7 Ways to Communicate Better with Your Partner


happy couple

Happy couple | Sam Edwards/ OJO Images

Relationships are hard. That’s why it’s so important to improve your relationship communication skills. Without clear communication, all sorts of problems can arise. But how do you make sure you and your partner are relating to each other in a loving and effective way? The Cheat Sheet reached out to Dr. Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, for tips on how you can improve communication with your partner. Here’s what she had to say.

Dr. Fran’s top 7 communication tips:

1. Use universal statements. Using phrases like “you always” or “you never” to your partner raises his or her guard and defenses because it focuses on what’s wrong with the person. Instead, use “I” statements that focus on how you feel without blaming or accusing your partner.

2. During intense disagreements, don’t interrupt or think about your response while your partner is talking. Instead, listen intently without interrupting and try to understand and empathize with your partner’s feelings.

3. Validate your partner’s feelings. Everyone is entitled to his or her own feelings, so do your best not to criticize, judge, belittle your partner, or minimize the importance of the feelings.  When a person’s negative feelings are not validated, he or she will likely create a barrier in the relationship.

4. Be honest. Sometimes the truth is uncomfortable, especially if you know your partner may get angry hearing it.  Be brave!  Honesty in a relationship is extremely important because it is the fundamental thing that makes a person feel safe. Even if you think the truth will be hard to hear, your partner will appreciate it in the long run.

5. Be flexible.  You may think your idea is best, but staying open to other’s opinions is an important ingredient in successful communication.

6. Don’t mix apples and oranges when talking. When discussing finances, don’t allow talk about housework and children to creep into the conversation. Stay focused on one topic at a time.

7. Avoid being too intense and businesslike when addressing relationship problems. Instead, use humor. Humor can diffuse a rough situation and warm your partner up to you.

Bonus tips:

Couple laughing

Couple laughing | Ivanko_Brnjakovic/iStock/Getty Images

  • Be open-minded. Remind yourself that there is always more than one way to view and deal with a situation.
  • If you are engaged in a power-struggle, let go of the arm wrestling. Your partner can only keep tugging if there is someone on the other end pulling in the opposite direction.
  • Rules and boundaries must be stated with clarity, not anger. Be clear and concise, yet kind and empathic in your delivery.
  • Know that if you’re a critical person life really is a little harder. Your expectations for yourself are greater than most. Feel empathy for yourself so that you can feel empathy for your partner.
  • Stay open to listening to and hearing your partner’s feelings. You don’t have to agree with his or her demands. But everyone wants to be heard, validated, and understood. So, give that courtesy to your companion.

Dr. Fran Walfish is a couples, relationship, and family psychologist and author in Beverly Hills, California. In addition to her private practice, she was on the clinical staff in the department of psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for 15 years. Walfish was also a school psychologist and recently completed a four-year-term as chair of the board of The Early Childhood Parenting Center founded at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles.  

Read more: 4 Things Happy Couples Do Before Bed

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