Man and women talking as an example of how to communicate in a relationship

How to Communicate in a Relationship in Healthy Ways

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by eharmony Editorial Team - November 22, 2023
This article has been reviewed by Laurel House, an eharmony relationship expert. The content has been checked for accuracy and legitimacy based on the qualifications of our expert prior to publication.Reviewed by Relationship expert Laurel House

Communication is a vital part of any functioning, healthy relationship, yet it’s still something many couples struggle with. This is because there are many moving parts to good communication. Perhaps you have good models for how to communicate your needs in a relationship but you may sometimes struggle to get the message across on other aspects.

Let’s explore how to communicate in a relationship effectively and openly, different ways of going about it and how to be considerate of your partner.   

The different aspects of communication

It sounds too simple, but it’s all about talking. Communication in a relationship is just a pathway to understanding that person, gradually building up trust and strengthening your bond. But how to communicate in a relationship is significantly different from how you talk to friends or family due to the complexity of romantic attachments. It’s not just talking about your day but also being vulnerable and being willing to open up.

There are three important core areas.

How to communicate your needs in a relationship

Sometimes you need something different to what has become the norm in your relationship, but don’t communicate that for fear of causing conflict. Expressing your needs can be seen as a disruption to your routine.

How to improve your listening skills

Sometimes your partner is trying to tell you something important, and you may be listening but not hearing them. This can happen in more long-term relationships where daily communication can fall into a rut.

How to communicate in a relationship can be fixed

When a core conflict isn’t been resolved it can lead to a critical breakdown in communication and widening your growing rift. Couples can even start to live essentially separate lives. How to fix communication in a relationship can be tough, and requires love and patience.

Now let’s take a more in-depth look at these three key areas of communication and how to improve them.

How to communicate in a relationship: Expressing needs

Needs are different to something you want and if unfulfilled can feel like a void in your relationship. You need to trust your partner and hope the branch that holds you two up has some flexibility and won’t snap as soon as you express new needs.

Expressing your emotions

It’s vital to understand each other’s emotional temperature so you can be empathetic and build intimacy and trust. Be open and receptive when they express emotion. Sometimes this comes out in times of conflict so it’s important to avoid blaming critical language. A good relationship is when both parties feel heard and find a constructive path forward.

Ways for how to communicate your needs in relationships as well as boundaries

Effective expression of needs and boundaries is vital to a solid partnership. But how to communicate in a relationship can require nuance.

You must put your needs and boundaries first, particularly in a new relationship before a pattern can be formed. Be kind but direct and assertive. Can they handle it? If not, it’s a bad sign your relationship may not last.

How to communicate in a relationship: Improving listening skills

It seems obvious but one of the key factors in communication is listening and hearing your partner. Tuning your partner out at times can severely damage your relationship.

Active listening

Active listening is about trying to understand the emotions and signals beneath their words. Because often that’s what they’re really trying to tell you.

But it’s also important to show them you’re listening, particularly if you’re figuring out how to fix communication in a relationship. Don’t judge what they’re saying but rather try to give constructive and appropriate feedback.

Non-verbal communication

How to communicate in a relationship also involves the things we don’t say. What’s your body language when your partner communicates with you? Do you seem impatient or distracted? That tells them you aren’t receptive.

Look for signals that your partner is trying to tell you something. This can include slightly furrowed brows and reduced physical contact. Make sure your facial expressions are compatible with what they’re saying.

However, these behaviors and signals differ between relationships, which is why it’s so important to get a better understanding of yours through communication.

How to deal with mixed signals

Having to deal with mixed signals is also an aspect of communication in a relationship. We look at an 8-step process to deal with this and how to deal with mixed signals from a man or a woman.

How to fix communication in a relationship

When healthy communication breaks down and all you ever have are surface conversations, it doesn’t bode well for your future. How to fix communication in a relationship can take some work and it depends on your individual dynamic, but the important thing is consistency and empathy. Here are two areas that you can tailor to your relationship. 

Conflict resolution

Arguments and conflict can be a tough but they’re also an opportunity to grow closer. When we’re agitated, we tend to be more honest with our emotions, according to a study by Loyola University1.

Resolving conflict healthily and constructively can help you break through emotional barriers. First, try to find common ground so you can agree on what exactly the issue is. Then look for practical solutions to your conflict and try to reach a compromise that feels mutually respectful. 

Managing communication breakdowns

It can be difficult to figure out how to communicate in a relationship when it feels like the basic structures of your everyday interactions have collapsed.

This could look like stonewalling you, being consistently defensive or showing a lack of empathy for your problems. It’s a difficult hurdle to overcome but if you’re both still invested enough in building a life together, you can explore some techniques to start rebuilding that bond.

  • Have the tough talk if it’s something important that needs to be vented
  • Take cooldowns when tensions rise too high
  • Try to use more ‘I’ statements that deal more with your feelings than placing blame
  • Consider professional couples counselling

If you work together and rebuild the lines of trust and communication, you will eventually see results.

Improving your communication skills throughout your relationship

Let’s look at some simple steps to better understand how to communicate your needs in a relationship.

  • Check in with your partner often and see where their emotions are at
  • Establish boundaries and your needs early in the relationship so you don’t fall into an unhealthy pattern
  • Ensure you both put time aside for intimacy, like a date night or an activity you both enjoy
  • While it’s important to still be yourself, try also acting as a team with shared goals
  • Be more open. Tell them when you’ve had a bad day, or the things that frustrate you.
  • Avoid being judgmental when they open up to you. They’re being vulnerable so be there for them
  • Be receptive in your body language and listen when your partner communicates with you
  • Avoid blame and focus more on comments that relate to how their behavior makes you feel
  • Address problems early before they cause resentment, pent-up anger and a communication breakdown

But the best tools you can have to build a happy, lasting relationship together are simply understanding and empathy.

Remember how to communicate in a relationship is a two-way process

A huge amount of the love and intimacy in any relationship is the result of just talking. But talking about your dreams, your needs, your passions, what brings you down, what you love about them, what you sometimes hate about them and the vast spectrum in between is how you truly learn to deepen your bond. If you think this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with then why not discover everything about what makes them so special?

At eharmony, we aim to match you with people who will understand your communication style be able to reciprocate. That’s what compatibility is all about. So join free today and find someone on your wavelength.

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