How to Improve Communication with Your Partner

It is well known that communication is the foundation of any strong relationship. When partners can communicate effectively, they are better able to understand each other, resolve conflict, and build intimacy.

However, communication can be difficult, especially when partners have different communication styles or when they are dealing with conflict. If you’re looking to improve communication with your partner, here are some tips:

  • Understand your own communication style. What is your natural way of communicating? Are you direct or indirect? Do you prefer to talk about your feelings or do you tend to bottle things up?
  • Learn your partner’s communication style. How does your partner prefer to communicate? Are they direct or indirect? Do they like to talk about their feelings or do they prefer to avoid conflict?
  • Find a common ground. Once you understand your own and your partner’s communication styles, you can start to find a common ground. This means finding ways to communicate that work for both of you. Think about how your different, or even similar communication styles might keep you stuck? Speak to your partner about the differences in your communication styles and think together about how you can move past any blocks these may create.
  • Be respectful. Even if you disagree with your partner, it’s important to be respectful of their opinions and feelings. This means avoiding name-calling, insults, and other forms of verbal abuse.
  • Be present. When you’re communicating with your partner, avoid distractions such as your phone or the TV. Make eye contact and give them your full attention so they know you are listening.
  • Listen actively. Pay attention to what your partner is saying, both verbally and non-verbally. If you are unsure, ask questions to clarify what they’re saying. You can check you understand by reflecting back what you’ve heard to make sure you understand. This will show genuine interest in and concern for your partners needs.
  • Use “I” statements. “I” statements are a way of communicating that helps to avoid blaming or accusing your partner. Instead of saying “You always do this,” try saying “I feel hurt when you do that.”
  • Be open to feedback. If your partner gives you feedback, try to listen without getting defensive. Ask them to explain what they mean and how you can improve your communication. Be willing to make changes based on their feedback. If the feedback is difficult to hear ask for 5 minutes out to gather your thoughts and process what is going on for you before resuming the conversation.
  • Be willing to compromise. No two people are exactly alike, so it’s important to be willing to compromise. This doesn’t mean giving up on your own needs, but it does mean being willing to meet your partner halfway.
  • Seek professional help if needed. If you’re struggling to improve your communication, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. A therapist can help you learn new communication skills and resolve any underlying issues.

Improving communication with your partner takes time and effort, but it’s worth it. When you can communicate effectively, you’ll build a stronger, more fulfilling relationship.

If you are looking for a therapist to support you and your partner then you will find one here on our UK Counsellors Directory, Click here to search.

Having Conversations About Death Anxiety – the fear of dying

Brief Description:

Discover the reasons for death anxiety, including the patient’s response, the family’s response, why it is so difficult to have these conversations with loved ones and where to get help if you find it difficult to have these conversations.

The occurrence of death anxiety

Many people who have life-limiting illnesses use their time, at some point, to reflect on their behaviour and purpose in life, and often feelings of death anxiety comes up as well during this time.  This rise in feelings of the fear of dying is natural and perfectly normal.  And people in this situation typically need someone to process these thoughts and feelings with because if often brings up big life (existential) questions about their purpose and identity.  For some, they end up having to re-think their purpose or integrate a new sense of identity.  The fear of dying brings up big feelings within themselves, about themselves, but also brings up big feelings about their relationships with family and friends.

Why this work to help alleviate death anxiety?

The services I offer have been borne out of the needs of people I have come across in my places of work in the primary healthcare and secondary social care sector as well as in the community.   I hope that what I write will be, not only of interest, but of benefit to you or people whom you know within your networks.  I also hope that this website will be an interactive space whereby people can comment and respond to the blogs I have written, so that a community of shared wisdom grows here.  I have been working in the field of trauma, loss, grief and bereavement with different age groups for over 25 years.

And it is always a pleasure to create a space for people to be emotionally connected to a deeper part of themselves in order to grow courageously stronger in themselves and in their connections with others again in more deepening and meaningful ways.  I find it very fulfilling and satisfying work to help people find ways of coping and alleviating their spiritual and emotional pain, worries and anxiety.  In my work in companioning and supporting people in hospice care, I would come across people who were scared of dying – for different reasons.  So, I would have a conversation with them to explore what their ‘death anxiety’ was about and the reasons will vary.

Reasons for death anxiety

  1. a) unresolved guilt for having done or said something they should not have done or said:

Should they try to broach the subject again many years on?

How would they bring it up again?

What if it brought up old wounds for either of them?

What if they were not effective in resolving the matter this time around?

  1. b) unresolved conflict:

What would the consequences be of not resolving it?

What impact would it have on the current and future generations after they died?

  1. c) the process of dying:

Will there be physical pain?

Will they be able to cope with the pain as their body deteriorated?

