Proper communication can save a relationship. How to talk?

Photo by Rodrigo Souza:
  • Tell each other what you need.
  • Tell each other what you don’t accept.
  • Talk about problems and challenges as they arise.
  • Focus on finding a solution (“What can we do about it?”).
  • Acknowledge mistakes and errors.
  • Apologize and ask for forgiveness.
  • Stop talking about your relationship with people who don’t support it.
  • Communicate calmly, clearly, and understandably about your expectations.
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The ground rules!

What are the rules in your relationship? Have you even agreed on them together? Have you talked about them?

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Areas in which it is helpful to establish rules

Household responsibilities

  • How will chores be divided up so that not too much falls on one person?
  • What does each person like and dislike doing?
  • Who will do what on specific days?
  • How will you work together to make sure that all household chores are accomplished?
  • How will you make sure that neither party feels overwhelmed?

Relationship with the family

  • What will your relationship with your parents/family look like?
  • How often will you visit your parents/neighbors?
  • What issues will you advise your parents on and what issues will you not?
  • What will you do if you disagree with the family’s opinion?
  • Do you agree that your partner should discuss your affairs with your loved ones?

Sense of security

  • What does betrayal mean to you?
  • Do you agree with your partner keeping in touch with your ex?
  • What are the consequences if one person cheats?
  • Do you agree that your partner should keep in touch with his/her girlfriends and your partner with his/her friends?
  • Do you agree that you will sometimes go out separately to meet friends?
  • What is your attitude toward alcohol and other drugs?


  • Do you want to have children?
  • When and how many children would you like to have?
  • How would you like to raise your daughter/son?
  • Do you agree with punishments and if so, what kind?

Work and money

  • Do you both intend to work?
  • Do you agree that one of you will work in another city/country?
  • Will you have joint or separate bank accounts?
  • Who will be responsible for paying specific
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How will you plan and control spending and savings?

This is not a complete list and is not meant to be. It is important to see that in a relationship, as in many other important areas of life, you can set rules. It’s normal to talk about it and set rules for our relationship. All of them, both minor and major, matter. Poor communication has led to the breakdown of relationships that could have thrived. It didn’t have to happen that way. People just didn’t know about each other’s needs because they didn’t tell each other about them. So never stop communicating openly with each other if you want to grow as a couple. The better you learn to listen to each other, the better chance you have of having a successful relationship.

The golden rules of communication


  • Listen to each other so that you can hear the other side and not think of an answer.
  • Be open to talking before something becomes an issue.
  • Don’t avoid talking about difficult topics and don’t put them off. This will save you from many arguments in the future.
  • Ignoring problems only prolongs and magnifies them.
  • Bringing up difficult topics and having difficult conversations saves relationships.
  • How to have difficult conversations?
  • Difficult conversations are an opportunity to better understand your partner, develop your relationship, and strengthen your bond. These tips will help you have them.

Practical tips

  • Start the conversation when you have established your intentions.
  • Focus on the problem, not the person.
  • Talk about your feelings and emotions.
  • Take turns talking — don’t interrupt each other.
  • Listen to understand each other, not to respond.
  • Discuss only one problem or one issue at a time.
  • Raising your voice is not a way for someone to better hear what you are saying.
  • Take breaks when you need them.
  • Communication is a skill. And like any skill, it can be improved through practice. It requires time, patience and commitment.
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How to be assertive?

Assertiveness is a healthy way to communicate your needs, boundaries and opinions. It helps avoid misunderstandings and recurring arguments.

This is assertive communication:

“I felt ……………….. when you did ………..”.
“I got sad when ………………………..”.
“I stop feeling safe when ………………”.
“I care …………. because I love you”.
“I don’t agree with that, but I understand that you feel that way.”
“I understand what you’re saying even though I don’t agree with it.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way.”

It’s not assertiveness, it’s aggression

  • Expecting things to always be your way.
  • Manipulating others to get what you want.
  • Yelling, insulting, challenging.
  • Getting offended to get what you want.
  • Using verbal or physical abuse.
  • Using information against someone that was a secret.
Photo by Vera Arsic:

Happy couples never argue?

This is a widespread myth!

We may have been taught to believe in childhood that conflict and arguing are just negative events. This may be the case if we have seen parents or caregivers arguing in such a way that they hurt each other. They have called each other names, yelled at each other, manipulated each other, and then resented each other, punished each other with silence, and emotionally withdrew from the relationship.

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Just remember:

  • No one knows everything.
  • No one is infallible.
  • If you both always want to be right and have the last word, you will both lose.



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