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3 Ways to Improve Communication in Your Relationship

(And 6 Signs You May Need to Seek Couples Counseling)

Communication is an imperative life skill to develop, whether that is professionally, socially, and even in relationships. However, it can be detrimental if you lack this skill. One of many definitions of communication, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.” There are 5 common forms of communication including verbal, non-verbal, visual, listening, and written. Example forms of communication include body language, facial expressions, actions, spoken words, and more.

Take a minute to reflect on the ways in which you frequently communicate and whether they are effective and received well by others.

So what is healthy communication?

Communication involves a sender and receiver of a particular message, whether verbal or non-verbal. What creates complications is how a message is perceived and understood. It is important to recognize that what is heard is not necessarily what the sender is trying to communicate. Healthy communication is actively listening, focusing on the facts of the message, and asking questions to clarify what the other person is attempting to convey. Like any other skill that an individual has cultivated, communication requires practice. Think about your current relationship, do you feel that your relationship possesses healthy communication skills?

How can you improve your communication to be more effective in your relationship? There are three communication techniques that can help improve your dialogue within the relationship: mirroring, validation, and empathy.

1. Mirroring

Mirroring is when the receiving partner repeats back, almost verbatim, what their partner stated. It prevents the receiving partner from responding defensively because they are focused on what their partner is saying in order to repeat it back. Additionally, this skill ensures that the sending partner feels heard as they hear the exact words they said “mirrored” back to them.

2. Validating

This is a process in which the receiving partner acknowledges the validity of their partner’s viewpoints from their partner’s perspective. The receiving partner may not agree, but that is not the purpose of this skill. The objective is for the receiving partner to process and see things through their partner’s eyes. The aim is to get both partners to recognize and respect that they have different views.

3. Empathizing

Empathizing is a process in which the receiving partner guesses the emotions of their partner. It is an attempt to predict how their partner may be feeling about what they have just communicated. If the receiving partner’s guess is not accurate, the sending partner has an opportunity to correct them. Then the couple can engage in the complete dialogue process again (mirroring and validating) until the receiving partner can get an accurate read on how their partner is feeling about the issue being discussed.

In Short-term Couples Therapy: The Imago Model in Action, Luquet states, “Mirroring is a way of making contact. Validation is a way of creating equality, and empathy is a means of being able to transcend the self momentarily and become involved in the other. It is when a person can transcend his or her ‘self’ and personal pain enough to listen to the thoughts and feelings of the other that he or she can fully connect with that person” (2007).

These communication skills eliminate the need to be defensive and focuses the attention of the receiver on the content of the message. This in turn leads the sending partner to feel fully heard, therefore reducing anxiety and allowing for better dialogue. Validating what the partner said further helps the sending partner feel heard and understood, while at the same time giving the receiving partner the chance to put themselves in their partner’s shoes and see things from their perspective. The receiving partner may then be better able to empathize with their partner. Furthermore, if they can accurately guess what their partner may be feeling in the empathizing stage, they can feel more connected through gaining a new and accurate understanding of how their partner is thinking and feeling, while their partner will feel heard, validated, and empathized with.

Putting these skills into practice can be challenging if the couple is not working together, in which case, couples counseling is a healthy resource. Below are some signs that you may need to reach out to a couple’s counselor.

6 Signs You May Need to Seek Couples Counseling

Many have found it beneficial to seek the aid of a counselor to help mediate in which Naya Clinics can help you regain perspective. The following are 6 signs you may need counseling for improved communication in the marriage:

1. You feel like you aren't being heard/needs aren’t being met

One phrase that is frequently stated is, “I just feel like I’m not being heard.” Early in relationships, people find that communication and having their needs met comes easily, but over time, that connection fades if it is not tended to. After all, who doesn't want to please their new partner and make things work? Small arguments and problems can develop into one partner "stonewalling" another by not answering or really listening to what the other is saying.

2. There's constant fighting or bickering

Some people think that couples who constantly fight or bicker are managing problems their own way. However, communication in marriage should not include arguments to solve problems. The aim is to discuss a problem and collaborate on a solution without blame or gaslighting a partner to get your way.

Often, lashing out, arguing, or bickering over the small things are the result of a much larger issue that needs to be addressed.

3. It feels like disagreements or arguments are on repeat

Some couples feel like their arguments are repetitive or stuck in a loop. Do you find yourself experiencing something similar? If so, you may be dealing with a communication problem that is keeping you and your partner from truly making steps in the right direction.

It turns out that the same issues coming up repeatedly point to a break in the line of communication of what one partner really needs and what the other is willing to do. This can be as simple as conversations about cleanliness or as complex as making sure the other person feels appreciated. If you are discussing the same issues, it may be time to seek counseling.

4. When you are considering divorce or separation

One major red flag that counseling should be your next step is if you are thinking that divorce or separation is the best or only option. Of course, this is can be the case at times; however, in other instances, opening those lines of communication back up is the way to prevent a failed marriage.

Once you get into the habit of separating when times are tough, it becomes easier to equate those times you spend away as times you finally get the peace you are seeking. This can be true, but it doesn't mean that being home always has to be stressful. Instead, counseling can help rekindle the connection and the desire to spend time together.

5. If you feel like you're "staying together for the kids."

Some married couples who have children end up falling victim to the stress and routine that family life can inflict on what is usually a strong couple. Staying together for the children is an easy way for couples to distance themselves from each other and avoid the problem at hand until their children reach the age of 18 and then parents don’t feel obligated to remain together.

Furthermore, children are quite receptive and can pick up on things. Think of the example you are setting for your children regarding relationships. Whether you are together or separated, healthy and effective communication is still necessary.

Avoid those unnecessary years of tension. If you feel like you and your partner are staying together for the children, please seek counseling to establish a healthy communication pattern.

6. When there is a lack of intimacy

Lack of communication can often lead to a lack of intimacy. Sometimes, one partner feels like they are not getting enough help at home and are too tired at night or feeling resentment can manifest into not wanting to be intimate. Regardless of the situation, if intimacy is diminishing in your relationship, it may be time for counseling services to get to the root of the issue.

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Sam Nabil is the founder of Naya Clinics and is a Boston therapist and a Boston Marriage Counselor.

Sam offers therapy in Boston and Boston Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety.


Naya Clinics is a top-rated Marriage Counseling, therapy and Life coaching practice.

Naya Clinics offers Marriage Counselors near me, individual therapy near me, and life coaching near me in various locations across the USA and the world.


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