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How To Communicate Effectively In A Relationship
Most couples ask about how to communicate effectively in a relationship at one point or another. This isn’t something that is taught in school, given to you as a wedding present or even followed up on after your wedding. How you communicate before you are married is likely how you will communicate after you get married. What you see is what you get.
If this is the case, then most of you will have a difficult time communicating because of this lack of knowledge about how to do it correctly.
I will teach you here how to communicate effectively in a relationship. Let’s talk about two principles of communication that you can use to better how you and your partner talk.
Be Vulnerable And Talk About Your Emotions
If you are like many others, you subtly talk about yourself without actually talking about yourself. For example, you might say, ‘I feel like you just don’t get me. We have been married for 5 years and you still don’t know what I like’. You might think that by sharing this you are talking about yourself. Just because you used the word feel. Doesn’t this mean that I am talking about my emotions? Actually, it doesn’t. Let me explain why.
When you say “I feel like…”, or “I feel that…” you make it sound as if you are talking about your emotions, but you are actually talking about your thoughts. Is ‘…you just don’t get me’ an emotion? No, it’s a thought. But because the phrase, “I feel like” precedes it, it tricks you. This can be dangerous to your ability to communicate effectively in a relationship. You aren’t vulnerable and open to connection when you talk like this. And often, you end up hurting your spouse when you use this phrase because in the name of ‘talking about my emotions’ you blame, attack and deflect.
This is the solution to this communication error: drop the like or the that. If you are trying to share your emotions, then just use three words: “I feel _______”. Fill in the blank with an actual emotional term such as sad, hurt, alone, happy, excited. If you are trying to talk about your thoughts then change your phrasing to “It seems like…” or “I think that…”.
Problem – the use of these two phrases when talking about yourself.
I feel like… or, I feel that…
Solution – talk about your thoughts or your emotions
Thought It seems like you don’t understand me.
I think that you don’t understand me.
Emotion I feel unheard, unimportant and sad.
Hold Emotional Space For Your Spouse
Making it emotionally safe for each other in your relationship is crucial. Without emotional safety, you won’t be able to use the skill outlined above because you will be too afraid of getting hurt. Your spouse will have the same fears. So, making it safe to share emotions and be vulnerable can help you move closer and have a better marriage.
You can do this through ‘holding emotional space’ for each other. Let’s talk about what that means. When your partner shares with you how they feel, how do you respond? Do you talk about yourself, or change the subject? If so, you are not holding emotional space. If you talk about them and what they just brought up you are holding emotional space.
Make it easy for them to continue to talk about and explore the emotions they just shared. Give them space by asking them clarifying questions. Here is an example.
Your spouse might say, “I feel unheard, unimportant and sad”. If you want to hold emotional space you could say, “I can see that something is really bothering you and that you feel unheard, unimportant and sad. Tell me more”. You are communicating a simple statement to them that you are listening and interested in what is happening to them. By doing this, you send the message that you care about them and want to know more. They are more likely to share their emotions in a healthy way when you hold space for them.
We are experts at helping couples learn how to communicate effectively in a relationship. We have been helping couples for years learn skills like the ones taught above. Learn how to be vulnerable with marriage counseling in Utah County and Salt Lake County.
Schedule a couples counseling session in South Jordan, Orem, Spanish Fork or American Fork.
Written by Triston Morgan, PhD