Are you able to really open up in conversations with your partner? Open and honest communication in a relationship can be especially hard when you're trying to discuss a difficult issue. How often have you walked away from a conversation with your partner feeling angry, disappointed, or misunderstood? How often have you said things you regretted, things that hurt your partner unnecessarily? In the heat of the moment, we tend to forget how to be kind, patient, and loving. Here are some suggestions to help you really open up communication in your relationship:
Important conversations shouldn't be put off, but neither should they be initiated at awkward or inappropriate times. Don't bring up your bedroom issues at the beginning of the Super Bowl or launch into a serious talk on your way to a holiday party. Make a plan to speak if you have to. Set aside a specific time so that neither of you is taken aback by the discussion. And never start a conversation when you're too angry1 to see your partner as anyone other than a terrible devil-person. Wait until you've calmed down a bit.
Conversations—especially the deep ones—rarely go smoothly and hardly ever go as planned. They twist and turn, a tangent here, an unexpected comment there. Don't be rigid when you're talking with your partner. The more attached you are to how the conversation should play out, the more disappointed you'll be by how it does.
Move with the dialogue, bend with it, be in the moment with what's happening between the two of you. You can still share what it is you need to share, but you may end up having to do it differently than you'd planned. And that's OK.
Have you ever struggled to express yourself? Labored over the perfect words? We all have. Nobody communicates perfectly. It's important to be patient with your partner as they work to express themselves. Don't plan your responses before they've finished sharing their perspectives. Listen to what they're saying, with openness and patience.
We've all been misunderstood, and it never feels good. Think of all the times what you said didn't match how you felt. There are more than words at play when you talk with your partner. Energy underlies everything being said. Use your intuition to tune into it. It's incredibly important—especially if you're with someone who struggles with communication—to listen with your heart even more than your mind. Don't just focus on the words, but feel the energy behind them.
This is not an excuse for your mind to twist your partner's words and intentions. It's an opportunity for your heart to realize the truth of them.
It's impossible to communicate with love and clarity when you're filled with judgment. Find acceptance for your partner—no matter what's going on—and engage from this place. When we feel judged, we either get defensive or shut down, neither of which encourages open dialogue. When we let our partners know we accept them, whether with words or energy, we invite them to reveal themselves in a more vulnerable and honest way.
Probably the most important thing you can bring to your communication with your partner is honesty. If what you're saying isn't true, then nothing real is being shared. Speak your truth, as much as you are able to, with clarity, love, and gentleness. When you dodge the truth out of fear for how it will be received, you only build bigger walls in your relationship. When you communicate your truth from a place of love, you're always reinforcing the strength of your connection with your partner, no matter the response. You have to be honest.
Communication can make or break a relationship. The more open, honest, and connected the dialogue is, the healthier a relationship tends to be. Take responsibility. You are in control of the way you communicate with your partner. Make a conscious effort to bring as many of the above intentions into your communications, and you're bound to see and feel some very positive changes in your relationship.
Scott Stabile is the author of Big Love: The Power of Living with a Wide-Open Heart, a screenwriter, and a writing instructor based in Michigan. He has amassed a sizable Facebook following with his inspirational and provocative quotes, essays, and live videos. He is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, and his previous works include Just Love, Iris, and the Li’l Pet Hospital series. He also runs day-long empowerment workshops nationally and internationally.