Once a relationship is past the “honeymoon phase,” it’s easy to fall into a routine and relax the effort that was put into dating. Good communication habits are critical to maintaining and strengthening a relationship but are often overlooked. Strong relationships often require ongoing work. Good communication can prevent or lessen conflict, making it vital in a strong partnership. Here are some tips to effectively communicate with a partner:
Identify your love languages
Not everyone communicates love in the same way. “Love languages” refers to the 1992 book, “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, which outlines the five main ways people prefer to express love in a romantic relationship. The languages are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. It’s likely that you and your partner don’t have the same preferred language, which could cause misunderstandings and feelings of being unappreciated. Discuss love languages (or take the quiz online) and ask your partner what makes them feel most appreciated to understand how to show them affection in a way that helps them feel loved.
This is particularly important for couples who either have children or varying work schedules that make it challenging to prioritize quality one-on-one time that isn’t impacted by exhaustion. If it is feasible to do so, make an effort to actively “date” your partner, even if you’re married or settled in your relationship. If that means hiring a babysitter or leaving kids with an in-law, do it! Presence is essential for good communication with a partner. You don’t have to wait for an anniversary or Valentine’s Day to celebrate your love. In fact, a date night “just because” may make it feel even more special.
Don’t assume your partner knows everything about you. They probably don’t know all of the things that make you upset, and assuming they do can lead to resentful behavior and harmful passive aggressiveness—intentional or not. Even after years of being a couple, there are always things to uncover and ways to deepen understanding.
There comes a point in most relationships where partners can take each other for granted and perhaps even assume (cough, cough) the other is appreciated. This is especially apparent when couples fall into traditional gender roles and become oblivious to the other’s work. Take the time to notice your partner and actively thank them for their contributions to your life together, even if it’s as simple as taking out the trash or doing the laundry.
Talk about your sex life
It can be uncomfortable to openly discuss your preferences with a partner out of care for their feelings. Still, those conversations can help you both get on the same page about what you like and, therefore, feel more fulfilled. It is also important to discuss insecurities about sex. This is normal with aging couples who may need to try new things due to sex-related difficulties, like personal lubricants or ED medication like Viagra, to maintain their romance. The next time you head to the bedroom, try discussing your desires.
Make small talk
Small talk is often overlooked because it comes so naturally. It’s common for small talk to revolve around work stresses, especially after a long day, but asking how your partner is feeling, rather than how their workday was, can spark powerful conversations that bring you closer together.
Ask them questions
Go beyond small talk! Sometimes it feels like partners know everything there is to know about each other. Asking the other person questions builds intimacy by showing that you are genuinely interested in them. If you’re lost, some fantastic things to ask are what your first impressions of each other were or how you knew you were in love. It’s also a great idea to consider a conversation prompt game like Table Topics cards, which can help guide your discussion on a date night.
Compliment each other
The power of a well-intentioned compliment is well known, but you might forget to regularly extend them to your loved ones. Continuing to flirt past the dating phase can make a huge difference in a relationship and can do wonders for your partner’s confidence and self-esteem. They’ll likely return the favor too!
Discuss stressful situations beforehand
If you and your partner foresee a stressful situation, discussing your expectations beforehand in a calm environment can subdue anxiety and prevent unwanted reactions from bubbling over. For example, meeting in-laws is a source of stress for many couples. Discussing what to expect beforehand and what topics to avoid can help alleviate stress and possible arguments.
Good communication in a relationship is an ongoing practice; it’s not often an innate skill. Your efforts should be well-intentioned. The more you practice communicating with your partner, the stronger your relationship will become.