So you feel like you and your spouse could learn how to communicate better.

You’re not alone. Communication is one of the biggest challenges in any relationship, but it’s essential to have open communication if you want your relationship to thrive.

Communicating effectively with your spouse is especially difficult when you’re frustrated, but even simply sharing your ideas or feelings can be difficult at any time.

When we don’t communicate with our partner, it often leads to misunderstanding and resentment.

Learning how to communicate better in a relationship is key to having a happy and healthy partnership. In this article, we’ll share actionable steps on how to improve communication with your spouse today.

How to communicate better with your spouse

how to communicate better with your spouse

Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard a father of the bride speech offering this sound advice, “Communicate, communicate, communicate.”

It’s great advice but doesn’t give any guidance, and communication must be learned and takes practice. If it was easy, we’d have fewer problems in the world. Learning how to communicate better with your partner is essential to any successful relationship.

Some of us are lucky to have great role models who showed us what effective communication looks like. But even so, we can all use some tips to help us practice and improve our skills.

In this article, we’ll explore why communication is so important in relationships and offer practical tips for creating meaningful conversations with your partner.

We’ll also discuss effective strategies such as scheduling communication, checking in throughout the day, how to fight often and fair, and even how watching movies together can cut divorce rates in half.

By using these science and psychology-backed strategies, couples will learn how to communicate better in their relationships and improve their trust, intimacy, and conflict resolution.

Why Is Communication in Relationships Important?

The most important ingredient in any relationship is communication.

Simply put, effective communication is successfully sharing your ideas and feelings. When couples can communicate effectively, they can express their wants and needs more easily and work together to solve problems that arise.

What happens when couples don’t communicate? When couples don’t communicate, it can lead to a lack of understanding, isolation, and resentment which can eventually cause the relationship to break down.

To borrow a line from Dane Cook, without communication, your relationship becomes a relationshit.

Here are three reasons why communication with your partner or spouse is essential.

1. Conflict is inevitable

It’s almost impossible to completely avoid conflict because no matter how compatible you and your partner are, you aren’t exactly the same. And that’s a good thing! What’s the fun of dating someone exactly like yourself?

The key is learning how to manage conflict when it arises in a healthy and constructive way. When couples don’t communicate, they become stuck in a cycle of unresolved issues and misunderstanding which snowballs into more issues down the line.

It’s also important to know that some conflicts may never go away. Discussing money, where to live, and how to spend your time may be a never-ending argument that has no resolution.

You can and should still talk about it together, just know that there’s no answer because it’s a tricky question.

2. Trust is the foundation

Knowing and discussing your partner’s thoughts and feelings improves trust, which is the foundation of your relationship.

When couples are able to communicate with each other openly and honestly, they’re more likely to build a sense of trust and security within the relationship. Studies show this again and again.

3. Communication increases intimacy

Research shows that couples who communicate effectively are more intimate. In fact, there’s even a name for it, called Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development.

In a nutshell, Erikson and subsequent studies found that couples with higher levels of self-disclosure experience more intimacy. Not just sexual intimacy, but also depth within the relationship.

While meaningful communication, or self-disclosure as characterized in the theory, is a bit subjective, it means sharing aspects of your private life. Discussion topics like life goals, things that bring you joy, and how you want to leave your legacy are prime examples.

Logistical topics, such as who needs to run to the grocery store or what to feed the kids, won’t cut it. And you’ll be surprised to know how much “logistical talk” there is in a relationship.

According to Dr. Gottman of the relationship research Gottman Institute, most couples only talk meaningfully for ~35 minutes a week. That’s 5 minutes a day. And we’ve heard that number is as low as 15 minutes a week.

This is unacceptable. So let’s learn how to communicate better (and more often) with our spouse.

What Makes Communication Difficult in a Relationship?

Despite its importance, communication with your partner is difficult for many reasons.

Most commonly, effective communication is hard because it can be uncomfortable. We tend to fear having difficult conversations and being vulnerable with our partner.

This is the main reason people struggle to communicate with their partner. 

The following are communication difficulties we will learn to fix in this article:

  • Not spending enough quality time together prevents couples from developing an intimate connection that’s necessary for open and honest conversation
  • We can become easily distracted by other things or not listen during conversations with our partner
  • Stress or fatigue may lead us to have shorter tempers when communicating with our partners, leading to misunderstandings or miscommunication.
  • Not feeling heard, understood, or respected during conversations is discouraging and hinders effective communication.

These are just a few causes of lack of communication in a relationship. Our goal with this article is to provide creative and enjoyable ways to overcome all miscommunication with your spouse. 

