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Building Bridges: Mastering the Art of Communication in Relationships

Communication serves as the foundation of any healthy relationship. Positive communication enables partners to share feelings, understand each other, and handle conflict constructively. On the other hand, frequent miscommunications or lack of communication can breed resentment, distance, and dysfunction in relationships. That’s why actively improving communication skills is so critical.

This comprehensive guide will provide tips and techniques to enhance communication between romantic partners. You’ll learn about:

  • Different communication styles like assertive, aggressive, and passive
  • Essential listening skills like paraphrasing and asking questions
  • Strategies to foster greater emotional intimacy
  • Ways to manage conflict productively
  • Signs it’s time to seek counselling
  • Building better nonverbal communication

Strengthening communication in relationships requires dedication from both people. While talking openly doesn’t guarantee a perfect partnership, it allows individuals to express their authentic thoughts, feelings, and needs. With compassion and conscious effort, communication can evolve into a rewarding building of understanding and connection.

Type of CommunicationDescription
VerbalSpoken language, like conversations
NonverbalBody language, gestures, tone
WrittenEmails, texts, letters

The skills outlined in this guide will help you listen deeply, speak genuinely, and cultivate empathy in your relationship. You and your partner can tackle any obstacle and grow with improved communication.

a couple sitting on a couch communicating in relationships

Types of Communication

Humans communicate through various channels, including verbal, nonverbal, and written modes. Understanding the different types of communication, along with their strengths and limitations, can help partners express themselves more clearly.

Verbal Communication

Verbal communication refers to the use of language to share information between individuals. This includes spoken mediums like:

  • Conversations – talking face-to-face
  • Phone calls – speaking over the phone
  • Voice messages – leaving spoken messages

Verbal communication allows for detailed explanations, nuanced discussions, and back-and-forth exchanges. Through open, honest dialogue, couples can gain insight into each other’s feelings, opinions, and experiences.

However, tone of voice, word choice, and delivery significantly impact the message being conveyed verbally. For instance, sarcasm or aggression can obscure intent. Mindful, compassionate verbal communication remains critical.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal signals like body language and vocal cues also communicate vital messages:

  • Facial expressions – smiles, frowns, winces
  • Gestures – crossed arms, hand motions
  • Eye contact – maintaining or avoiding gaze
  • Posture – slouching, leaning in
  • Tone – pitch, volume, speed

Nonverbal communication can reinforce or contradict verbal statements. People come across as more open and credible when words align with nonverbals. However, mixed signals often create misunderstandings in relationships.

Improving nonverbal awareness takes conscious effort, but it helps partners better understand each other’s underlying feelings through subtle body language and behaviours.

Nonverbal Cues

Words convey only part of our communication. Nonverbal signals like facial expressions, body language, tone and volume also speak volumes. Improving awareness of nonverbal cues in yourself and your partner can help avoid misunderstandings.

Reading Nonverbals

When interacting, pay attention to:

  • Facial expressions – Are they smiling, frowning, or tense?
  • Eye contact – Does their gaze seem open or avoiding?
  • Posture – Are their arms crossed or body turned away?
  • Gestures – Are they nodding, fidgeting, or clenching fists?
  • Tone – Does their voice sound relaxed, tense, or sad?

Matching Words and Nonverbals

Mixed signals between verbal and nonverbal communication breed confusion and mistrust. When words don’t don’t body language:

  • Seek clarification by asking how your partner truly feels.
  • Believe nonverbals over words if they conflict.
  • Address the discrepancy compassionately.

Improving Your Nonverbals

Strengthen your nonverbal communication by:

  • Relaxing facial muscles and posture.
  • Facing your partner and leaning in slightly.
  • Maintaining comfortable eye contact.
  • Mirroring open body language.
  • Speaking gently and warmly.

Nonverbal cues provide extra context and convey underlying feelings. By honing nonverbal awareness, couples can nurture more trusting, harmonious connections.

Digital Communication

Technology enables constant connectivity but can also undermine in-person interactions between couples. While digital communication offers convenience, it lacks the richness of face-to-face dialogue.

Here are tips for balancing technology use:

  • Schedule tech-free date nights to prioritize quality time.
  • Video chat when apart to pick up on nonverbal cues.
  • Call more often than texting about emotional matters.
  • Avoid text arguments that can escalate quickly without tone and facial cues.
  • Limit checking texts or social media when together.
  • Clarify ambiguity since texts lack context, which can breed misunderstanding.

For long-distance partners, communication requires extra intention:

  • Schedule regular virtual dates to stay connected.
  • Share photos and videos to feel involved in each other.
  • Make time for longer phone calls to go deeper than quick texts.
  • Be flexible about communicating during busy times.
  • Trust each other despite physical separation.

While technology enables constant access, ensure digital communication enhances rather than harms your connection. Prioritize spending quality time together unplugged.

