Open, honest communication should be part of every healthy relationship. The guidelines below can help open up the channels of communication between you and your partner. If you’re in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, use these tips with caution.
You know your relationship best. If any of these tips would put you in danger, we don’t recommend that you try them. For healthier communication, try to:
- Find the right timeWhen having a serious conversation with your partner about something that’s bothering you, it’s a good idea to pick the right time to talk. Try to find a time when both you and your partner are calm and not distracted, stressed or in a rush. You might even consider scheduling a time to talk if one or both of you are really busy.
- Talk face to faceAvoid discussing serious matters or issues in writing. Text messages, letters and emails can be misinterpreted. As long as you feel safe doing so, talk in person so that there aren’t any unnecessary miscommunications.
- Do not attackEven when we mean well, we can sometimes come across as harsh because of our word choices. Using “you” can sound like you’re attacking, which could make your partner defensive and less receptive to your message. Instead, try using “I” or “we.” For example, say “I feel like we haven’t been as close lately” instead of “You have been distant with me.”
- Be honestSometimes the truth hurts, but it’s the key to a healthy relationship. Admit that you aren’t always perfect and apologize when you make a mistake instead of making excuses. You will feel better, and it will help strengthen your relationship.
- Check your body languageMake eye contact when speaking. Sit up and face your partner. Let your partner know you’re listening. Show them you really care. Don’t take a phone call, text or be distracted while you’re having a conversation.
- Use the 48-hour ruleIf your partner does something that makes you angry, it’s important to talk to them about it. But you don’t have to do so right away; taking a little time to process how you’re feeling can be helpful for reacting in a healthy way. If you’re still hurt 48 hours later, say something (and try using the tips on this page!). If not, consider forgetting about it. But remember, your partner can’t read your mind. If you don’t speak up when you’re upset, there is no way for them to apologize or change their behavior. Once you do mention your hurt feelings and your partner sincerely apologies, let it go. Don’t bring up past issues if they’re not relevant.
How to Communicate if You Are Angry
Everyone gets angry at some point in a relationship. What’s important is that you and your partner are able to resolve conflicts in a healthy way, even while angry. If you get angry with your partner, here are a few steps you can take:
- StopIf you’re really angry about something, stop, take a step back and breathe. Give yourself time to calm down by watching TV, talking to a friend, taking a walk, listening to some music or do whatever helps you relax. Taking a break can keep the situation from getting worse — and help you decide what needs to happen in order to make it better.
- ThinkAfter you’re no longer upset, think about the situation and why you got so angry. Was it how your partner spoke or something they did? Figure out the real problem, then think about how to explain your feelings.
- TalkFinally, talk to your partner. When you do, follow the tips for healthy communication above.
- ListenAfter you tell your partner how you feel, remember to stop talking and listen to what they have to say. You both deserve the opportunity to express how you feel in a safe and healthy environment.
Communicating isn’t always easy. At first, some of these tips may feel unnatural or awkward, but they will help you communicate better and build a healthy relationship.