Healthy Communication 101: How To Keep Conversations Flowing With Your Partner
During the first weeks and months of a relationship, your days might be filled with hours-long conversations and late-night phone calls. As the relationship develops, you feel like you simply can’t wait to talk with your new partner, and you eagerly look forward to every opportunity to see them.
Many people refer to these feelings of excitement and euphoria as the “honeymoon phase.” In these early days, your laughter, lust, and attraction are at their peak. While these emotions can last months and even years, the feelings can simmer to a lower intensity – and sometimes, it can feel difficult to communicate the love and appreciation you had for each other in the beginning.
If you’re looking for ways to revitalize your connection and improve your communication, know that you’re not alone. Many romantic partners navigate the post-honeymoon phase with success – and they ultimately emerge as healthier communicators and more confident conversationalists.
We’ll walk you through the primary communication challenges that romantic partners face, followed by strategies to bring back the excitement to your daily conversations.
Common Communication Challenges In Relationships
Before offering some of our favorite conversation-starters, it’s crucial to emphasize that most, if not all people in relationships face challenges with communication: whether these relationships are platonic, romantic, or familial. With a bit of patience and knowledge about the science of communication, it’s often possible to talk your way around these barriers and enter a new, deeper stage of your relationship.
In a romantic partnership, you may have experienced some (or all!) of the following barriers, which can lead to communication woes over time:
Control: If you’re more concerned about getting your way than compromising with your partner, you may set yourself up for a struggle for power and control.
Fear of judgment: It’s difficult to discuss what actually happened if you’re worried about your partner judging your experiences or decisions.
Silence: It’s okay to request quiet space and time away from your partner. However, some people may use silence to avoid discussing a risky topic, or invoke the silent treatment to “punish” a partner for something they did or said.
Loss of trust: If you catch your partner in a lie, it can foster distrust and a fear of dishonesty, which is often heightened by external stressors.
Lack of time: Healthy communication takes time and intention – and sometimes, busy schedules or unexpected events get in the way. If you don’t schedule quality time to check in about your days, feelings, and any concerns, you may struggle to maintain an open line of communication with your partner.
Remember: this is just a handful of possible barriers. Every relationship is unique, and many relationships undergo periods when effective communication may seem more challenging or even unattainable.
How To Improve Communication In Your Relationship
According to relationship experts, healthy communication with your partner is attainable: it just takes time, patience, and a willingness to listen.
Clear dialogue is essential, but equally important is paying attention and listening to your partner as they speak. The goal is to listen to understand, rather than listen to respond. While active listening takes practice and effort, consider it a long-term investment in a healthy, mutually rewarding relationship.
Active listening and emotional validation are foundational aspects of a healthy connection. From there, use the following tips to keep the conversations flowing with your partner, far beyond the honeymoon phase.
5 Tips For Better Conversations With Your Partner
1. Show An Active Interest In Their Passions And Hobbies
From the beginning, many romantic partners connect over a common hobby, activity, or even an appreciation for the same food. Of course, you probably have your own hobbies and work toward some separate goals. As long as you prioritize quality time with each other, this is 100% fine and healthy.
If there’s a hobby you don’t tell but would like to try, ask your partner if you can participate in one of their favorite activities with them. By joining in on the fun, you show that you’re interested in your partner’s niche interests; and you also show that you’re willing to learn and grow alongside them.
If your partner has a passion for plays, for example, but you have limited knowledge of the theatre world, attend a show with them! Ask your partner if there are particular activities they’d like you to attend with them, and remember to also ask for what you need: maybe you want your partner to watch one of your soccer games, or show up in another capacity to support your passions.
By taking an interest in each other as people, not just romantic partners, you’ll deepen your connection and understanding of each other.
2. Ask Open-Ended Questions
If you’re drawn toward questions with simple “yes” or “no” answers, consider switching up your question-asking strategy. This goes for conversations with both romantic and platonic partners, and can help the conversation flow toward unexpected but stimulating topics.
For example: instead of asking “Do you like going to the beach?”, you might instead ask “What do you like (or not like) about the beach?” Notice that the second question prompts the answerer to reflect on and explain their reasoning, rather than limiting them to a one-word response.
3. Check In About Your Communication Preferences
Unsure how your partner prefers to communicate, or concerned that their preferences have changed since the beginning of your relationship?
Just ask them! By regularly checking in about your communication preferences, you’ll be prepared with responses and strategies for emotionally difficult or stressful conversations. To develop a deeper understanding of each other’s preferences, consider asking some of the following questions:
How do you feel appreciated and acknowledged (and how can I make you feel more appreciated)?
How do you feel we communicate during stressful times, and what would you change about the way we communicate?
When we disagree or argue about something, what do you need most from me?
