Communication is a foundation to a good relationship. Being open and honest about your thoughts and feelings allows for a generous flow of communication and often avoids misunderstandings. However, this intentional clarity is easier said than done, especially when it comes to communicating with your significant other. As we grow closer, we also get used to one another and take each other's attention for granted. I can speak to that with experience! There have been many times where I say something and hear “what?” in response, or I don’t get a response at all. And I cannot say that I don’t do the same. I don't always speak when I should nor listen as intently as I should. You likely have the same tendency. Here are some helpful tips to improve communication in your dating relationship.
With modern distractions, being present can be one of the hardest things to do. With tablets, phones, and even watches getting messages, it can be hard to put them down. Many times in the middle of a conversation, I realize we both are looking at the phone in our hands. My suggestion is to put them down. Even better, put them away! Put a box in the kitchen for the devices to live in for a while. The best time to talk is in time set aside to be fully present with one another without distractions. Turn off the TV and clear the room of distractions. Set aside the time to catch-up, talk, and just be with one another. This creates an opportunity for you to talk with one another about the things that are on your heart.
Perhaps you have been dealing with stress at work, with family, or maybe in your faith life. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” This texts directs us to speak in a helpful manner for the purpose of building others up and benefiting your relationship. It requires that we put aside unhelpful practices like being passive aggressive. Indirect behaviors won’t get you very far. You can’t expect someone else to read your mind, and it may even make you more upset if that person doesn't even notice you are angry. Instead take the productive route and talk it out constructively.
If you are upset with your significant other for some reason, express your concerns honestly. Avoidance is not a productive strategy for dealing with concerns. Bringing up these emotional conversations can sometimes be the hardest part, but once you get started, the words begin to pour out of you. Problems only get bigger when they are ignored. Be patient with one another, but talk through the issues at hand. Challenges get resolved as problems are faced honestly.
“A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy envoy brings healing” (Proverbs 13:17). It can be easier to say something via text than it is to say to someone’s face, but that does not make it an effective method of communication. Texting works fine for sending you a lunch order or missing address, but it is not a good method for more weighty topics. Don’t have important conversations via text message, Facebook, email, or anywhere besides directly face to face, as so much is communicated non-verbally. Too many things can get lost in translation and it can create further misunderstanding. Choose to engage directly where you can see one another and hear the tone of voice. If it’s not possible to physically see one another, talk on the phone or set up a video chat if it is long distance. Hearing inflections in the voice or seeing facial expressions is a large part of communication that can get lost in a written message.
Don’t let your significant other become the only person with whom you communicate. It is easy to get wrapped up in a relationship and forget about your friends that love you. Having friends outside of one another keeps your world from becoming too narrow. Preserving friendships outside your relationship gives you both space and preserves your individual identity. Outside relationships can help you gain perspective on your concerns and give you a clear mind to talk through what is bothering you. Long-term friends can bless you with insight if you are open to their leading.
If you are struggling with communication, specifically during arguments, please check out our “10 Rules for Fair Fighting” e-book.