  1. d) existential concerns:

What would happen to them at the moment of death?

  1. e) family concerns:

What would happen to their family and how will they cope (or not) without them?

This blog relates to the Transition Companioning service I provide at https://griefsupport.co/.  If you would like more information about this service and how I could help, please go to the Transition Companioning page.  You can also subscribe on the Home page to receive more blogs about this topic and other related topics.

Patient’s response to death anxiety

There are many, many reasons why people might be anxious about dying.  These concerns, worries or anxieties can be quite strong, and understandably so, because the transitioning of the spirit out of the body at the point of death is a significant rite of passage.  Having or talking about death anxiety is not something to be ignored or dismissed lightly, because for some, it can become a spiritual crisis.  This can leave people feeling ill at ease, restless and sometimes with manifestations of physical symptoms that can’t be diagnosed and ‘cured’ with medical interventions.  Predominantly, this anxiety is about uncertainty.

There are many uncertainties in life – some are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, such as worries about exam marks; some of them are major, such as who to marry, if at all, or what country to live in.  But death anxiety is a much bigger anxiety because it is about the Great Uncertainty of what will happen to our spirit and soul when it leaves our body.  What happens to our animating energy that keeps us upright, moving, working and laughing?  If you have ever seen a person in an open casket, that question hits you immediately.  Where does that animating spirit go and what does it do after it leaves the body?  These are fascinating questions.  And worthy questions to explore in terms of where the dying person would like to go and what they would like to do after their animating spirit leaves their body.

Family member’s response to death anxiety

Friends and family members might, understandably, find it uncomfortable to talk with the dying person about their death anxiety – for various reasons:

  1. they don’t want to upset the dying person any further with such talk
  2. the relationship itself could be fraught with tension and has been that way for many years
  3. family estrangement
  4. a family member may have a different kind of spirituality from the dying person and so may not have a similar spiritual language in order to converse in a way that can be understood between them
  5. they may not have the knowledge or the practice-based experience of having these types of conversations

It can be hard to know how to respond.  So, even if the topic is brought up in discussion, some people find themselves discussing it in a hurried fashion, without many pauses for deep reflection in order to help the dying person process their emotions.  After all, no one wants to see a loved one in distress or in a state of anxiety so the topic could be discussed quickly then ‘swept under the carpet’.

Why is it so difficult to have conversations about death anxiety?

Recently, I came across two comments from different places in the community setting which came from daughters who were concerned about their parent’s death anxiety but didn’t know how to broach the subject with their parents.  One person was commenting about it on Twitter, so I didn’t have an opportunity to say much in response (given the limited letter count!)  The other person, who reached out to me and commented about it, was someone I knew from the NHS (National Health Service) so I was able to have a longer conversation her.  I reassured her by asking if she had attempted to broach the subject before her parent died, and if her parent had said yes to having death anxieties, would she know how to respond?  She admitted that she wouldn’t know how to respond.

Having a conversation about matters such as death anxiety, the spiritual world in the afterlife (and whether there is one or not), forgiveness and being absolved of any lingering guilt that the dying person might have (which some people crave & need) is not the kind of skill set that most people have developed and honed over their lifetime; not unless it is specifically part of their job and/or training as a spiritual care provider.  So why beat yourself up over it, I asked her.  That seemed to help in alleviating her guilt about missing the opportunity to have ‘the conversation’ with her mother before she died.

Getting help for death anxiety

But for some, the very idea might nevertheless be too close, too emotionally raw, too uncomfortable a discussion to have.  And there’s nothing to be embarrassed about, nor feel guilty about.  It simply isn’t a topic that some people relish discussing.  But for those who have entered this specialised profession, this is very meaningful and satisfying work.  From my professional experience, I have found that these opportunities to discuss a person’s death anxiety has provided emotional regulation and perhaps even healing for the dying person.

If you know of someone who might benefit from a conversation or two to alleviate their anxieties about dying, so they can be more at peace within themselves before transitioning out of their bodies, then have a look at the Coaching page for more info.

If you know of someone who might benefit from having regular, longer, ongoing conversations as they near the end of their life then have a look at the Transition Companioning page for more info.

As I continue to blog, I will be writing about issues that you tell me concern you and each aspect of the services I provide on my website.  If you would like to receive more of my blogs or to ask a question that you’ve been wondering about then please subscribe on the Home page.  I might be able to refer to or address it briefly in a future blog.

Further Reading

If you would like to read more about this topic, here is another article you could read https://www.healthline.com/health/death-anxiety-talk-about-grieving

Written by Santou Carter – to view Santou’s CTUK directory listing, please click here.

