It can be challenging to remember to communicate with your partner when you feel like you’re getting pulled in a ton of different directions. Between careers, children, friends, chores, and other necessities communicating effectively with your partner can often take a backseat, and even the strongest relationships suffer if you don’t have a solid communication plan.
If you feel like you and your partner could communicate more effectively, or you just want to strengthen this aspect of your relationship, try out a few of the tips below.
Hold a weekly state of the union
I’m terrible at keeping secrets, so we’re going to start strong with my favorite relationship communication tip!
Many companies do a State of the Union (SOTU) speech to let their employees know what’s going on in the company, what they’re working on, and what they’re looking to accomplish in the future.
It helps to get the whole company on the same page and the same goes for your relationship.
This method was developed at The Gottman Institute, where I learned about it during a workshop I attended. My boyfriend and I have implemented it in our relationship. It’s been beneficial for making sure we continue to grow together and that we’re keeping one another informed on what we’re working on.
Pick a set time each week for when you’re going to sit down with each other and have a SOTU. The first few times, you might want to plan an hour, but once you get used to it, you can usually get it done in half an hour as long as there are no significant issues that need discussing.
Try and meet earlier in the day so that neither of you is too tired and make sure you’ve eaten. I don’t know about you, but when I’m hangry I’m definitely not communicating at my best level.
What to discuss during your SOTU:
- What are some things you both did well in the past week?
- What are some things that didn’t go so well and what can you do to help improve on them for next time?
- Did any events come up in the past week that you want to talk about? These can be good or bad.
- What are you each individually going to work on during the upcoming week that pertains to your relationship? Are you going to try and listen better when your partner has a problem instead of trying to solve it right away? Is your partner going to try and be more attentive to you?
- What is something you’d like the other person to work on? Make sure to stay out of the blame game on this one. You’re simply letting them know a need you have that you’d like them to fulfill, not blaming them for something they aren’t doing.
Share a calendar
Issues with scheduling seems to be the conflict that pops up the most often. At least in my experience!
Keeping track of the schedules for two different adults can be difficult and adding children into the mix just adds a whole extra complexity.
Nothing can lead to an argument quite like your significant other forgetting dinner with your family or you being late to an important event because of scheduling issues.
Scheduling mishaps are still going to occur, but trying to put everything onto a shared calendar can make a huge difference and help avoid communication errors.
Get a date night on the books
Speaking of scheduling…99% of the time if you don’t plan something then it won’t happen!
For relationships to work, you need to continue to put energy into them to keep that connection and communication flowing.
Find an evening you’re both free once a month and commit to having a date night where you put away your phones and set any other distractions together.
Try doing something interactive where conversation can flow like doing a virtual Bob Ross painting class or try out a new recipe together! Our personal favorite is doing a mystery box from Empty Faces because I like to think I was Nancy Drew in another life.
Date nights help you stay connected with one another even when life gets busy and keeps the channels of communication open. All the good feelings you get from spending some one-on-one time with each other will carry over into all aspects of your relationship.
Get rid of the distractions during conversation
When you’re talking with your partner about something important make sure you are both giving your undivided attention. Put away the phones and laptops. Turn off the TV and focus on each other.
When you’re done speaking make sure to check-in to make sure they’ve understood what you said or to confirm you’ve understood what they’ve been trying to communicate.
I can’t count the number of times a disagreement could have been avoided if I had checked in to make sure my partner actually heard what I was saying. This might be an unpopular opinion, but it’s just as much the speaker’s job to confirm their message was heard as it is the listener to make sure they understand and ask any necessary questions.
Stop the blame game
I know it can be hard to remember in the middle of an argument that got away from you way too quickly, but you and your partner are on the same team. There are no winners. If one of you wins, you both lose!
The below communication habit can be really hard to start, but once you do, you’ll keep turning to it because it works!
Take a pause.
During a disagreement, emotions are running high and neither of you are your best selves. If you feel like you’re in the WWE Smackdown or see your partner getting overloaded then call a time-out.
Go walk around the block or take 15-minutes to journal. You can even just distract yourself with a cute dog video! Remember, you aren’t storming out and making a dramatic exit. Before you leave, agree with your partner on a time to reconvene and continue the discussion with clearer minds.
When you come back to the conversation try asking your partner questions to understand what they’re thinking.
Deep down you do want to understand where your partner is coming from. It just got covered up momentarily with some anger.
Let your partner speak and share their thoughts. When they’re done, explain your understanding of what they’re saying until they feel you’ve got it all. Then it’s your turn.
There’s going to be a lot of things you don’t agree on in your relationship because you’re both different people. Learning to handle these differences is one of the keys to a successful relationship.
Yes, life can be chaotic, but if you set up a communication plan with your partner and instill regular habits to support clearer conversations you can tame that chaos and keep both of you on the same page.
Try incorporating a few of the above tips and watch your communication with your partner get stronger and more resilient to the little hiccups life throws your way!