John Gottman, a clinical psychology researcher at the University of Washington, was able to predict with over 85% accuracy whether or not a relationship was going to succeed or fail based on the way the couple communicated in the relationship. It was not the words that the couple used. It was communication beyond the words – things like facial expressions, inflections, and other forms of non-verbal communication.
The way that a couple communicates, both verbally and non-verbally, contributes considerably to their long term success. Good communication in relationships may be the key towards helping a failing relationship heal.
How Couples Communicate
Healthy and unhealthy couples both communicate in a variety of ways. Communication in relationships is not limited to simply fights, discussions, and words of love/affection. Human beings do much of their communication nonverbally, and healthy couples tend to communicate differently than unhealthy couples.
- Roll their eyes or stop eye contact when their partner speaks.
- Start becoming visually agitated by their partner’s opinions.
- Say “Jeremy and I” or “Me and Sarah” when referring to themselves.
- Show discomfort at signs of physical affection.
- Take heavy breaths and show signs of frustration at their partner.
- Make constant eye contact and smile when their partner speaks.
- Look relaxed and interested in what their partner is saying.
- Say “We” when referring to themselves, as though they are one entity.
- Hold hands and show physical affection any chance they get.
- Don’t show any negative reactions to their partner’s presence.
Many of these types of communication are difficult to notice. An individual in an unhealthy relationship may not roll their eyes to a degree that is easily noticeable, but their eyes do move away from their partner, and these reactions play a role in how the relationship progresses.
Improving Relationship Communication
Clearly, communication in relationships is important. Both non-verbal and verbal communication must be improved for your relationship to succeed. Improving communication is not a quick process. You need to do each of the following:
- Pay attention to how you communicate.
- Force yourself to communicate your thoughts and feelings.
- Perform relationship building exercises to improve your relationship’s strength.
- Change yourself first before you worry about your partner.
- Identify all of the areas in the relationship you may be struggling with and address them.
Communication is mostly natural, so if your relationship is struggling, the way you communicate will change with it. To improve your relationship communication, you must address both the central issues with your relationship, and you must force yourself to communicate in a healthier way. Only by addressing both can you improve communication in your relationship, ultimately improving its overall health.