Fix Lack of Communication in a Relationship
Strong and effective communication takes practice. Because each human brain works in its own unique way, you have to be able to adapt and change your strategies based on the situation you’re in and who you are communicating with. Here are a few proven ways you can work on communication in your relationship.
Listening is arguably the most important out of all the communication skills. I’m not talking about just hearing your partner talk, active listening is about understanding what they are trying to communicate and processing that information so you can respond.
To be a good listener, there are seven skills that you can practice. First, you need to be attentive. Put aside any distractions and make sure you are paying attention to each word your partner is saying. It’s also important to be aware of the feelings you and your partner are showing and reflect on that.
The remaining skills have more to do with your responses. Ask open-ended questions and probing questions to continue the conversation. Request clarification if there is anything you are not understanding. Paraphrase and summarize at the end of the conversation. Repeating it back to the other person shows that you understood what they were saying and gives them the chance to correct you if there were any misunderstandings in the moment. Plus, anything you repeat out loud will have a better chance of sticking in your brain.
If you thought the ability to listen was just something you were born with, you’ll be surprised at how much better you do when you actually focus on it.
Set time aside.
You might feel like you’re around your partner all the time, but how often are you sitting down and having a face-to-face conversation without distractions? Schedule a daily or weekly check-in with one another. This can be as simple as sharing a cup of coffee each morning before you leave for work or having a standing Sunday dinner date where you can reflect on the previous week and see what’s on tap for the upcoming week.
You will have many opportunities for conversation throughout the day, but setting time aside specifically for connection and conversation will ensure that you can be engaged and really hear each other. This time can be used to reflect on things you want to happen, share feelings and emotions, and get a little deeper in your relationship.
Change the scenery.
Home is a place where everyone who lives there should be comfortable. When working on your communication, it’s good to be comfortable, but it’s also important to be able to focus. If you have too many distractions at home, like pets and kids, you might want to find a way to change the scenery. We mentioned setting time aside for each other above, so it might be better if you take that time and go somewhere new. Try coffee shops, restaurants, parks, or even just taking a walk around a local park.
A change in scenery can help reset and change the dynamics to be more positive. If you feel like you are hitting a wall in a certain conversation, try moving to a new spot and jumping back in.
Take time to cool down.
In the signs to watch for listed above, we mentioned stonewalling or the silent treatment, and it’s important to know that there is a difference between these and just taking a minute to cool down. Some people require a brief time-out from an intense conversation to regain their composure and organize their thoughts. This can help remove built-up tension.
There is an old saying that you should never go to bed angry, but some people need to take a little time to process emotions and thoughts before communicating them back in a calm fashion. If you are one of those people, make sure to let your partner know that you need to step back a bit and think and then clearly communicate when you will be returning to the conversation. It can simply be a quick walk around the block or maybe you do want to sleep on it.
Some people can just hash everything out in the moment without getting too wound up, but it’s important to meet your partner where they are and if they need to cool down and take a few minutes, try and understand. You can write down your thoughts and feelings so you don’t lose your train of thought. This will allow you to be productive in the conversation and make sure everyone can remain calm and composed even when there is a lot on the line.
Communication is a two-way street, but it’s also good to have a bit of a road map of where you’re going while traveling on that street. Make it a habit to actively communicate with your loved one. Ask how their day was or what they’ve got going on the next day. Ask for updates on things you know they’ve been dealing with at work or with a family member. Don’t always assume that there aren’t updates, you can proactively check in!
This type of communication shows interest in the things your partner has going on, even the trivial things. By following up, you are showing that you heard them in a previous conversation and you care about the outcomes. Practice doing this daily and you will see an instant lift in the quality of your overall communication.
Be aware of your body language.
Nonverbal cues are just as important as the words coming out of your mouth. If you are struggling with the communication in your relationship, you may be putting out a vibe with your facial expressions and nonverbal cues that are off-putting to your partner.