Communication Styles

Individuals exhibit different communication styles depending on their default orientations:

  • Passive communicators avoid expressing their feelings/needs.
  • Aggressive communicators express feelings/needs in a confrontational way.
  • Assertive communicators advocate for themselves respectfully.

Awareness of one’s natural style provides insight into how you interact with your partner. Flexing to a more assertive style can help couples communicate in healthier ways.

PassiveConflict avoidance, deferring to others
AggressiveControlling disregards others’ needs
AssertiveClear, honest, open to compromise

Identifying communication styles helps partners understand each other’s instincts and motivations during discussions. With this knowledge, they can work to adopt more constructive approaches.

Written Communication

Writing letters, emails, texts, chat messages, and social media enables communication despite distance or time constraints. However, important contexts like body language and tone get lost electronically. And digital messages create more opportunities for misconstruing intent.

That’s why making time for in-person or phone conversations remains vital, even in long-distance relationships. Face-to-face dialogue builds understanding and emotional intimacy, which is essential for healthy partnerships.

Overall, identifying the types of communication between partners illuminates strengths to leverage and areas needing improvement. Through skill building, couples can communicate in more positive, productive ways.

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Listening Skills

Communication involves both expressing and receiving information. While speaking authentically matters, so does listening attentively. Active listening entails focusing entirely on the speaker, comprehending their message, and responding appropriately.

Listening intently to your partner without judgment demonstrates genuine interest in understanding their perspective. It also forges emotional connections essential for intimacy.

Here are tips for being an active listener:

Pay Attention

  • Maintain eye contact to show engagement.
  • Face your partner and lean in slightly to convey care.
  • Avoid distractions like phones to focus entirely.

Observe Nonverbals

  • Note facial expressions conveying emotion.
  • Interpret body language and gestures.
  • Mirror open postures to create empathy.

Allow Silence

  • Pause before responding to give space for reflection.
  • Tolerate silence without immediately filling it.
  • Allow your partner time to gather thoughts.

Summarize Content

  • Paraphrase the main points to confirm understanding.
  • Ask clarifying questions to fill knowledge gaps.
  • Restate your partner’s perspective without judgement.

Acknowledge Feelings

  • Identify and name your partner’s emotions.
  • Validate their feelings as legitimate, even if illogical.
  • Express care through words and body language.

By honing these skills, you’ll avoid common listening pitfalls like:


  • Judging prematurely
  • Thinking about counterarguments
  • Getting distracted

Instead, you’ll immerse yourself in understanding your partner’s inner world. This builds trust and compassion, which is vital for resolving conflicts through open communication.

Active listening encompasses:

  • Giving full attention
  • Keeping an open, non-judgmental attitude
  • Reading nonverbal cues
  • Clarifying content through reflection
  • Responding empathetically

Making yourself emotionally available to understand your partner without judgement can transform your relationship. Even when you disagree, listening generously first makes finding common ground easier.

Managing Conflict

Disagreements and arguments are inevitable in any relationship. While conflicts aren’t inherently bad, how couples manage them can bring partners closer together or push them further apart.

Productive conflict resolution requires openness, empathy and willingness to compromise from both people. Here are some tactics to help you navigate differences constructively:

Pick Your Battles

  • Decide which issues truly matter in the long run.
  • Let minor annoyances go to avoid excessive conflict.
  • Know when to take space to cool down.

Use "I" Statements

  • Use “I feel…” instead of “You did…”
  • Explain your perspective vs. attacking.
  • Take ownership of your emotions.

Actively Listen

  • Hear your partner out fully before responding.
  • Paraphrase their viewpoint to show understanding.
  • Ask follow-up questions for clarification.

Find Common Ground

  • Identify shared goals, needs or desires.
  • Look for compromises you both can accept.
  • Approach issues as partners vs. adversaries.

Apologize Sincerely

  • Own up to your role in the disagreement.
  • Express regret for any harmful words/actions.
  • Commit to avoiding hurtful behaviour.

When to Seek Help

While better communication can resolve many conflicts, some recurring arguments may require deeper interventions. Consider seeing a counsellor or therapist if you regularly experience:

  • Explosive fights over minor issues
  • The same arguments repackaged about different topics
  • One partner unwilling to compromise
  • Feeling unsafe or threatened

Addressing the emotional roots of unproductive conflicts through counselling empowers couples to discuss disagreements rationally and find win-win solutions.

With compassion, willingness to listen, and commitment to improvement, even the most significant conflicts can catalyze growth and strengthen intimacy. The key is maintaining sight that you and your partner are on the same team.

Fostering Intimacy

While sex represents physical intimacy, couples must nurture emotional intimacy to maintain a deep connection. Emotional intimacy involves building understanding, trust, and affection through ongoing self-disclosure and expressions of care.

Here are some tips to strengthen intimacy between partners:

Share Your Inner World

  • Discuss your goals, fears, dreams, and aspirations.
  • Be open about your needs and desires.
  • Ask your partner questions to understand their inner world.

