When I asked several hundred people recently to name the biggest challenge in their relationship, the number one complaint was “poor communication with my partner.”

And in my many years of helping couples stay connected, I’ve seen that poor communication has been a leading cause for couples to break up.

Why, you ask?

Without good communication, you can’t have a satisfying relationship. When communication is blocked or non-existent, a relationship can’t thrive. So what can you do?

If the communication in your relationship isn’t up to par, here are ten secrets to improved communication that can help:

1. Take a moment before you leap into a heavy discussion to center yourself and get in sync with your partner. Deliberately pace your breathing and energy with that of your mate. If your partner is relaxed and calm and you start the conversation in a fast-paced, agitated mode, this will feel jarring and unsettling to your partner. It’s easier to shift the energy in a conversation if you start where the other person is energetically and then make small progressive changes if necessary.

2. To avoid making your mate as defensive, use the word “confused” when you can. Instead of saying, “I was furious that you deserted me at the party and never even came over to check to see how I was doing,” say “I know you care about me and my feelings and want me to feel comfortable around your friends, so it was really confusing to feel so ignored and abandoned at the party.”

3. Check things out instead of jumping to conclusions or second guessing your partner. Give him or her the benefit of the doubt by asking for clarification about what happened or what was intended. None of us can read another person’s mind, and yet we often assume we know what our partner is thinking or intending—and we’re often off-base.

4. Cultivate a sense of teamwork with your partner when you talk. Say things like, “It’s such a relief to finally have time to process this with you. I always feel better when I can talk things over with you because we’re good at coming up with solutions together. We’re a really good team.”

5. Use your mate’s name during the conversation. It’s amazing how many couples don’t call each other by name very often. It’s much more intimate and bonding to say, “Maria, you’re always so wonderful about listening to me when I need to talk” than to have a long conversation without using your partner’s name.

People like to hear their names—it feels good. Even though you may use “Honey” or “Sweetheart” on a regular basis, use your partner’s name at least occasionally, also.

6. Give your partner your undivided attention when you’re conversing, if at all possible. Of course, some short conversations take place when both partners are on the run, but for deep, meaningful communication, you’ll want to schedule time to talk when you can turn the TV and phone off and reduce the potential for interruption.

7. Make eye contact with your mate when you talk with each other. It’s distracting and unsettling to talk to someone who is looking away or looking down and not making eye contact. It sends the message that you’re not really engaged in the conversation, and it shuts the communication door instead of opening it.

8. Keep your attention focused on the present moment. Resist the urge to think about what you’re going to do at work the next day or what happened yesterday. The other person can always feel the energy shift when you’re not fully present in the conversation.

9. Make scheduling time to communicate with your partner a top priority. It’s easy for communication to get neglected, blocked, or damaged in the hurry-scurry of everyday life. But if your communication with your partner suffers, your relationship will suffer—either now or down the road.

10. Show respect for your mate’s opinions, beliefs, and ideas, even if you think he or she is “wrong” or off-base. Instead of saying, “That’s a crazy idea,” say something like, “That’s an interesting idea. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. My personal opinion is different, and here’s why.” Remember, name calling or belittlement will stop honest communication because your partner won’t feel emotionally safe.

Author's Bio: 

Nancy J. Wasson, Ph.D., is a licensed professional counselor and co-creator of Overcome Control Conflict with Your Spouse or Partner, available at www.ControllingSpouse.com She is also co-author of Keep Your Marriage: What to Do When Your Spouse Says “I don’t love you anymore!” which is available at www.KeepYourMarriage.com, as well as a free weekly marriage advice newsletter. Visit www.SeasonsOfLoveMovie.com to view a free inspirational relationship-building video. Dr. Wasson offers telephone coaching to individuals and couples who want to overcome relationship problems and create a rewarding, loving partnership. Nancy can be contacted at Nancy@KeepYourMarriage.com ">