Keep yourself in check when you are having a conversation and make sure that you aren’t giving off signals that you don’t intend to give. Certain signals make it appear that you are uninterested in the conversation or upset, so learn what those are and avoid them.
It’s also important to pay attention to your partner’s non-verbal cues as well. You can get clued in on how they are feeling during a conversation by watching their body language. If they are putting off a signal, you can be direct and ask them about it. There’s a possibility that you are misreading these signals and that could be causing some communication issues as well.
If you have ever done a sales role, especially one over the phone, you were probably taught to smile while you are talking. The same works when communicating with anyone. Your tone will change based on your facial expression, so when you are smiling during a conversation, you will sound happier and more positive.
Maintain eye contact.
Eye contact could technically be grouped in with the other nonverbal cues, but we felt like it was important enough to be its own item on the list. One of the best ways you can show your partner that you are actively listening to them is by maintaining good eye contact. It shows that you are focused on what they are saying and not distracted by other things going on around you.
Eye contact should be exchanged back and forth just like the words in a conversation. You don’t need to stare directly at the other person without blinking for the entire conversation, but make sure you are looking at them while they are speaking and meet their eyes when you are speaking as well.
Start sentences with “We” or “I.”
The words we choose during a conversation can change everything. If you are constantly using sentences with the word you, it’s likely that you are pointing fingers and placing blame on your partner. Try to avoid those sentences and work to use inclusive language instead that allows you to share your feelings and discuss thoughts on your relationship.
Instead of saying you’re never home for dinner, you can say I feel sad and wish we could spend more time together. You’re conveying your feelings and asking for something from your partner without just pointing your finger at them. It’s important to explain the why when asking for something so your partner understands. They will be more likely to accommodate if they understand why something is important to you.
Cheer each other on!
It’s awesome to have independent activities you can enjoy apart from your significant other. For example, maybe your partner plays Pickleball in a league and absolutely loves the game. You don’t need to learn how to play Pickleball, but you should ask questions about it. Did he or she have a tournament this weekend? Go cheer them on or ask how it went when they get home.
You have to meet people in the middle when communicating and sometimes, it can be hard to remember to check in on the things that you aren’t personally involved in. Encouragement and support are important in a relationship and if you are lacking those qualities, it could be impacting your communication. Use these interests as conversation topics so show that you are supportive and interested in things that matter to them and in turn, share the things that interest you so they can cheer you on as well.
Watch your tone of voice.
Tone is super important when having any kind of conversation. If you’ve ever been trying to explain something to someone yelling and angry, it can be really hard to get your point heard. If you are having a conflict, or even just discussing something important, be aware of the tone of voice you are using. Try to avoid raising the volume of your face and remain calm.
As soon as the noise level turns up, the productivity of the discussion goes down. If you are constantly nagging or feel like you’re bossing your partner around, they probably feel the same way. Switch up the way you discuss the things that need to get done in the household. Try involving them in making the list instead of just reading off the things they need to do in a bossy fashion.
Remaining calm and composed will allow you to hit on all kinds of topics and find resolutions to issues in a way that leaves everyone feeling good and heard. If you find yourself getting heated and starting to change the tone of your voice, take a few deep breaths.
Use social media as a tool.
Social media gets a lot of bad press when it comes to the impact it has on self-esteem and human connection. But it also provides a lot of convenience in the communication space. If you are looking to increase the communication in your relationship, take advantage of the DMs and messengers to send your partner notes throughout the day and comment on the things they share.
Instagram has the stories feature which many people use to share snaps from their daily routines or funny things they find online. Send these to each other as a way to nudge one another throughout the day. If you see a video you think they would like, send it in a message and let them know that you’re thinking of them.
Improving communication doesn’t always have to include intense hours-long conversations where you bare your soul. You can take small steps by just checking in a few times a day and not expecting anything in return. Utilize social media to show each other some love, but be careful to not let that replace any in-person time.
