What’s the most important quality in relationships?
If you ask most people, their #1 answer is going to be either honestly or communication.
And for a good reason—if you can’t communicate with someone, how can you spend your life with them?
Unless you plan on using metaphorical tape over your mouth and ears, it’s a skill you’ll need to build overtime. And since every person is a bit different, the way you communicate with your current partner may be different than how you used to speak to your ex.
In this post, we’re sharing 8 ways you can fix communication with your boyfriend, husband or significant other.
How to Fix Communication with Your Boyfriend, Husband, Partner
No matter which gender you are or which gender you date, these communication tips will show you how you can peacefully speak with your significant other.
#1 Share Observations Before Interpreting
Often, communication issues happen because we misunderstand what somebody is trying to stay. Don’t get us wrong, it’s possible they phrased or said it wrong (in which case, they also have a communication issue). However, no matter how the person said something, we can avoid taking it the wrong way by clarifying what they meant.
Before we interpret what they say, we can ask questions or add comments around it. For example, when someone is being verbally aggressive, you may say “it seems like you’re mad that I didn’t text you back on time.” You think that’s what the argument is about.
However, the person may respond with a more direct explanation of their upset. Maybe they say, “No, I’m not mad you didn’t text me back soon enough. I’m mad because I’ve been asking you this question for a month and you’ve said you’ll get back to me. And now that I need the answer ASAP, you’re putting it off again.” In this case, you’d understand the issue wasn’t about your texting abilities, it’s really about how you procrastinate.
This is why it’s a good idea to rephrase what somebody is saying before reacting, like, “I understand you’re feeling angry that…” The person has an opportunity to correct you. They may say, “No, I’m not angry, I’m hurt that…” So although you originally mistook hurt as anger, you can better respond now that you know the truth.
#2 Try Not to Editorialize
News is supposed to be unbiased, which means it should just share the facts. When someone slides their opinion into those facts, it’s called editorializing.
In communication, we can also editorialize, which can make it worse than it needs to be.
For example, saying, “I’ve noticed you reschedule most of our dates and it hurts my feelings” is a straightforward fact relevant to the moment. This can allow your partner to understand without getting overly defensive.
But if you editorialize it, it could be too much for them to take in one moment. For example: “I’ve noticed you rescheduled all of our dates and I hate it. If this happens one more time, I’ll be done with you just like I was my last ex. You always do this and it makes you look like a child.”
Although you should be able to say how you feel, adding fake facts like “always” or “I’ll be done with you” or “it makes you look like a child” doesn’t help solve the situation. In fact, it will likely make the other person equally as upset, pushing the resolution further down the line.
#3 Be Vulnerable in Sharing Your Feelings
So many times, we are afraid to say how we actually feel. We will say 100 other things around the emotion to avoid admitting it. But that makes communication suck.
For example, let’s say someone does something to hurt you. Many people unleash a cascade of insults, making the person feel equally as hurt. That doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t even let your partner know that they hurt you.
Instead, as awkward, uncomfortable and vulnerable as it is, plainly say how you feel, such as “I feel hurt because…” or “I feel annoyed when you did…”
#4 Express Your Needs
Everyone has different needs in a relationship. Expressing them clearly allows both partners to see whether they can be met. Often, we avoid saying what we truly mean. Then, we get more upset when we don’t get the results.
Withholding what you need does a few things:
- Stops you from getting what you want
- Robs your partner the opportunity to be a good partner to you
- Robs you of the truth about your partner: are they able to match you needs?
For example, let’s say you need more conversation with your partner. Instead of going on about how they don’t care about you, be direct. “I need to be able to connect with you more and for me, that means more conversation. Can we try to make time every day after work to just sit down for a moment and talk?”
If the person changes their behavior to match your needs, cool. If not, it doesn’t mean you should change your needs; you may just be better suited for another person.
#5 Don’t Sweep Under the Rug
Sometimes, when we can’t communicate properly, we drop the conversation even though it’s not resolved. Sweeping things under the rug isn’t a communication hack. It’s a way to put the issue off for another time. It doesn’t go away.
I’m guilty of this. If I really love someone, I want to get back to the feeling of “stability” ASAP. I don’t want to stomp around in muddy waters any longer. So, if we can’t see eye to eye, I drop it. Well, at least in the moment. But if things rattle around in your mind, they’re gonna come out eventually—probably in a much uglier way. To avoid that, use the communication tricks in this post to stop rug sweeping.
#6 Be on the Same Side
When you’re in an argument and things are getting heated, frame it as you and your partner against the problem, not against each other. Say this out loud. Sometimes, when we really disagree, it feels like we could rip them a new one. But we have to remind ourselves; it’s the situations we’re fighting, even if we come at it from different sides.
#7 Avoid Annoying Body Language
Even if the other person doesn’t realize it, they’re probably picking up on your body language when you communicate. That could be a good or bad thing.
When I was in an argument with my then-boyfriend, I didn’t realize it, but whenever I got really annoyed, I withheld my opinion by slightly smiling. After all, it was better than reacting to his aggression with my own aggression. But he realized it before I did, referring to it as “my annoying smirk.” Chances are, if I wasn’t slightly smiling, his energy would be a bit calmer.
It’s also good to think about how your body language can make your communication better. For example, in some situations, it may be worth holding your partner’s hands while talking. Or repetitively touching or holding their arm to show you care. Even if you’re both arguing, sending the signal to your body that this person is safe can calm down your emotions, making you communicate more effectively.
I should also add that body language can mean different things to different people. Holding someone’s hands during an argument can be loving and support, as if you’re on the same team. But another might say, “don’t touch me, give me my space.” Of course, you need to respect their boundaries.
#8 You Can’t Change People
People can change themselves, but you can’t change them for them. You can put every tip in this post to use. You can become an A+ communicator. And you can still fail to peacefully communicate with some people. Even if you hold up your end, it takes 2 to communicate well. This advice sucks. It’s the reason I broke up with many people.
If you’re doing the work, ask yourself, am I taking responsibility for their communication failures? If the answer is yes, provide resources for the other person to work on that skill. Or consider couples counseling.
But remember: You can try to teach others to communicate, but if they’re not willing to do the work, you can’t do it for them.
In that case, you’ll have to learn to live with their bad communication. But you shouldn’t. So you should probably just do the hard thing and move onto another person who can match your effort.
How to Fix Communication with Your Boyfriend
Communication is a skill that everyone learns over a lifetime and adapts to different people. The tips in this post will show you the basics you need to speak effectively with your partner. However, remember that you can’t change other people. If you are a great communicator and your partner doesn’t care to change, you’ll still a communication issue and it may be one that’s irresolvable.