Can a Relationship Survive Without Communication?

Absolutely not. A relationship cannot grow without communication. To take it a step further, we don’t think a relationship can survive without disagreements and constructive fights.

Resolving issues as a couple and learning how to compromise for your loved one is critical for connecting deeper with your partner.

Is There Such a Thing as Over-Communication?

As long as it’s healthy communication, then no. Still, it’s important to remember that communication isn’t just about talking. More so, it’s about listening, understanding, and validating each other.

Too much talking can cause frustration in a relationship, especially if one person feels like the other isn’t really listening or hearing what they have to say.

At-Home Date Ideas Menu_Ryan and Alex Duo Life

Our Proven Tools for Healthy Couples

Based on our research and experience, these are our proven tools to optimize your relationship.

Download our guide for the best books, movies, apps, date night ideas, quizzes, questions, and games for healthy couples.

How To communicate better in a relationship

The following are our actionable ideas and creative strategies to improve communication skills in a relationship.

As you’re reading, create a plan to implement and grow your relationship. 

Effective communication is not one-sided.

Rule number one of effective communication is active listening. And listening isn’t just the absence of talking. You need to practice really listening to every word your partner is saying and trying to understand.

If you’re listening to respond and just waiting to say something, that’s not listening. Basically, you’re listening to respond if you’re rehearsing what to say next, debating how to reply, or thinking that you know exactly what your partner means!

If that’s happening in your head, you’re not listening. Here are some tips to help you practice active listening:

  • Make eye contact
  • Reflect on what your partner is saying by summarizing their thoughts or feelings
  • Validate your partner’s point of view, even if it’s different than yours
  • Use body language to demonstrate that you’re listening
  • Stay present and don’t think ahead about what you want to say

In addition to being an active listener, it’s critical to learn your partners non-verbal communication. To do this you have to be observant.

Pay attention to your partner’s body language and learn what they do when stressed, excited, worried, and proud.

Is your partner making eye contact? Are they leaning in or away from you? Are their arms crossed, or open and relaxed?

Becoming better at listening to your spouse’s verbal and non-verbal communication is an art, requiring consistent concentration and practice over time. You can do it! 

This next strategy is far more simple to excel at right away. 

Check in with your partner throughout the day.

Your partner or spouse is your closest companion. Your best friend. You should be communicating with them throughout the day.

Checking in with your partner can be as simple as asking, “How’s your day?” sending a funny meme, or leaving a tiny note inside their chapstick cap to let them know you care.

When you check in, it helps to keep the connection alive and makes it easier to open up when there’s something important to talk about. Plus, it’s just nice to know that your partner is thinking of you!

If you sometimes think you lack communication skills in your relationship, this should be an easy, fun, and effective starting point.

Watch movies that halve divorce risk.

Is it possible to fix communication in a relationship with a movie night?

Dr. Ronald Rogge answered this question with conclusive data. The University of Rochester psychology professor found a science-backed and really fun way to communicate better to your partner.

He ran an experiment with 174 engaged and newly married couples and divided them into three groups:

  • Group 1 received a list of relationship-centric movies and was told to watch five films and discuss
  • Group 2 went to marriage preparation workshops
  • Group 3 did nothing

Three years later, both the first and second groups who had either discussed the movies or went to marriage workshops were twice as likely to be still married versus the control group.

That’s right you can cut your chances of divorce in half by watching great movies. However, it’s watching the correct movies and having a discussion that’s critical.

Here are some examples of good movie discussion questions:

  • What problems did the couple have to deal with?
  • Do we have similar issues within our relationship?
  • Do you think the couple resolved their problem effectively?
  • What did you like and dislike about how the couple communicated their feelings?
  • How strong was the couple’s friendship?

The trick is, you can’t just watch any movie. Some rom-coms, for example, aren’t realistic enough. We share which movies are proven to work in our article, “Best Movies for Married Couples.”

If you want to spice up your relationship and improve communication, grab the popcorn – it’s movie night!

Journal together.

Journals offer incredible communication bang for your buck. It’s so simple yet effective, and many journals come with prompts to give you ideas on what to talk about.

We love journaling to document our story, hold us accountable to our dreams, and strengthen our bond. We believe so strongly in journaling that we even published one ourselves!

After testing dozens of journals, we’ve found a select few that we highly recommend to improve connection and communication with your spouse.

One of our favorite ways to improve our communication is through this bedtime journal.

We think it’s the most valuable and entertaining way to celebrate our relationship every night. Since it’s a 3-year journal, we get to reflect on entries from previous years and see how we’ve grown as a couple.

