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communicate effectively

Most people value some space, even in the context of a relationship. Therefore healthy distance or time apart every now and then is important. However, in this globally unprecedented face of a pandemic, the desire for space can feel like an unattainable goal. When you suddenly find that you are spending a lot of time with your partner in a cramped environment, it’s only natural for stress levels to rise and tempers to flare. Behaviors that you may normally tolerate can become overwhelmingly irritating when there is limited opportunity for time out. If you’ve found yourself in difficult close quarters with your partner, knowing how to communicate effectively is the key to a successful and lasting relationship. So, where do you begin?

To point you in the right direction, here is some advice on how to communicate effectively with your partner.

Make Plans Together

Being a united team is imperative if you are going to maintain a healthy relationship in close quarters. You can achieve this by planning together some ground rules for how things are going to work. Agree on a daily routine that will suit both of you and which will help in avoiding arguments. Determine how you are going to work around each other’s responsibilities, obligations and needs. Devise an action plan for how triggers of aggravation are going to be managed.  By addressing these issues in advance, there’s less chance of an explosive situation.

communicate effectively

Don’t overreact

In close quarters, many issues become magnified and small matters can balloon out of control. It’s important to keep a lid on your emotions and to avoid overreacting. There will inevitably be times when you wind each other up. The key to avoiding a blow-up is to communicate effectively through it. In the first instance, be direct with your partner when you feel yourself becoming angry or frustrated. Let them know that you need to take time out from the conversation or situation immediately.

Take some deep breaths and wait until you feel calm before launching back into any further discussions. And remember, it’s unlikely that your partner is deliberately trying to annoy you, and there may easily have been a point of miscommunication you were not aware of.

So don’t leap in with both feet to criticize and berate your partner for their actions or behaviour. Try to explain calmly why you are feeling angry or frustrated. It can even help for the two of you to engage in role-reversal where you each take turns to try and see things from your partner’s point of view.

Be kind to each other

Remember that at the end of the day, you love your partner. This is something you need to keep at the forefront of your mind every time you communicate with each other. Each time you snap or yell, you are potentially eroding away at the bond. If negative communication becomes the norm, your relationship will likely crumble. Instead, try practising gratitude. Focus on the positives and thank your partner each day for at least one good quality you appreciate in them, or, thank them for something they have done. Finding a moment each day to say ‘thank you’, even for the smallest of things, can accumulate into greater satisfaction within the relationship. Perhaps even share a funny story or joke each day, as making time to laugh together is conducive to strengthening your relationship.

empathetic person - communicate effectively

Discuss your emotions

Many arguments between couples in close quarters arise because of some misunderstanding. You may be surprised how easily you can misperceive quite an innocent behaviour or comment made by your partner, and then find yourself jumping to negative conclusions about their intentions. You can easily avoid many disagreements in advance by taking the time to discuss how a particular comment or behaviour made you feel before you respond in a way that will cause the situation to escalate out of control.

If you’re feeling depressed or anxious in general, this can make you far more prone to perceiving a comment or behaviour in a negative light. So let your partner know that you may not be feeling so great on a given day or week because it is quite unhelpful if your partner believes you may be punishing them for something they may have done. Voicing your emotions helps you gain more insight and understanding of each other, and you will find yourselves exercising more tolerance of each other when things go wrong.

Make time for ‘quality togetherness’ as well as time apart

Finally, it is still important to find quality time to be alone together. This will help you to commincate effectively together. Build into your daily routine enjoyable blocks of time where you can both do something nice together. This may be downloading a movie to watch together, or going for a walk around your neighbourhood if your circumstances permit, or playing a brain-teaser game together.

At the same time, you need to build into your daily routine blocks of time to be apart. Try and spend at least one hour apart every day where you can pursue your own interests. Even if you’re still physically in the same room, you can retreat to separate corners. Be sure to enjoy some “me-time” with a book, some crafts or a favourite app.

And remember, always keep channels of communication open. Don’t be afraid to communicate effectively with each other. Especially whenever you need to take a break from your partner’s company outside the routine.

Dr. Carissa Coulston
Dr. Carissa Coulston

Dr. Carissa Coulston is a Clinical Psychologist who specializes in the research and treatment of adult mental health problems including depression, mood swings, anxiety, worry and trauma. She conducts therapy with individuals as well as couples to promote better mental health, relationships and quality of life. She has written extensively on relationship psychology in addition to her 30+ publications in peer-reviewed medical journals. She is the main author of relationship articles for The Eternity Rose.

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