How to Communicate in a Relationship

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By Diane Cerven, LPCC                                                                            


Photo of an older couple in a kitchen.

Communicating in marriage and relationships can be one of the most difficult things to do. This is because more feelings are involved, and more is at stake as far as the quality of our lives are concerned.

In many ways communication can be like making a recipe. Let me tell you the ingredients that are needed and then we’ll learn how to put them together. This will help improve communication between you and your spouse.

Recipe for communication skills:

  • Be a good listener.
  • Put aside judgements of how your spouse felt.
  • Don’t find the hidden meaning in what they are saying.
  • Don’t take offense.
  • Ask questions.
  • Be curious about their world; what they felt, saw, understood, and thought about an event.
  • Reflect on what you heard them say.
  • Empathize with them, (which does not mean you agree.)
  • Let them talk about their side before you share your side.
  • Use ‘I statements’ when it’s your turn to speak.
  • Don’t criticize them, name call, tell them what is wrong with them, label them, or accuse them.
  • Be gracious, give them the benefit of the doubt.
  • Remember they’re your loved one, not your enemy.
  • Speak with kindness, patience, and love.
  • When it’s your time to speak, have the goal that you want to be heard and understood.
  • Have the right tone of voice; calm and soft.
  • When overwhelmed take a ‘time out’ to self-sooth during the conversation. Don’t let your emotions take control.
Photo of bags of spices.


Now that you have the ingredients let’s start looking at them deeper, beginning with listening.

Listening can be one of the hardest parts of communication. Sitting patiently, hearing what our spouse has to say, understanding their point of view, and not becoming offended can be hard. However, it’s the most important if you want to figure out what they’re upset about. This is where having the right goal for your conversation will help.

Bad goals include:

  • Wanting to be heard. Remember, you’re the listener at this point. You’ll get your chance to speak during your turn, but first you need to know what they’re upset about. Put your side to the side while it’s time for you to listen.
  • Assuming you know what they’re going to say. Even if your assumption was correct, you should still be listening to them.
  • Finding fault in their recollection of the events and then arguing about what happened 1st ,2nd, 3rd, etc…. I call this arguing the facts.

Good goals:

  • Understanding your spouse. What is it they felt, thought, understood, even misunderstood about what was said and done.
  • Getting into their world. This is the “walk a mile in their shoes” metaphor at work.
  • Allowing them to be heard. We all want to be heard, now it’s their turn.
  • Breaking thru a problem, even if it’s just for understanding. Communicating and feeling heard are so important in keeping a relationship connected.

Now that you have a good goal(s) remind yourself of it before you start a conversation. Perhaps write the goal in the notes of your phone. Keep a post-it note someplace visible as a reminder to yourself until it becomes a part of who you are and how you communicate. Learning skills are great but putting them into practice can be hard. That’s when reminders can be helpful. After a while you won’t need them but until then it’ll help you get better.

Join us next time as we talk more about communicating with your spouse.

What’s the Next Step?

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If your marriage has big communication issues, then you may need more help. We’re here for you. I offer marriage counseling online. To schedule a counseling appointment, call us at 218-366-9229 (Park Rapids) or 218-444-2233 (Bemidji).  For those interested, I also offer Christian counseling online.  Please let reception staff (and me) know that you are interested in Christian counseling.  Please check out our staff bios here.


Diane Cerven, LPCC

Want to read past posts on distraction skills, follow them here:

How to Calm Yourself

20 Minute Distraction to Calm Yourself

How to Decrease Emotional Pain with Distraction Skills

How to Decrease Your Emotions Using Distraction

 Reframing Valentine’s Day
Ways to Communicate in Marriage – Step 1

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