The Importance Of Communication In A Relationship

Updated November 22, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Communication is typically key for the development and maintenance of any relationship, and this is especially true for romantic relationships. Since we can’t read minds, communication is the only way to know what another person is thinking or feeling. Without it, trust, conflict resolution, and other important elements of a connection become difficult or even impossible. For those who are looking to improve their own communication skills or the communication dynamic in their relationship, there are several helpful strategies to try.

Why Communication In A Relationship Is Important

Communication is important because of its potential to positively impact a relationship. The reverse is also true: poor or nonexistent communication can have significant negative effects on a dynamic. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits you can reap when communication in your relationship is strong.

Boost Your Communication Skills For A Healthier Relationship

It Can Help Reduce Conflict Or Resolve It More Quickly

If something is bothering your partner but you don’t know what it is, your chances of being able to resolve it are slim to none. Plus, the longer they stew in their upset feelings without telling them or without them getting resolved, the more likely resentment is to build. If speaking openly and honestly about your feelings as they arise is the norm in your relationship, you’re likely to be able to resolve conflicts more quickly and avoid these negative outcomes. 

It Can Help You Know Your Partner On A Deeper Level

Even if you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, a lack of communication can lead to misinterpreting behaviors. If you’re frequently telling your thoughts and feelings and working through conflict together, you may be able to gain a better understanding over time of who your partner truly is and what motivates them. You can learn more about how their mind works, what their needs and priorities are, and what they like or dislike. Without this insight into their inner workings, you might attribute their actions to a motivation or characteristic that isn’t actually true. This can lead to misunderstandings and frustration, and it may mean you simply don’t know your partner on as deep a level as you might if you were used to talking openly with each other.

It Can Help You Build Trust

Working through challenges together through honest communication can be difficult, but beneficial. The more you and your partner are able to do this successfully, the more trust you’ll build in each other. You may realize that they’re there for you—an equal partner in facing whatever life may throw at you. You may also be more likely to look at a problem as something to tackle together rather than something that comes between you.

It Can Benefit Long-Distance Relationships

Couples in certain circumstances might find that communication is even more important for maintaining a positive dynamic, such as those in long-distance relationships. Without it, those who live in different places can start to feel distant and disconnected over time. That’s why it may benefit long-distance couples to set parameters about how and when they’ll set aside time to connect with each other. Science supports that being intentional about this practice can benefit the relationship overall. One study showed that couples who maintain good communication in a long-distance relationship can find that relationship satisfying, at least in the short term.

How To Better Communicate With Your Partner

Improving the communication in your relationship usually takes time and effort. Everyone enters a relationship with a different level of communication skill, and many have different views of what good communication looks like or what they need from their partner to be satisfied in this area. One size does not fit all; that said, there are a few strategies you can try to bolster the communication with your partner and connect with them more easily. 

Learn Each Other’s Love Languages

The love languages framework was popularized by Gary Chapman in his 1992 book, The Five Love Languages. It posits that there are five main languages, or methods, in which people prefer to give and receive love. They are: physical touch, words of affirmation, gift giving, acts of service, and quality time. Learning your partner’s primary love language and then prioritizing showing them affection in that way can be powerful. For example, if theirs is words of affirmation, writing them a note saying what you appreciate about them or sending them a text with words of encouragement might be good ways to show them love. 

Giving affection in a way someone prefers to receive it can help them feel seen, cared for, and appreciated, and it can help build the trust that strong verbal communication is usually based on. Plus, a recent study found that couples who show affection in their partner’s main love language report higher relationship satisfaction.

Get To Know Each Other’s Communication Styles

A person’s communication style can encompass a few different elements. First, there’s the preferred communication medium. Thanks to technology, there are lots of different methods couples can use to communicate today. Finding one or some that work for both of you can make communication flow more easily. For example, if one of you has a busy job, texting throughout the day might not be an option. Or, if someone feels more comfortable getting their thoughts down on paper before a big discussion of some kind, they may prefer to email their main points ahead of the talk. Knowing and being understanding of these preferences may improve the communication dynamic overall.

Another component of someone’s communication style relates to their logical and emotional processes. For example, if the conversation is significant and serious, some people may need to hear what their partner has to say and then take time to process it and organize their thoughts before providing a reply. Others might do better processing what they think about something out loud and in real time. Another example is that some people might shut down when voices are raised, meaning both partners would have to prioritize remaining calm and taking breaks if emotions start to run high. The more you communicate with your partner, the more of these elements you may be able to pick up. Having an open conversation about what they need or prefer in regards to these communication elements can be effective, too. 

Build Strong Listening Skills

Communication isn’t only about how we express ourselves to another person. Listening is the crucial other half of this process that needs equal attention in order for strong communication to exist. Active listening is one popular style. Its aim is to make sure the listener fully internalizes the speaker’s message, and that the speaker feels truly heard. According to the International Journal of Listening, active listening has three components:

  1. Showing nonverbal involvement. This usually takes the form of physical cues like head nods, eye contact, and open body language. These can help show your partner that you’re engaged in the conversation. 

  2. Refraining from judgment. This component can be difficult when strong emotions are involved, but aiming to withhold judgment until your partner has finished speaking and you can process their true message may be useful to you both. It may help you remain in the moment during the conversation without being distracted by the impulse to formulate a response immediately, which can help you let them say what they need to say while you fully absorb it.

  3. Asking questions. When it’s appropriate to do so, asking your partner clarification questions can help you better understand their points. It also shows that you’re interested and invested in fully grasping what they have to say.

Investing in becoming a more active listener can be worthwhile for your relationship. According to the United States Institute of Peace, active listening can improve mutual understanding between people, which is typically important for trust and a close bond.

Consider Therapy

Communicating—especially in the context of a romantic relationship—can be difficult, particularly if you didn’t have healthy communication patterns modeled for you growing up. Sometimes, enlisting the help of a therapist to mediate and coach you and your partner as you work to develop better communication can be helpful. They can act as a neutral observer and identify patterns that may need to be corrected for clearer communication, and they can help you both develop the necessary skills. If you choose to seek therapy as an individual, a mental health professional may also be able to dig into your personal style and relationship with communication in order to improve it where needed. 

Whether you seek the guidance of a counselor on your own, together with your partner, or both, you might consider the option of virtual therapy. Studies suggest that online therapy is efficacious and equivalent to in-person treatment, and some find the virtual format to be more comfortable and accessible. An online therapy platform like BetterHelp can match you with a licensed therapist who you can speak with via phone, video call, and/or chat to improve your communication skills or handle other challenges you may be facing in your relationship or your life. 

Takeaway

When you and your partner are intentional about communicating effectively, your relationship will likely benefit. While strong communication skills generally aren’t built overnight, having patience and committing to improving them can benefit the wellbeing of you and your partner and the health of your dynamic. 

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