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Connection is a vital part of human relationships. We should have the best communication with our romantic partners, and when we’re communicating well, we feel loved and understood. On the flip side, poor communication leads to feeling disconnected. Before you know it, that once-solid relationship turns rocky. Here’s how good communication turns bad—and how to turn it around.

1. You’re not asking questions.

We all want to feel like our partners find us interesting and they can’t wait to talk to us. If you’re not asking questions, whether it’s about such mundane issues as how their day went or about serious issues like why they seem upset, bad communication has become the norm. Tune in and ask more questions.

2. You’re yelling at your partner when you’re upset.

Frustration is normal in any relationship. It’s understandable that you’ll feel upset on occasion. But it’s how you react that determines the impact of frustration on your relationship. Yelling feels like you’re releasing some steam from a pressure cooker, but it’s also really damaging to your spouse. Your significant other won’t remember the words you said, but the intensity of the emotion you expressed.

3. You’re trying to “win” every argument.

A little bit of competition can be playful and fun, but it can also be damaging when you view difficult discussions with your partner as a case you have to win. If you’re creating a mental list (with examples and cross-references!) to support your side of a debate, you need to let it go. You can win the argument but lose the relationship. Remember: your partner is on your side, even if you disagree on a particular issue.

4. You’re not talking about difficult issues because you’re afraid to disagree.

On the flip side, you may be more of a lover than a fighter. Maybe you’re not trying to win arguments—in fact, you may be trying to avoid them altogether. But sweeping important issues under the rug to avoid a fight is not healthy, either. It’s nearly impossible to hide when you’re upset. Many people who are afraid to express unpleasant emotions still end up communicating their displeasure through body language or passive-aggressive behavior. Take the direct approach instead.

5. You assume your partner already knows how you feel.

It can seem like it’s stating the obvious to tell your partner how much you love him or her and how wonderful you think they are. But these are the kinds of things people need to hear on a regular basis. The last thing you want your significant other to feel is taken for granted. Lavish on the (genuine) praise and affection.

6. You’re not expressing empathy.

Many people just wait for their turn to speak instead of really listening. Put down your phone and really pay attention to what your partner is telling you. Acknowledge what they’re saying and express empathy about what they’re saying. For example, if they’re telling you that they’re having a hard time with their boss, say something like “that must be hard to deal with” instead of just mumbling “mm-hmm.”

7. You’re complaining instead of stating your needs.

Complaining is an easy trap to fall into, especially during difficult periods in our lives. But it’s important to rein yourself in, too. Instead of just venting to your spouse about what’s wrong, tell them what you need. Don’t be afraid to advocate on your own behalf.

If you would like to learn more about how to improve the communication patterns in your relationship, click here. If you have additional questions or are interested in setting up a complimentary 30-minute consultation or appointment, please call my office at (941) 306 1235 or send me an email at marilynhalls17@gmail.com