Relationship help
- for better communication

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

relationship Couple talking: help for better communication

Tried to ask the same questions over and over again? Still don't have the answers you're looking for? I suspect your partner or spouse has long switched off from hearing them!

Part 1 and 2 will help you ask better questions and here I'm going to give you some more advanced communication skills. I'll also give you some examples of what to say and how to say it.

What now, if you still don't get any answers?

Your partner may have secrets of course (and there's more on this on other pages). He or she may not trust or feel safe with you, but that's not the focus of this article either. If you're worried that might be a problem with your relationship, do check out the other articles listed at the end of this page.

There are lots of other pages on this site to help you with all of your relationship problems, so do have a look around.

And what if you still don't understand your partner?

We have to make sure that you don't turn a conversation into an interrogation.

First of all you need to trust that as human beings we are 'soft wired' to feel what another person is feeling. In other words, we have an innate ability to be 'empathic'. The 'mirror neurons' in our brain help us in a way to walk that mile in someone else's shoes and experience their feelings and emotions.

That is really helpful, because it's only when you truly understand where your partner is coming from that you can begin to seek a fair and workable solution to your relationship problems. 

A note of caution though: improving your listening skills is only a start to sorting out you marital problems or relationship issues. There is more to be done. One of the best methods for saving a marriage is the one developed by Lee Baucom, PhD, and I'll tell you about that a little later.

For now, let's begin to dig deeper...

Step 1 - relationship help

The problem: you don't understand your partner. What do you do next?

Here is my suggestion in that situation:

  • First, feed back the parts you do understand, then gently ask your partner to help you with the bits you don't understand:

"I see that you think / feel / like / dislike ......  and that you would like us / me to ....  Can I just check that I've understood ..... correctly?"

  • Then ask for further clarification:

"Can you say a little more about that?"  

"I'd really like to know a little more about......, so that I try and understand it better from your perspective."

  • In the meantime, try to identify the underlying feelings, then feed back what you've picked up:

"I can see that it has really hurt you"

"You look sad when you explain that"

"I can read from your face how angry you are about that"

"Yes I can see that you feel strongly about that" (when you can't identify the actual feeling)

  • Don’'t jump to conclusions. Particularly if you feel yourself reacting strongly, you'll need to check out that you've got it right. You want to be able to respond - not react!
  • Stay calm! Emotional outbursts are likely to either shut the conversation down or lead to an argument. However, you can say something like:
    "I feel really hurt when you say that"
    "I cannot accept such abusive comments - I have to take a break"
    (I am assuming that you are not actually in danger)
    "I am absolutely delighted for you - carry on and tell me more"
  • Breathe slowly and calmly if you feel yourself becoming emotional. Use nice long out-breaths. Keep the focus on your partner until it's your turn.
  • Accept you may never understand it all - it need not stop you listening.

Staying with a difficult conversation can be really hard particularly if your relationship is in real trouble. The manner in which you communicate can either calm down or inflame a situation.

Step 2 - allow your partner or spouse space and time

There are even more things you can do to address the problems and get the relationship answers you're looking for:

  • Carry on proving that you're following what your partner's saying. Every now and then, repeat in your own words what you think you've just heard. This 'paraphrasing' helps to ensure that you are beginning to ‘get the picture’ and remember the details
  • Gently and encouragingly say things like: "uh-uh", "go on", "of course", and so on
  • Use non-verbal signs when appropriate, such as: nodding, shaking your head, looking puzzled or smiling. But do leave space for silences: your partner may be collecting their thoughts
  • Remember that your partner (and you of course) will always be trying to meet his or her essential emotional needs (see links further down), consciously or unconsciously. Meeting these needs is at the bottom of all our behaviour
  • When your partner has finally got it all out, summarise your understanding of what's going on for him or her, including any feelings you have picked up

Then it is your turn! Ask for the time and space to express yourself and gently remind your partner of the agreement when necessary

happy couple

Positive intent and focussed attention will help your partner or spouse to feel valued and respected, which builds trust.

Trust helps him or her to open up and reveal deeper feelings and concerns.

Still baffled? You can speak to an online relationship therapist right away or when it suits you best.

Step 3 - what to say when you don't understand

It's a given that you're not always going to understand your partner. You are two very different people, from different backgrounds. You have - or have had - your own dreams and traumas, all of these have left their marks. Have a look at my Advice For Your Relationship Problems for more on this idea.

Here's my relationship help when you don't know what to say next:

"I see now that you.... (fill in what you have heard). It's certainly different from how I see it. I hope that we can meet in the middle."

"I'm really having trouble understanding that, but I can see .... and I respect you for that."

"My memory of that is very different, but I know that our brains can play tricks on us and that each of our experience of reality is unique - even if we were in the same spot!"

"I accept that you see that differently than I do - we'll have to agree to disagree."

Do you need some relationship help?

Are you having intractable relationship issues or marital problems?

Have you thought of getting relationship help from a counsellor or coach? A couple counsellor or marriage counsellor will listen to you and help you to feel and communicate better.

This kind of relationship help can really improve your self-awareness, including how you relate to your mate. Marriage counselling can be really useful even if your partner has no intention of going.

Failing that - the Save The Marriage system has great tools to help you get the relationship answers you seek.

Relationship help and support: two swans facing eachother in symmetry

Other ways to get a fuller picture

Are you prepared to work even harder at your marriage or relationship? Take a bird's eye view and try to observe the following:

8 Ways to learn more about your partner's mood

  1. Body language (see: Body language signs)
  2. Tone of voice - the tonality and pitch - high pitched and stressed; or low and calm; or threatening
  3. The use of age appropriate language - when stressed we may regress
  4. Whether or not they lapse into another language if bilingual
  5. The fluency and speed of speech
  6. Their general demeanour - fidgety, anxious, deflated, excited, tearful, depressed, etc
  7. Their appearance - whether or not they have taken care of themselves.
  8. How they're dressed and what they're wearing

Great relationship communication skills help to prevent and reduce conflict. Watching, observing, listening and checking out will all contribute to you getting the best out of your partner, spouse or indeed anyone you meet.

However, if your relationship is in real trouble you need further help, do also have a look at my review of the Save The Marriage Blueprint, developed by Lee Baucom, PhD.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Related Articles

Anger management tips
Dealing with criticism
How to save your relationship or marriage
How to say sorry and apologise
Giving yourself the best chance of a reconciliation
Relationship problem and advice
Relationship quizzes
Relationship advice for Christmas
Relationship advice for New Year's Eve
Relationship advice for Valentine's Day
Relationship and financial advice

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Elly Prior

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It's me - Elly Prior, I'm the Founder and Author of this site. I'm a 'real' person! I'm hoping to make a positive difference, small or large, to every person who visits my site.

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