We also love this Bucket List Journal for Married Couples (the authors are pretty cool people too). It’s an invaluable keepsake journal to plan and create your best life together.

For date nights, we highly recommend the Adventure Challenge Book for Couples. The journal is comprised of spontaneous and creative scratch-off date night ideas that will have you communicating in no time.

Speak their love language.

Dr. Chapman, the author of The 5 Love Languages, identifies five types of love languages: words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, quality time, and receiving gifts.

Each person is different when it comes to the love language they prefer, and to figure this out you can take the online quiz or, better, read the book.

Taking the quiz together is a powerful way to communicate your needs in a relationship.

For example, if your partner’s primary love language is “words of affirmation,” then hearing you tell them how much you care or appreciate them will make a big difference in your relationship.

Alex’s love language, however, is absolutely not “words of affirmation.” If I tell her how much I appreciate her, it would fall on deaf ears. That’s why it’s so important to figure out what your partner’s is.

Hers is “acts of service.” So, when she asked me to make the bed I took it seriously. After this conversation, making the bed went from an annoyance to an opportunity to show my wife how much I love her. Now I enjoy doing it every day.

Because this is so important, we take the love languages quiz every year. As our lives change (switching jobs, having kids, etc.) so can our love language.

The tricky thing about love languages is it’s our default to speak our own love language. For example, if your dominant love language is “receiving gifts,” you’ll naturally try to show your partner love with gifts.

However, if their dominant love language is “quality time,” they want to sip afternoon tea together rather than have you away shopping at the mall.

Showing your partner love is the most important communication in a relationship. Make sure you start speaking your partner’s love language today. Take the quiz together and communicate the results.

Have a “same team” mentality.

We like to think of our relationship as our team for life. Together, we’re continuously improving in all areas, especially our relationship.

When you’re on the same team you’re honest to each other, kind and respectful, giving them your undivided attention, and setting boundaries that you both agree to keep.

When you have a “same team” mentality, communication in your relationship is a win-win situation.

Okay, fine, sometimes it is a win-compromise situation. Deal with it. You’ll find that often those compromises get you out of your comfort zone and give you a new perspective. So let’s call it a win-future-win situation.

To learn more about having this same team mentality, it’s important to understand the 4-types of communication styles. This is the same strategy used by workplace experts, but they also work beautifully within a relationship:

1. Passive

You are accommodating and non-assertive. In other words, you lose and your partner wins.
For example, “I’ll do whatever you want.”

2. Aggressive

You push for what you want regardless of the effect on others. So, you win and your partner loses. For example, “You need to do this my way!”

3. Passive-aggressive

You’re passive but express your anger indirectly. So you lose and your partner loses. For example, “Fine, whatever.”

4. Assertive

You communicate your opinion and respect the other person’s point of view. So you both win. For example, “This is what I think, but let’s talk about it on Sunday night to see if we can come up with a mutual solution. Love you, honey.”

Passive, aggressive, and passive-aggressive behavior (it’s more than just words) are examples of poor communication in a relationship.

Assertiveness is a better way to communicate. Try to practice assertiveness as much as possible and you and your partner will have a winning team!

Speaking of talking about an issue on Sunday night, that brings us to our next point.

It’s okay to schedule communication.

There’s nothing wrong with setting aside time specifically to talk about things. Communication doesn’t have to be spontaneous, especially in today’s hectic life.

Scheduling a weekly (or at least monthly) check-in with your partner is an excellent way to improve communication. Make sure it’s a time when neither of you is stressed or distracted. Take the time to talk about feelings, thoughts, worries, and dreams.

This is also a great time to plan social activities together or talk about goals and travel plans for the future. Not only do these conversations allow you to stay connected, but it helps your relationship grow in many ways.

This is a technique we use often, and our designated “chat night” is Sunday. For more topic ideas, we share a list of fifty chat ideas in our article, “Questions to Ask Your Spouse.”

Share your needs and wants (and ask about theirs).

If there is anyone in the world other than yourself that needs to know this, it’s your partner. Tell your partner what you need, don’t assume that they know.

From the small stuff like wanting a hug every morning to the big stuff like wanting to move abroad. From the comfortable stuff like wanting to host more dinner parties to the uncomfortable stuff like asking for more time in the bedroom.

Then, ask about their needs and wants. Sometimes it’s hard for them to open up, so be curious and understanding. This can be an excellent way to deepen your relationship and build trust.

We recommend using these communication exercises for couples to guide your discussion.

Be a lifelong learner.

A great way to learn how to communicate better in a relationship is by seeking guidance from experts. Read books, watch movies, listen to podcasts, and open up your mind!

