Keeping a relationship healthy is an ever-evolving process. Our needs change as we move from the first blush of young love, through marriage, parenthood and further to maturity. The purpose of building a happy life together should be a constant. However, many different issues can interfere with that goal. Topics that can lead to communication breakdown include money, in-laws, children, and substance abuse. The strong emotions these issues bring can cause that relationship to falter. If you concentrate on maintaining open communication, you’ll have a better chance of working through your problems and growing closer in the process.

Challenge Your Style

It’s not always easy to practice honest, direct communication. In our familiarity with one another, we often forget to respect what the other person is saying and really listen. Some common traps that cloud communication include using sarcasm excessively or inappropriately, always questioning someone’s reasons for doing something, and assuming your partner knows how you feel.

Make Your Words Meaningful

The key to maintaining a satisfying relationship is verbal intimacy. When you stop to consider that the majority of your relationship time is spent in conversation, you should strive to make it meaningful and intimate.

The following are some verbal and non-verbal ways to enhance your relationship:

  • Repeat back what’s said so you’re both in tune.
  • Use a friendly, soft tone.
  • Use “I” instead of “You” to express feelings.
  • Listen without giving advice.
  • Make your expressions and gestures match what you are saying.
  • Talk in a quiet place without the distraction of TV, radio, cell phones, or other people.

Cooperate and Compromise

It’s natural in any relationship to experience periods of conflict. Cooperation and compromise are what can keep you together. Here are some concrete ways to get through the tough times.

  • Be positive – “I appreciate it when you help me with the laundry “
  • Say what’s bothering you by being specific – “I feel upset when you …”
  • Listen without comment, defense, or disagreement.
  • Avoid bringing up old issues – stick to the issue at hand.
  • Negotiate to agreement, even if it’s to disagree.
  • Admit when you’re wrong and say you’re sorry.
  • Put yourself in your partner’s shoes.
  • Take a break until tempers calm down, then resume your discussion.
  • Assume your partner wants you to be happy.

By following these suggestions, you will be better able to handle any conflict that comes your way, and increase your level of intimacy that will carry your relationship into old age.