Healthy Communication for Couples – 5 Tips for Strengthening Emotional Connection
Research shows that relationships of love and connection are key to recovery from drugs and alcohol —hence Beach House’s philosophy that “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety” but “love and connection.” But it’s also the case that healthy communication is critical to the cultivation of emotional connection and intimacy with a significant other. If you can’t communicate in healthy ways with a spouse or partner, then your level of connection and intimacy will be poor at best.
Fortunately, healthy communication is a skill that can be learned. It may seem like a counterintuitive departure from what you’re accustomed to, and it may take practice and involve some trial and error, but ultimately there are things you can do as a couple to improve your communication and, in turn, strengthen your emotional connection. On that note, here are five tips for healthy communication that you can put into practice with a spouse or significant other, starting today:
- Trust – Trust is foundational to healthy communication. Trust consists of at least two ingredients: accepting your partner’s word and giving them the benefit of the doubt. One of the ways you can cultivate trust is by encouraging honesty and open lines of communication. (For more on how to cultivate honesty, read on.)
- Accountability – Accountability, simply put, means accepting responsibility for your behaviors and attitudes, and, in the spirit of the 12 Steps, admitting mistakes and wrongs. You can’t control or be responsible for your partner’s actions, but you can control and take responsibility for your own actions, recognizing that perfection is impossible. Instead, accountability starts with humility about one’s imperfections—because whereas perfection is impossible, transparency and humility are possible.
- Honesty – On that note, be honest. Honesty is critical to healthy communication yet can also be one of the hardest things to master—especially when you’ve been used to keeping secrets. If you need more honesty in your relationship, these “5 Ways to Build Trust and Honesty in Your Relationship” are a great place to start.
- Mutual support – Healthy communication is necessarily a two-sided give and take between two people who support one another. You show mutual support by: supporting each other’s choices; being empathetic and understanding; offering words of encouragement; and listening non-judgmentally.
- Cooperation – Related to mutual support is mutual cooperation. Cooperation involves letting go of your expectations of one another, accepting change as a part of life (flexibility), making decisions and tackling problems together, and seeking compromise.
Trust. Accountability. Honesty. Mutual support. And cooperation. With these five ingredients, you’ll be on well on your way to achieving healthier communication as a couple and greater emotional connection.
If you are considering treatment for a drug or alcohol problem, look for facilities that offer family programs. Since addiction impacts the entire family system, family programs or workshops can help define roles and improve communication skills which can give families a leg-up in achieving long-term recovery.