We have a few favorite resources for improving communication with your spouse. We’ve already mentioned The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. The next best book to help you communicate better with your spouse is Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson.

These are the best books on how to communicate better.

This book goes through the conversations you should have with your partner, and why your focus should be growing your emotional relationship above all else.

We’re also huge fans of MasterClass, which offers several communication courses. MasterClass is an excellent resource because you learn from the best of the best and the professional directing makes the content enjoyable and easy to absorb.

Our favorite course for this is Sex and Communication by Emily Morse. Here’s why:

“Sexual wellness is an important pillar of our overall health and well-being. When you’re not truly fulfilling your sexual desires and living true to your authentic self, it’s going to impact your entire life.”

From learning how to (and not embarrassingly or offensively) communicate your desires to your partner, this MasterClass course is a must for every adult human being.

If you decide to sign up for a MasterClass subscription, we also recommend Relational Intelligence by Esther Perel, the famed psychotherapist.

She has lessons specifically on avoiding miscommunication, resolving conflict, and effective listening for better communication. We’re halfway through her class and it’s been eye-opening.

Give them your undivided attention always.

It’s hard to pay attention when there are phones, TVs, and other distractions vying for your attention. But it’s essential that you give them your undivided attention if you want to have meaningful conversations.

Turn off those devices, look into their eyes while they talk, and resist the urge to offer solutions. Guys, just because your gal is venting to you doesn’t mean she wants you to mansplain or solve her problem.

Lastly, communicate face-to-face whenever possible. It’s human nature and we connect more in person. Even a video call doesn’t come close.

How to communicate better when fighting with your spouse

If you’re in a relationship and never fight or experience conflict, chances are you’re not communicating well. Disagreements are a normal and healthy part of relationships, but the key is to fight well.

The goal is not to win but to compromise and resolve. For a deep dive, we wrote an article titled, “How (And How Often) to Fight Better With Your Spouse.” Below, we’ll summarize what to do and what not to do. 

Healthy fighting and what to do.

These simple rules will ensure you and your spouse are having healthy fights.

  • Don’t bring up previous arguments or use unrelated grievances as fuel
  • Listen closely and never cut them off or try to read their mind
  • Be respectful, don’t let the fight turn personal, and no insults or sarcasm allowed.
  • Celebrate your differences by expecting and welcoming compromise
  • Avoid blame by using “I feel” phrases rather than “you” phrases
  • For conflict resolution support, seek professional help from a therapist or counselor

Next, here are poor fighting tactics and behaviors that damage your relationship.

Unhealthy fighting and what NOT to do.

The following are indicators that you and your spouse have strayed from your goal of communicating better. This is what not to say to your partner.

  • Never threaten divorce (or any other threats)
  • No mental, emotional, or physical abuse of any kind (especially the silent treatment)
  • No name-calling or insults
  • Small issues shouldn’t blow up into a big argument

If you and your spouse need help with conflict resolution and difficult conversations (aka fights), we recommend reading our full article or reaching out for support.

Closing thoughts on Communication 

Ultimately, communication is key to a healthy relationship. It’s important to remember that it takes time and effort to develop effective communication skills with your partner.

With the right resources and strategies such as scheduling conversations, practicing listening, learning from movies and books, understanding non-verbal cues, and discussing needs regularly will help couples build trust in their relationships while deepening intimacy.

By taking the steps outlined in this article, you can create meaningful conversations which are essential for any successful relationship.

If you find yourself struggling to resolve arguments on your own, it might be time to seek professional help.

If you have questions or advice that will help other readers, please share them in the comments section.

For more resources for couples, such as the best apps out there for couples or how to give your partner a good massage, head over to our Healthy Couples page.

Or, download our Proven Tools for Healthy Couples below.

At-Home Date Ideas Menu_Ryan and Alex Duo Life

Proven Tools for Healthy Couples

A decade of experience, hundreds of hours of research and testing, and over 50,000 words of wisdom condensed into one PDF.

Download our guide for the best books, movies, apps, date night ideas, quizzes, questions, and games for healthy couples.

As Seen In Feature Bar Ryan and Alex Duo Life

Hey we're Ryan and Alex

The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “lifestyle engineers.”

After eight years working in the corporate world as engineers, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — helping couples engineer their best lives.

The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship as a couple.

Duo Life Newsletter Signup Example Image

Optimize Your Life, One Friday at a Time

Enter your name and email address to sign up for our free newsletter, the Duo Life Letter. Each Friday receive evidence-based tips to elevate your health and relationship.

Pin It on Pinterest