Is there anything you’d like me to communicate or do more on a daily basis?
Because communication is both verbal and nonverbal, it never completely stops – even if you’re sitting in silence with each other. In these moments, a list of predetermined questions (like the one above) can jumpstart meaningful conversations and prepare you for future ones.
4. Talk About What You Want, Need, And Feel
While it’s essential to listen to and honor your partner’s needs, it’s equally important to confer your own. Using ‘I’ statements, such as “I need,” “I want,” and “I feel,” reminds us to focus on our emotions first, take responsibility for our thoughts and actions, and prevents us from immediately blaming our partner for a situation.
If you’re concerned about sticking to your ‘I’ statements, consider writing them down before conferring with a partner. Adjusting to this “me-first” language can take some time, but it’s a helpful and reliable framework for any conversation. Practice using ‘I’ statements in daily conversations as well as emotional discussions or arguments, when the impulse to blame might be stronger.
5. Seek Guidance From A Mental Health Professional
At times, it might feel like it’s just you and your partner against the world. But with these strategies and a clearly expressed commitment to each other, you’re more prepared for the expected challenges of a long-term relationship, as well as unexpected bumps along the way.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you need to work on your communication alone. For many romantic partners, the outside perspective of a therapist is essential for a healthy and sustainable relationship. Many therapists specialize in working with couples, married partners, and families, and a growing number of these professionals now offer their services online.
Online therapy can be an effective and accessible option for many patients, whether they’d like to engage in sessions with their partner or separately. Particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic, many researchers have studied the effectiveness and rising popularity of digital therapy, and current studies are promising. Notably, one study found that digital mental health services might offer a physical distance that makes it easier for couples to discuss more sensitive topics. In this study, couples were more likely to address emotionally challenging topics via online therapy, when compared to couples in an in-person therapeutic setting.
In addition to offering a healthy degree of emotional distance and support, online therapy is often easier to schedule and more affordable. Online platforms like BetterHelp feature thousands of counselors who can work with patients individually or with their partner(s). Below are real reviews of BetterHelp counselors who have helped clients with communication in their relationships.
BetterHelp Counselor Reviews
“Erin really helps me set goals for communication, and it’s really crazy how much it’s improved the communication in my marriage. She also asks me every week what I’d like to work on, so it’s just really great to be able to decide and then to put it into action. Without her, I wouldn’t even know where to start.”
“Mark is an amazing therapist. He listens so well and has such valuable insight on male and female perspectives and issues while also not passing judgment. I have only just begun, but he has already given me so many great takeaways to improve my relationships and situations. I am filled with gratitude, and I would highly recommend him to anyone!!”
In many relationships, communication is a primary concern. When partners commit to growing, learning, and improving together, healthy communication can become one of the most rewarding aspects of your relationship.
A therapist can help you along the way and hold you accountable in both your individual and relationship goals. With a counselor’s guidance, you can continue to enjoy the deep, meaningful, and exciting conversations that sparked the initial connection with your partner.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you start a conversation with your boyfriend over text?
Starting a conversation over text can be more difficult than starting one in person. However, text messages are an important way to communicate in modern relationships, especially if you’re in a long-distance relationship. If you want to start a text conversation with your boyfriend or partner but aren’t sure how to begin, here are a few fun prompts to ignite your text notifications:
Plan your next date together
Let them know that you came across something that reminded you of them
Tell him about your day
When asking about their day, use open-ended questions to keep the conversation rolling
Build anticipation and excitement by teasing them with a story and letting them know that you’ll discuss it the next day
Show fun photos and GIFs: remember, not all communication is verbal!
How do I start a deep conversation with my boyfriend?
As you get to know and trust your boyfriend or partner, you’re more likely to initiate deep discussions about emotional or sensitive topics. But if you’re in a new relationship, these conversations can be daunting. You might worry that your partner won’t show interest in the discussion or disagree with your opinion on a certain position.
First, recognize that while you might crave these deep, meaningful conversations, small talk is often the first step! Some experts recommend reframing small talk as an essential “ingredient” for meatier discussions. By talking about lower-stakes topics first, you develop the rapport and trust you need to deep-dive into more complex conversations.
Whether you’re engaging in small talk or inching toward a big conversation, try asking open-ended, interview-style questions, almost in the style of a journalist. Bring up topics that are important to you, but also pay attention to your partner’s stated interests and body language. If a topic seems to bring up more intense emotions for your partner, gently ask them how that topic makes them feel.
Remember that conversations can take unexpected paths: if you listen attentively and ask thoughtful questions, you may go from chatting about the weather to an enriching conversation about politics, your biggest dreams, and the best breakfast sandwich in your city. It takes time to get to know someone, and to slowly unravel each other’s interests, quirks, and stories – so enjoy the process and remain open to detours!
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