Focus on empathy.
Empathy is so important in a relationship. Taking the time to understand your partner’s point of view will help you learn more about them as a person and anticipate any potential issues in the future. Being empathetic means that you can understand and share the feelings of your significant other.
Empathy is crucial in a relationship and should come naturally as you learn more and more about each other. As you learn more about someone’s background and core beliefs, it will help you understand how they make decisions and why they respond to things in a certain way. Even if you don’t see eye-to-eye on certain things, you can appreciate where the other person is coming from and work together on a compromise.
When improving your communication in a relationship, empathy can help you share things in a way that your partner is more likely to understand. You’ll both be more compassionate towards each other and more considerate of one another’s feelings when working through things.
Share daily gratitude and appreciation.
Say thank you more often. Gratitude is often under-communicated in a relationship because people just come to expect certain things from their partner, but it’s so important to recognize acts of kindness. By acknowledging your appreciation, you’ll be encouraging that behavior to continue because your partner will see how much you appreciate it.
There are many ways to do this. You can send a quick text or stop them for a hug. Change up your strategy. By making it a habit to show thanks daily, you’ll be infusing your daily communication with these positive moments which can help your overall communication as a couple.
Understand each other’s communication styles.
Typically, communication falls into four distinct styles: passive, passive-aggressive, aggressive, and assertive. Each of these styles has distinct communication patterns and strengths and weaknesses. When you sit down to talk about feelings, you may use different communication styles to get your point across. That’s totally fine, as long as you both understand that your styles vary. The most important this is understanding and acknowledging the real message.
If one partner is passive and the other is aggressive, it can be hard for the passive partner to ever feel like they are being heard. If you aren’t sure which style you are or which one your partner is, sit down and learn about it together. This can help improve your methods when you sit down to communicate because you’ll know how to get to the bottom of what each other is trying to say and keep things productive and impactful.
Take a vacation.
If you’ve tried the steps above in your daily lives and you still feel like you just aren’t improving and you need to connect on a deeper level, consider taking a vacation. Completely step away from your normal commitments and routines and go somewhere together where you can completely focus on each other and work on your issues.
Some destinations offer retreats specifically for couples, but you can also just choose a destination where you’ll both be able to enjoy activities together and spend quality time with one another. You can set some goals for your relationship and brainstorm the ways that you’re going to make time for one another and compromises that will benefit you both.
Vacations can’t solve every issue, but it is important to do special things together every once in a while, and removing yourself from the normal day-to-day can help ignite the spark and shake some things loose.
Meet with a therapist.
Good communication skills can be practiced, but if you have tried all these tips and tricks, it might be time to visit a professional for some help. Healthy communication is imperative to a successful relationship and there are a few professionals you can look for to get you and your partner to the place you want to be.
A licensed clinical social worker (also referred to as LCSW) or a licensed marriage and family therapist (also referred to as LMFT) are two of the most popular options to explore. There are online therapy services available and local in-person options. If you are struggling to find someone, ask your general practitioner or family doctor for a referral.
Professionals have a whole collection of tools that can help you and your partner work through your communication gaps and gain a better understanding of one another. They can remain unbiased and help each side meet in the middle.
Let us know what you’re going to start with. Improving the communication in your relationship will help you build a stronger foundation and have more fun together. Start spending your free time trying new hobbies together or planning date nights.
Frequently Asked Questions
Lack of communication in a relationship can impact the mental health and overall wellbeing of one or both partners. It can cause doubt, increase bickering, and eventually may even break up the couple.
There are several things you can do to fix a lack of communication in a relationship if you’re willing to make an effort and be vulnerable. Keep strong eye contact, be mindful of your tone and body language, and recognize differences in communication styles.
Adventures from Scratch offers activity ideas that will put you on an even playing field. You’ll need to communicate to complete tasks and, hopefully, will have fun in the process! The book also includes conversation starters and other interactive elements.