Letting Go of Being Right – Why it’s Important in Your Relationship

Written by Geoff Lamb – UKCP Registered Therapist specialising in working with individuals, couple and groups (5 min read)

There are areas in life when it’s really important to get things right – if you’re a brain surgeon or an air traffic controller for instance. Even then though, the importance isn’t personal, but a matter of others’ safety. In relationships, being right really isn’t that important. Neither is it personal, but so many couples I see spend a lot of time and energy arguing about who’s right, often about quite trivial matters such as how to load the dishwasher correctly, but sometimes about more serious things like money, sex and how to educate or discipline the children.

To blame the couples themselves isn’t helpful and misses the point. The culture we live in supports what’s called ‘dualistic thinking’. In other words, things are either right or wrong, black or white. If I’m right, then you must be wrong and if you’re right I must be wrong. Apart from the fact that most life situations just aren’t like this, it’s the significance we attach to being right or wrong that’s most damaging for couple relationships. This is when it becomes personal. It doesn’t need to be, but somewhere along the line, many of us have learned to value ourselves according to whether we’re (seen to be) right or wrong. It’s not just about getting something wrong, but about being wrong, in other words there’s something wrong with us if we’re seen, or even thought, to be wrong. Our whole being is on the line.

You’ll know if this is the case with you if you find yourself either needing to correct your partner if they say something which suggests that you did something wrong or were wrong about something or you find yourself needing to justify why you did what you did.

‘But’, you might say, ’don’t you think it’s important to correct your partner if they’ve clearly misunderstood something you did or said or maybe didn’t understand why it was so important or justified?’

Perhaps, but just observe what happens when you’re in this kind of situation – notice particularly where your attention is. What you’ll mostly find is that your attention isn’t on your partner or even what he/she said, but on the uncomfortable feeling of being misunderstood, on whether what he/she said is true or what you’re going to say in response. If your partner responds to you in a similar manner, then you have a situation in which neither of you is listening or feels listened to. Responses to this vary, but often, when we don’t feel listened to, we speak louder or longer, or both. Communication becomes impossible.

If you can let go of being right, then something different can happen. There are two possibilities. You may have done or said what your partner is talking about and it may have had an impact on him/her. It’s also possible that you didn’t. If you’ve let go of needing to be right, it doesn’t really matter which it is. Letting go of this need means you can listen in a different way, with curiosity rather than defensiveness. The focus is then not on whether what your partner is saying is true or not, but on your understanding of where they’re coming from.

So, how do we go about letting go of being right and what might get in the way? The answer is that it’s not easy and it’s probably not a good idea to let this become another thing you have to get right! Recognising when you’re doing it is probably the best place to start. Most of us won’t be aware of it when it’s actually happening, mostly, as I’ve said, because our defences have been triggered and we feel under threat. Afterwards, though, it can be good to take some time to reflect on what was actually going on for us. What were we defending and how was this being threatened? Becoming aware of how defensive we’re being in our arguments with our partner will eventually lead to change, especially when we combine this with a commitment to doing something different.

As for what gets in the way, there can be a number of things. Some people might think that, unless both partners in the relationship are committed to this kind of awareness and doing things differently, it won’t work and there’s no point. This seems logical, but it’s only partly true. It’s probably easier if both partners are committed to the same goal, but don’t let that put you off. If you’re ready to let go of being right and your partner isn’t, trying to make or even persuade them could be counterproductive. The message they’ll hear is that they’re ‘getting it wrong’, which could well trigger the very defences that are making your communication so difficult in the first place.

The best advice I can give is, don’t wait for your partner. Do it for yourself. There will be two consequences. First, if you start to listen to your partner with curiosity rather than defensiveness it’ll be very difficult for them to sustain an argument with you about being right. Second, and this is something that can get in the way, in order to listen differently and to let go of your need to be right, you’ll need to find a different way of valuing yourself. This isn’t easy. In fact, it’s actually very challenging as it means going against our culture and often our upbringing. It is very liberating though, not just in our relationships, but in the rest of our lives.

Two more points. The first is that what I’m talking about here isn’t compromise or ‘agreeing to differ’. These may both have their place in business and politics, but they won’t, in themselves, improve a relationship while the defensive communication I’ve been talking about is still in place. All that happens then is that the need to be right just goes underground and surfaces in more negative indirect forms. Examples of this are the ‘I told you so’ moments I’m sure we all recognise and the relationship becoming transactional, where, because I’ve compromised on this, it’s now your turn to let me have my own way about that.

Finally, I’m clearly writing this as a couple and individual therapist. If it was as simple as following the principles in this article, or in some of the many self-help books available, I’d be out of a job. It isn’t. It’s a good start, but sometimes we need support, either as a couple or an individual, with spotting our own patterns as they occur and feeling safe enough to do something different. This is where the help of a qualified and experienced therapist can be invaluable.


To view Geoff’s Directory Listing, please click here.