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Communicating with Your Partner

Communicating with Your Partner

It’s likely a familiar situation for most of us – we stand there, looking at our partner, anger and frustration building, and we think, what I need from you right now is obvious, so why aren’t you getting it?  Falling into this logical trap happens to the best of us; we assume that because we have made certain judgments or connections in our own heads, the same must have happened for our partners.  After all, they are supposed to know us best, right?

Assuming that your partner should just know what you are thinking is dangerous and unhelpful. Not only will it cause unnecessary fights, but it will not get you any closer to receiving whatever it is that you need from them, be it support, encouragement, or an important conversation.  The only way to ensure that either of you have your needs met in a healthy and productive way is to learn how to effectively communicate with one another.


Tips for effective communication:

  1. Clarify expectations by being clear on the topic of conversation and what the intent or goal of the conversation is.
  2. Remember to listen non-judgmentally, if possible, and without interjecting your point of view.
  3. Be willing to be wrong and remember to discuss and agree upon next steps.


Why make your partner guess?

Try letting your partner know which goal you are pursuing in a conversation. This will help your partner understand what you are looking to achieve when you engage them in conversation, and what kinds of responses might be helpful. Such goals might be:

  1. Create intimacy.
  2. Request feedback, support or comfort.
  3. Tell a story, share an experience.
  4. Solve a problem.
  5. Make a decision.


If you notice that you still have trouble communicating at times, try asking yourself: For each goal, what specific behaviors or statements do I want to receive from my partner? What will help me know that my communication is being received? Share with your partner how you would like them to respond to you for each of the above goals.

And remember, effective communication takes patience, practice, and dedication.  Allow yourselves the space and time to learn these new strategies and incorporate them into your relationship, along with any strategies of your own that you have found effective in the past.


Kelly McDonnell-Arnold MA MBA RSW

This material is adapted from Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch.