Effective Communication Tips for a More Intimate Relationship
by Rolf Schrader and Stephanie Wise – Counselling, Vancouver, BC
Valentine’s Day is one day of the year that we are all aware of romance. Symbols of hearts, doves and cupid decorate the social landscape amplifying the pressure to express our feelings to our partner. And although romantic dinners, chocolates and roses are important they don’t make a lasting impact on our relationship without one key ingredient: intimacy.
Intimacy is a critical component to a successful relationship. People often hear the word intimacy and think exclusively of sex. Although intimacy is a form of sexual closeness between partners, it encompasses both the physical and an emotional connection. Maintaining physical intimacy as a couple is extremely difficult without emotional intimacy.
So how can you ramp up your intimacy this Valentine’s Day? The key is effective communication.
Effective Communication: The Spark to Ignite Intimacy
It may not sound as stimulating as a romantic dinner for two but effective communication can go a long way to creating lasting intimacy. This expression of love does not carry a price tag but provides a gift that reverberates through your relationship long after this symbolic day has faded. I’m not saying abandon your plans for the chocolate and roses – just add a dose of effective communication and watch your intimacy blossom.
Poor Communication: Why Most Relationships Fail
Most relationships fail when people talk past each other, rather than to each other. It is almost impossible to share a life with someone with whom you can’t communicate. How can you and your partner meet each other’s needs if you don’t really know each other? How can you know what those needs are if you can’t hear what is being said?
So what can you do to really hear each other and ensure that your thoughts, feeling and needs are recognized?
Make Communication Possible: Laying the Groundwork
It’s hard to listen when there is too much noise. Start by creating an environment that is conducive to listening and sharing.
Reduce and Manage Life’s Overwhelm
Life can be overwhelming and we can often lose sight of each other in the chaos. Check in with your partner on a regular basis. Share what is transpiring in your life and communicate concerns or stresses.
Also, don’t feel the pressure of having to “fix” the problems or issues your partner is presenting but be present and compassionate. Often times, simply listening can alleviate their stress even if the issue remains unresolved.
If It Is Important, Talk About It..
We are not doing our partner any favors by hiding problems from them. Part of a relationship is having someone to share with life’s aggravation, joy, sadness, etc. By sharing our problems and concerns with our partner we show them that we need and trust their support.
Be Respectful To Each Other
Show respect to your partner by giving them enough time to express their needs, feelings and desires. Make sure you set a time free of distractions—without the television, cell phone, or children present to interfere with the discussion.
Listen to What Your Partner Has to Say
Listening is a skill that must be developed. It sounds simple but in actual fact we tend to listen with only half our brain, while we are simultaneously planning our response (or, perhaps, we aren’t listening at all ). Also, often times what we hear is what we want to hear. If this is the pattern in your relationship, there is no communication and, surely, no intimacy. An important aspect of any deep connection is listening to and responding to what is actually being said, not what we think the other person means.
Find out how well you listen. Try this simple listening skills exercise:
When your partner says something to you, repeat back to them what you think they’ve said to you.
Then, ask your partner to evaluate what you have repeated. Do they feel that your heard what they said? You may be surprised by what they tell you.
There is nothing more frustrating than having your feelings and thoughts being falsely interpreted. Fortunately, there are listening skills we can develop to ensure that we can actually “hear” what’s being said, ensuring that we “understand” our partner’s feelings and that we “see” what he/she is saying?
SIX STEPS of Effective Listening
Practice these six steps to develop your effective listening skills.
Step 1: Maintain eye contact
It may sound simple but when your partner is speaking to you, be sure to look them directly in the eye.
- Eye contact is considered a basic ingredient of effective communication
- The desire for better communication pulls you together
- Consider a courtesy of turning to face them
- Look at them, even if they don’t look at you
Step 2: Be attentive, present
It is impossible to effectively listen to your partner when your mind wanders. Most importantly, not paying attention to someone when they are talking is very hurtful as it tells them they are not your priority.
- Apply or direct yourself, screen out distraction, your thoughts, feelings, or biases
- Pay attention, listen to the words
- Don’t be planning what to say
- Remain ready to serve
Step 3: Keep an open mind
Give your partner the benefit of the doubt when they are expressing themselves.
- Listen without judging
- Listen without jumping to conclusions
- Reframe from interrupting
- Don’t be a sentence-grabber
Step 4: Ask clarifying questions
Don’t jump to conclusions or assume you know all of the facts.
- Wait for speaker to pause
- Ask questions only to ensure understanding
- Reframe from suggestion solutions
Step 5: Empathy building
Empathy is one of the most important aspects of effective communication and ultimately increased intimacy. It suggests to your partner that you really understand and care.
- Pay attention to what isn’t being said
- Put yourself in the other person’s place, feel what it is like to be him/her at that moment
- If speaker’s feelings are hidden or unclear, then occasionally paraphrase the content of the message
Step 6: Give regular feedback
Feedback creates a two-way dialogue that engages both individuals in a partnership.
- Reflect feelings
- Always restate instructions and messages to be sure you understand correctly
- Apologize with sincerity when it is appropriate to do so
Closure is an important to effective communication. This confirms that both partners are satisfied with the communication. At the end of every conversation, conclude with a summary statement.
Now for the Romantic Dinner
By practicing these skills we will not only increase your own listening skills but chances are you will also feel heard, understood and appreciated in return. So make a lasting impact on your relationship this Valentine’s Day. Plan the romantic dinner for two but be sure to give your partner the gift of effective communication. Practice the skills regularly and you will experience increased intimacy and a more fulfilling relationship throughout this Valentine’s Day and beyond.
Happy Valentine’s Day!