Secrets of happy authentic relationships: 7 communication tips from sexpertsJun 21, 2023
Angel Arts, founder
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Crack the code of authentic connections in love, sex and dating – and do it your way
I often ask people what the number one problem in their sexual relationship is. And the number one problem in both long-term and new relationships is not technique … Technique still is one of the biggest problems, but let's leave it aside this time. The number one problem is communication. “My partner doesn’t want to talk as much as I do”, “My partner doesn’t open up”, “I’m afraid to be vulnerable” – do these sound familiar? Way too familiar, right?
These are 7 tips which are often given by sexperts and sex coaches to help couples build stronger connections, handle disagreements in a positive way, and deepen intimacy with each other. Following one of them got me in trouble in my own relationship – and the same thing happened to a number of followers on my Instagram – which only proves that we need to be mindful when following any advice, even if it comes from established authors. So, let’s dive in!
Communication tip No 1: listen with empathy
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One of the most powerful communication techniques in relationships is active listening. When your partner is talking, really tune in. Listen with empathy and genuine(!) interest. Put your phone away, focus on their words, their tone, their body language. Show them that you value their thoughts and feelings. Respond with phrases like "I see", "I hear you", and "I understand". React to what they’re saying with sounds, ask questions, nod and maintain eye contact. Use verbal and non-verbal cues which show that you’re hearing and understanding what they’re saying.
Empathy can help you connect on a deeper level. It helps create a safe space for the partners to open up and encourages open dialogue.
Remember: listening is not just about hearing words, it's about understanding and validating the underlying emotions behind them. Show your partner that you’re there for them when they open up.
Communication tip No 2: practice nonviolent communication
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Nonviolent communication is a method developed by psychologist Marshall B. Rosenberg. It's about expressing yourself without judgment or blame during conflict in your relationship, and fostering empathy.
Instead of using accusatory language, Rosenberg recommends using "I" statements to express your needs, feelings, and desires. This should allow you to take ownership of your emotions instead of placing blame on your partner. For example, instead of saying, "You always do this," you change it to, "I feel frustrated when this happens because..."
This should create a non-threatening environment where both you and your partner can express yourselves openly and honestly, without fear of judgment and without getting defensive. This should help you both feel safer and better understood in the relationship.
Now this tip can be found in a lot of literature on communication in relationships. It was also taught during my love coaching training as one of the most effective tools of communication when having a conflict with your partner in sex and relationships. But it got me into trouble when I used it in my own relationship. Here is how.
My partner and I use “it” and “this” instead of “you” and “I”. We say “this makes me feel like…”, “it feels like… when you do/say…”, “that affected me in this way” etc. This allows us to explain how we feel and what we meant, and focus on how we can solve the problem together. It gives us space to say “sorry” when we’re wrong. It gives us an opportunity to explain ourselves and find the truth for us, instead of fighting over whose guilt it was.
And when I swapped everything to “I” as an experiment, it became very personal. To my partner it seemed like his feelings didn’t matter, like his intentions were considered bad while they weren’t. The conflict just blew up. Our sweet silly misunderstanding literally exploded, because this is not how we communicate when we solve issues…
It may work or not work for your relationship, too. A lot of people reached out to me on Instagram sharing personal stories of how it doesn’t work in their relationships either when they say “I”. So try with caution if you do, it’s all about finding what works for you.
Communication tip No 3: use "time-in" for conflict resolution
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Conflicts are inevitable in any relationship. It's how we handle them that matters. Next time you have an argument, instead of using "time-outs", try a "time-in" approach. Offer your partner to take a break from the conflict to calm down individually and then come back together to discuss the issue you are having.
During the "time-in," practice self-reflection and introspection to understand your own emotions and triggers. When you reconvene, focus on active listening, validate each other's emotions, and work towards finding a resolution that will satisfy both of you.
Using "time-in" can help create a safe space for open dialogue. You and your partner will be able to express your needs, concerns, and perspectives, without feeling attacked or dismissed by the person you’re in a relationship with. Self-awareness will help you approach the conversation with a clearer perspective.
Communication tip No 4: embrace vulnerability
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Vulnerability is key to true intimacy. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you invite your partner into your inner world. You trust them to see the real you. It involves being open and honest about your feelings, desires, and fears. It can be challenging and requires a degree of courage and trust. But when you both embrace vulnerability, it creates an environment where authentic and meaningful conversations can take place. There is a deep sense of understanding, empathy, and emotional support between you and your partner when you allow yourselves to be vulnerable with each other. And within that, lies the power.
Remember, vulnerability is a two-way street. Create a judgment-free space where both you and your partner can express yourselves authentically, encourage each other to share your vulnerabilities, and watch your relationship grow stronger like never before.
Communication tip No 5: practice clear and direct communication
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Clarity and directness make communication effective. Clearly express your needs, expectations, and boundaries to your partner, and you won’t be misunderstood. Don’t rely on assumptions and don’t expect your partner to magically read your mind. Encourage them to do the same and there will be less miscommunication and resentment in your relationship.
While expressing yourself, remember to show that you respect your partner’s perspective. State your thoughts and feelings directly, be specific and avoid generalizations. Encourage open dialogue, ask for clarification when needed, and be open to compromise and finding common ground!
Communication tip No 6: develop emotional intelligence
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Emotional intelligence (EI) is about understanding and managing your emotions while empathizing and communicating with others. Some people are natural, and some seem to be born with zero EI sometimes. The good news is, you can learn it. Cultivating it can enhance your communication skills and make your relationship stronger.
Start by developing self-awareness. Take time to reflect on your emotions, triggers, and patterns of behavior. Understand how your emotions influence your communication style and interactions with your partner. By recognizing and acknowledging your emotions, you will be able to express them constructively and avoid reacting impulsively.
Additionally, work on empathizing with your partner's emotions. Practice active listening and try to understand their perspective and experiences. Validate their emotions and let them know that their feelings are heard and respected.
Developing emotional intelligence takes time and effort, but it will help you connect with your partner on a deeper level. It allows for more compassionate and understanding communication, and will help strengthen the bond in your relationship.
Communication tip No 7 : explore sensate focus
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Sensate focus exercises, commonly used in sex therapy, can help you enhance intimacy and communication within your relationship. The focus of these exercises is to engage in non-sexual touch and sensory exploration, emphasizing present-moment awareness and connection.
Set aside dedicated time for some purely sensual activities with your partner. Without the pressure of sexual performance. Without any goals. Explore each other's bodies through touch, using your hands, fingertips, or other senses. It can be massage, playing with feathers, rope or other accessories, feeding each other, sensual dancing together and for each other – anything you like, but without any sexual performance. Make it your goal to focus on the experience itself – this will cultivate a deeper sense of intimacy, trust, and connection.
Sensate focus exercises promote communication through touch and sensory exploration. They give an amazing opportunity to learn about each other's desires, boundaries, and preferences.
Building effective communication with your partner takes time and effort. Trial and error as we’ve clearly seen here (😉), because every relationship is unique. But great communication is where strong healthy relationships start. Relationships in which we are heard and understood, relationships in which we can be our most authentic selves, and be happy, even if our beliefs and wants differ from those of our partners. I truly wish you find what works for your relationship best x.
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