Express Appreciation

  • Share specific things you admire or feel grateful for.
  • Celebrate your partner’s wins and achievements.
  • Send unexpected notes of love and encouragement.

Engage in Shared Activities

  • Find hobbies you enjoy together.
  • Participate in new experiences as a couple.
  • Plan regular date nights or weekends away.

Be Affectionate

  • Greet your partner with a hug and kiss daily.
  • Hold hands, sit close together, and make eye contact.
  • Initiate non-sexual physical touch like massages.

Support Each Other

  • Offer comfort when your partner is upset.
  • Help with tasks when they’re stressed or struggling.
  • Celebrate growth and provide reassurance.

Active listening and honest self-expression build the foundation for intimacy to thrive. Partners can nurture an unshakeable emotional bond by choosing vulnerability and extending compassion daily.

Prioritizing intimacy brings individual fulfillment and equips couples to weather external challenges in healthier ways. The strength of your connection emerges from consistent care for each other’s minds, hearts and souls.

Improving Relationship Communication

Strengthening communication requires ongoing effort, but the rewards make it worthwhile. Here are some strategies to improve communication between couples:

Schedule Weekly Check-ins

  • Dedicate 30-60 minutes to connect without distractions.
  • Discuss recent challenges and victories.
  • Practice using healthy communication tools together.

Set Communication Guidelines

  • Discuss your different needs and pet peeves.
  • Establish expectations for frequency/timing of communication.
  • Agree on boundaries around technology use.

Role Play Scenarios

  • Take turns expressing different emotions/needs and actively listening.
  • Constructively work through hypothetical conflicts.
  • Give each other feedback on what worked or felt difficult.

Read Relationship Books

  • Identify books to read individually and discuss together.
  • Consider relationship workshops or online courses.
  • Reinforce learning new communication techniques.

Seek Counselling

  • Address recurring conflicts with a therapist’s guidance.
  • Gain tools to engage in difficult conversations.
  • Learn each other’s communication styles.

Appreciate Differences

  • Discuss differences in your communication styles and needs.
  • Consider differences as strengths rather than flaws.
  • Respect each other’s unique ways of sharing and receiving information.

Here are examples of asking for what you need using “I” statements:

  • “I feel overwhelmed. I need help with the children this evening.”
  • “I feel unimportant when you forget our plans. I need you to put our dates in your calendar.”
  • “I feel scared to share my dreams. I need reassurance you won’t judge me.”

Remember, improving communication takes time. Focus on small positive shifts versus perfection. With consistent effort, empathy and commitment to growth, couples can transform their connections through better understanding.


Communication serves as the foundation for healthy, fulfilling relationships. While talking openly requires courage and skill, it enables couples to express their inner worlds, understand each other deeply, and navigate conflict productively.

We hope this guide provided useful techniques to strengthen communication in your relationship. Keep practicing empathy, vulnerability and active listening. Over time, these skills will help you forge an unbreakable emotional bond with your partner.

Our licensed counsellors offer customized couples therapy if you need additional support in improving your relationship’s communication. With offices in British Columbia and Ontario, we provide judgment-free guidance for partners seeking to understand each other better. Book a free intake call to explore our individual and relationship therapy options focused on compassionate communication.

The time and intention you invest in each other through open communication will help your love flourish for years. You’ve got this!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • Give your full attention when your partner is speaking - avoid distractions.
  • Maintain eye contact and open body language to show engagement.
  • Paraphrase what you heard to confirm your understanding.
  • Ask thoughtful follow-up questions to learn more.
  • Validate their feelings and perspectives without judgement.
  • Aggressive: Raising your voice, using insults, refusing to compromise.
  • Assertive: Using "I" statements, a respectful tone, and willingness to find solutions.
  • Assumptions instead of seeking clarification.
  • Focusing on being right rather than understanding.
  • Letting resentment build instead of discussing issues.
  • Ineffective listening habits like interrupting.
  • Set aside uninterrupted time to talk in a private space.
  • Explain your goal is mutual understanding, not conflict.
  • Use "I" statements to share your perspective vulnerably.
  • Ask how they feel and listen without judgement.
  • Look for win-win compromises.
  • Taking turns sharing your highs/lows from the day
  • Discussing your different love languages
  • Reading a relationship book together
  • Writing letters of appreciation
  • Scheduling weekly check-ins without technology

If you need support strengthening your relationship communication, our counsellors can help. Book a free call to get started.

Picture of Pareen Sehat MC, RCC

Pareen Sehat MC, RCC

Pareen’s career began in Behaviour Therapy, this is where she developed a passion for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approaches. Following a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Psychology she pursued a Master of Counselling. Pareen is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. She specializes in CBT and Lifespan Integrations approaches to anxiety and trauma. She has been published on major online publications such as - Yahoo, MSN, AskMen, PsychCentral, Best Life Online, and more.

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