At this point, we have all heard that communication is important in order to have a successful relationship. What we have not heard is how to properly communicate with our significant others. The communication couples seem to struggle with and harm their relationships the most, usually occur when one or both are experiencing negative emotions.
When negative emotions occur, it is important to talk about them with the significant other as soon as possible, preferably in a private place or one away from many people. Also, keep voices in a calm tone and normal speaking volume. Always let each other talk and listen so both people can understand each other’s views. Do not bottle anything up as it can cause more problems later on. It can also lead to relational uncertainty, which according to Uncertainty Reduction Theory, from the textbook A First Look at Communication Theory, it can cause the relationship to end if uncertainty is not reduced. A way to reduce uncertainty is through verbal communication. Do not be afraid to talk it out! Another way is through self-disclosure. Share attitudes, beliefs, values, and other bits of information when ready or when it comes up in conversation.
Some people want to find solutions to their partner’s problems right away. That is very sweet! However, that may not be what their partner needs at that moment. When a partner is upset, ask if they would like comfort or a solution. If they choose comfort then their partner should proceed to perform an act of comfort that the partner, who is upset, likes. That could be comfort food, cuddling, a movie, soaking in the sun, playing video games, etc. Later on, when the partner has relaxed, a solution can be given to them.
Find out each other’s communication style if it is not already known. When upset, people tend to prefer certain ways to be interacted with so they do not feel invalidated or irritated. If the type of communication each partner prefers when negative emotions arise is unknown, it is best to sit down and discuss it. It would not be beneficial to give someone tough love when they prefer reassurance.
My partner and I are very blunt and honest people. So when something is wrong, it is stated right away. This has helped us avoid any type of argument or long-lasting negative emotions. When negative emotions do arise, I have learned that he prefers solutions or me to just listen. When I experience negative emotions, he has learned that I prefer solutions and positive motivation.
Not everyone will be so blunt and open. If needed, schedule a time either every day or every other day to discuss the day’s positives and negatives. This would be the time to discuss any upsets with the partner and/or relationship. It is important to try to not take anything each other says too personally. It is being brought up to be discussed so it can be cleared up, fixed, or compromised. If a partner gets too defensive, it can prevent them from seeing the other’s view and the situation may not improve.
If a discussion becomes an argument, try to cool it down or at least express reassurance. If yelling occurs, listening fails, or someone gets defensive, there are solutions to help. Partners can ask for a bit of time alone to gather their thoughts and cool down. They can also ask to revisit the situation later and maybe get food with them or watch an episode of a show. Let the other partner speak and hopefully regain a healthy communication pattern. Hug the other partner if it is already known that they are okay with that contact when they are upset. Remind each other that it is both of you against the problem, not against each other. Say “I love you” or other words of affirmation before going to take some space. If a way to calm down the situation is already known and works between partners, then continue with that.
Relationships are not always easy, but they can become less difficult when there is not a war with one another. Everyone’s feelings in a relationship are valid and should be shared. Partners need to communicate so they can continue to have a loving and successful relationship.