Good communication can be found at the heart of every successful relationship.

That being said, it’s not always easy to communicate well. We will all go through seasons where it feels harder and maybe even impossible to communicate with our partner.

Two of the most common seasons in which it can seem particularly tough to communicate well are times when we’re experiencing ongoing conflict in our relationship or when we feel that we may be drifting apart. It can be tempting to ignore the issues in the hope that they’ll go away, but the reality is that it’s during the hardest of times that we need to push forward the most.

We will all, no doubt, have heard countless mentions about the importance of communication and how vital it is for a healthy relationship. But what does that actually look like in reality? Yes, we may need to communicate better, but how do we do that in practice?

Although this may be hard to believe, conflict, in and of itself, is not a negative thing. It fact, when done well, conflict can be a healthy part of a relationship. The way in which we communicate is a big part of that, and good communication has the power to take us from a place of unhealthy conflict to a place that is healthy and productive.

It’s good to talk, and the words that we use to communicate are so very important. A small change in our language, such as using “I” instead of “you”, can have a big impact when it comes to how we handle conflict. By using “I” we’re taking responsibility for our own emotions and our partner is less likely to feel attacked by what we’re saying. For example saying “I felt anxious when I didn’t know what time you’d be home” is less confrontational and critical than, “You made me worry when you were late coming home”.

It’s also important to understand the ‘why’ behind the conflict. Is it the issue that we’re facing right now or is it a wider problem that we need to get to the root of? Sometimes, taking the time to dig a little deeper into our feelings, either alone or with our partner, can help us to identify what it really is that’s causing the conflict. We can’t kill a giant that we don’t know about and similarly, we can’t solve an issue we’re unaware of.

We will all face situations where we’ll need to communicate well to find a happy medium. True compromise doesn’t crown a winner. It requires sacrifice from both partners and means that no-one is necessarily getting everything they truly want. Instead, through communicating our needs and wants, we can settle on a decision which we’ve both invested something into – where we can both feel positive about the outcome.

A shift in perspective can also change the game for a relationship. Choosing to step into our partner’s shoes helps us to see the situation from their point of view and can give us some extra insight into how they’re feeling, something which can greatly help during times of conflict and the way in which we communicate with each other. In fact sometimes just feeling that we’ve truly been heard and understood is enough to defuse a lot of the frustration in a situation. A useful step can be for each of you to share how you are feeling – no interruptions allowed – and then for the other person to reflect back what they think they’ve heard, until both of you feel the other fully understands their position.

When it comes to relationships, there are four, often conflict causing, habits that can have a significant impact on us. They are:

  • Scoring points
  • Thinking the worst
  • Opting out
  • Putting down

We call these STOP signs. 

But what if conflict isn’t the issue and it’s more that we feel like we’re drifting apart from each other? Again, communication is key.

It can be very tempting to ignore what’s happening, or what’s not happening, in our relationship. It may feel easier to go about daily life without mentioning the obvious, but it’s so important that we don’t ignore the elephant in the room. Being the first to speak up will take strength and courage, but it could be the first step on the journey back together.

Likewise, it’s so important that we communicate how we’re feeling to each other. Does our partner feel disconnected too? Whilst few of us would want to have a heavy and serious conversation every day, putting some intentional time aside to reconnect and discuss what we’re willing to do to lessen the gap between us could make a big difference to the health of our relationship.

As human beings, we are wired for connection, and physical touch is a big part of that. We often think of communication as what we say, but touch is in fact a form of non-verbal communication. It can be easy to solely associate touch with sex, and yet non-sexual contact such as holding hands, sitting close together on the sofa or sharing a hug can help build connection that may have been lost over time. While it’s important not to force it, being intentionally affectionate, communicating love through touch, can make a big difference in our relationships.

When things are difficult, it can seem far easier to notice the negatives than to recognise the positives. The missed appointments or forgotten tasks can be easier to focus on than the completed chores or thoughtful acts. Choosing to notice the positives can help to reframe how we see our partner and by focusing on what is good, we’re communicating gratitude for each other, even when times are difficult.

We will all find ourselves in seasons of life where communication is a challenge. The important question is this: will we face that challenge as a team and fight together for our relationship? We hope that this article has been helpful. It may be when it comes to conflict or concerns that you’re drifting apart, that some additional help and support would be useful. Our CareLine is here to support you.

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