We Love Each Other – So Why Is It So Hard To Communicate?

Learning to communicate effectively is essential for a satisfying marriage/relationship

You fell in love, got married or moved in together, and then everything changed. You are not sure what went wrong but you feel increasingly frustrated and misunderstood. You have tried to talk to your partner, but both of you quickly spiral into a defensive or attacking stance escalating into a nasty fight. You end up withdrawing emotionally, thinking that no matter what you do, you end up hurt and disappointed. Perhaps you are contemplating throwing in the towel. You feel desperate, wondering if this is the beginning of the end.
Do not despair; I am going to let you in on the essentials of effective communication

They were sitting in the table that was under the leaky roof
Photo by Shawn Rossie

The most important element of effective communication, which you need to be aware of before you sit down together, is to choose a style of communicating which ensures that your partner is hearing you out.
The how of communicating effectively
It matters how you choose to present the problem. Consider the difference between starting out blaming your partner for how you feel and starting out stating your main concern and respectfully explain how you think and feel.

  • When you blame and finger point, your partner will most likely become defensive or attack you back, and will not be able to hear your message.
  • On the other hand, if you follow the directions below, you will see a different result.
  • Are you willing to let your partner in on how it is to be in your shoes? In addition, are you willing to learn more about how it is to be your partner, and what his/hers concerns are? If you answer yes to these questions, you are well on your way to a more satisfying relationship.

The seven little know secrets to effective couple’s communication

  1. You need to choose the best time and place possible for you to sit down together. Do not talk about important issues at a party where you have been drinking or when you are very upset.
  2. Address one topic at the time. Do not talk about everything you are unhappy about. Make a list of your main concerns and address one at the time. Do not go through the whole list at your first sitting.
  3. Be specific and stick to your chosen main concern. Do not use words like always and never.
  4. Stay in the present and address issues that you currently have. Do not throw in old stuff unless your chosen topic is a prior event.
  5. Hear each other out before you talk. Do not interrupt your partner. Remember you want to hear your partner’s perspective.
  6. Make sure you fully understand your partner’s perspective by recapping and asking clarifying questions. Do not change the topic or ask questions with an agenda. Keep an open mind and ask your partner if your recap was accurate. If not, ask more questions and let your partner know that you want to understand. Be curious and willing to learn something new about your partner.
  7. It is okay to feel sad, scared or disappointed by what your partner is saying. Those are your feelings. Stay calm and remind yourself that you still want to hear what your partner has to say. If you need to, take a short break to calm yourself. It might help to remember that this is about your partner and not about you. Think about why you are having this talk and what you want to accomplish!

P.S.: Your partner is more likely to hear your message when you communicate in an open and honest way without blaming or finger pointing. Take responsibility for your own feelings and actions. Stay calm and be willing to learn more about your partner’s and your own perspective. Remember that you are two different people with two different perspectives on the same issue. Be respectful and considerate and the chance of your partner treating you with respect and consideration will increase!


Scroll down to end of post to leave a comment! I am curious about how your talk went or what your concerns are about communicating in an honest and respectful way. I cherish comments and answer all questions! Your email address is safe with me. I could not dream about sharing it with anybody. Choose a fictive name if you do not feel comfortable sharing your name.
Sincerely Irene Savarese
Wishing you the best – this is not about luck, rather about you holding your end of the relationship and doing your best!

17 thoughts on “We Love Each Other – So Why Is It So Hard To Communicate?”

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  2. These tips are really pretty basic when you think about it, but they’re absolutely necessary to communication. It’s so important to stay away from a blaming stance and to choose a time and place when you’re not extremely emotional or reactive. Sometimes it can be helpful to write out your thoughts, set them aside and look at them a little bit later. It can help clear up some misunderstandings and clarify the important points.

  3. Hi Irene! Love this post, direct and to the point. Makes clear sense and is easy to teach to people. Circular mysterious wording just doesn’t work, there is enough blaming & emotion & confusion in the therapy room as it is! I find that ppl slip into the “you made me feel” very easily, so shifting ppl away from blame to self-responsibility needs repetition! And when there is substance abuse, a severe learning disability, major depression, BPD, PTSD, anxiety, narcissism in one or both parties, it may be very very difficult, if not impossible. But luckily this is not always the case!

  4. I have been taught SBI method at work and it works at home too.

    Situation – When we were watching TV last night.
    Behavior – You scooted away from me so we weren’t touching.
    Impact – I felt lonely and abandoned.

    It is important to finish the last with “I felt” versus “You made me feel”, to use a calm, fyi, voice, and to not expect a response necessarily. It is just to help convey impact of actions.

    Have you heard of this? If so, what do you think?

    1. Daria,
      No, but the method sound concrete, to the point and constructive – pointing toward having a conversation about was is happening in the present.
      I try to use I-language with the focus on myself rather than on the other, that being my husband, child, parent, friend, etc. And that is very similar to what you are describing. I also think that the way we say things matter. Nearly 90% of communication is non-verbal, so it is very important to be aware of body language, tone of voice etc.
      Thanks Daria, you touched upon the essentials of effective communication.

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  5. Hi Irene!
    It’s amazing to me how much work it took to start being able to use the ideas on your list – and even now it’s hard sometimes! These days it’s about 90% good meaningful productive conversation but there’s still that final 10%!

    1. So true Miriam, I have to remind myself to use my own advice LOL! My husband and I communicate on blog and email sometimes when we are really busy. Do not recommend that in the long run, but it does warm my heart when he writes a comment! Yes, perfect is not going to happen. I will take 90% any time. Thanks!

  6. Hi Irene-

    I really appreciated the 7 steps to effective communication. I find it so odd when I ask people how their relationship is going and they answer “Pretty good. We just have some communication issues, though.” Sadly, when we delve into those ‘little issues’ they are not so small, and are so deeply ingrained and automatic.

    #2 is my favorite. It’s way too overwhelming to tackle more than one issue. I find this when I’m working with parents. Inevitably, when I ask for the main concern, the most bothersome behavior to focus on, there’s a laundry list that the most efficient laundromat couldn’t take on…!

    Thanks for sharing your secrets and expertise;).

    P.S. Love the first comment!

    1. Hi Linda,
      I love the first comment too! He is a sweetheart – most of the time. Yes, focus is crucial so we don’t go all over the place and get annoyed and defensive.
      Communication issues is often the main presenting problem, I think because couples are not sure what to call the problem they have. Usually it runs deeper and is about self-discovery, curiosity about partner, acceptance of differences, to name some. Using an effective communication model helps a lot though. Thanks for your encouraging words!

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