Photo by Hian Oliveira

Improving communication in a relationship is not an easy feat.

This is something that almost EVERY couple struggles with.

When trying to communicate people often talk past each other.

Thanking past each other can lead to frustrating arguments.

Gabriel and I used to get stuck in vicious cycles of fighting like this a lot in the past.

We would repeat the same arguments over and over again but they rarely lead to any conclusions.

In fact, they often had the opposite effect: after the fight, we both felt unheard and discarded by the other.

It’s only after we figured out communication in our relationship, we started to really grow closer, build trust and felt safer and more loved in our relationship.

These are the three biggest breakthroughs, that helped us get through to each other.

#1 You Need To See Your Partner as an Individual to Begin Communicating

We’ve all been raised to think in predefined ways.

Especially when it comes to man-woman roles in relationships.

Although times are changing, these beliefs still have a strong subconscious grip and can be extremely limiting when trying to communicate with your partner.

Some limiting-beliefs include:

  • Women are obsessed with details
  • Women are hysteric and blow things out of proportion
  • Women are unreasonably needy
  • Men are emotionless drones that only think about sex
  • Men don’t need or want love and affection
  • Men are unreliable and can’t be trusted

I have always considered both Gabriel and myself as open-minded and rational.

Yet we used to project these kinds of prejudices onto each other without even realizing it.

They were just so prevalent in our surroundings, we were taught to accept them as ultimate truths.

In reality, these beliefs had absolutely no significance in our relationship.

They only stood in the way of us getting through to each other.

When you perceive your partner through the lens of predefined roles you can never hear what they are actually saying to you.

He might be complaining about not having enough love and affection and all you’ll be able to hear is:

“Uh, the sex-hungry monster is making unreasonable demands AGAIN!”

And the other way around, you might be complaining about not feeling supported with the household chores and all your partner will hear is:

“Uhh, she is having unreasonable expectations and blowing things out of proportion AGAIN!”

That’s why the first step in improving communication is to notice and try to discard preconditioned sexist prejudices from your relationship.

Seeing your partner not as a boyfriend/husband/man but as an individual – a person with their own particular emotional needs – will open both of you up.

#2 Learn Reflective Listening to Break out of Frustrating Patterns

Do you feel unheard in your relationship?

You’re saying the same thing over and over again and he just never listens?

I have some tough news for you.

There is a 99,9% chance that your boyfriend feels EXACTLY the same way you do.

Communication is a two-way street. You either keep an open channel and both communicate, or you don’t.

In order to improve communication in your relationship, one of you needs to make the FIRST STEP and start LISTENING.

It’s necessary that you learn how to make your partner feel heard.

Because only once you know how to get there, can you then teach him to reciprocate the favor.

In my experience, the best way to make someone feel heard is through reflective listening.

Reflective listening is a communication strategy consisting of two key steps:

  • Seeking to understand a speaker’s idea
  • Then reflecting the idea back to the speaker, to confirm that it’s been understood correctly

In other words, it’s a way of listening to that involves letting your partner know you’ve registered and understood what he’s been trying to convey.

It requires you to learn how to reflect things your partner said back to him.

Learning this skill was a monumental game-changer in our relationship.

We stopped talking past each other.

It made us feel close and connected again.

Our frustrating fights started turning into short healthy relationship arguments.

We started actually RESOLVING problems!

In my opinion, reflective listening is the most useful communication skill in a relationship. We still use it on a daily basis.

#3 Insist on Being Heard to Finally Get What You Want

Trying to get your partner to hear you out and being rejected over and over again is heartbreaking.

It might make you feel like there is no point in even trying to get your point across.

Like there is no chance to ever get what you want and he just doesn’t give a damn.

The only option you’re left with is to suck it up and try to get over it by yourself.

It’s an extremely disempowering position to be in.

I used to feel that way A LOT.

It’s not easy to make someone hear you out!

But it’s important to keep trying.

It used to be really hard for me to stick to my guns and insist on being heard. Especially if it was about a vulnerable issue, like eg. “Needing to feel important.

Unfortunately, sometimes you need to repeat yourself a hundred times before you manage to get your point across.

On top of that, it might require you to set some firm boundaries with your man.

In a perfect world, the love of your life would always have space for your needs and wanted to listen.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case for most couples.

It’s perfectly normal and actually helpful to insist on being heard.

Don’t resort to anger and blaming though. That approach only escalates the problem.

Tell your man that you really need them to hear you out on this one!

I also find it helpful to say things like “I need you to reflect what I said back to me.”

This way you can check whether he did really got what you were trying to convey or not.

Conclusion

Improving communication in a relationship can be tricky, There are a lot of things that will stand in your way.

Widespread assumptions about the roles men and women typically play in relationships can be a barrier and very detrimental to getting through to each other.

That’s why it’s important to think of your partner, not as a man/boyfriend/husband but as an INDIVIDUAL, with his own particular perks and preferences.

Reflective listening is an extremely powerful tool.

It can enable you to break out of frustrating arguments and patters by making your man feel heard.

Sometimes it might take a lot of convincing in order to get him to return the favor.

Don’t let that stop you.

You can get your point across. Just tell him that you need him to listen and reflect things back to you too.

If you have any questions or would like to share your experiences with these tips, let me know in the comments below.

I’d love to hear your story.

Karolina

Karolina Bartnik