An Expert’s Guide to Better Communication with your Partner

I’ve polled my audience four times now in order to determine the relationship problems YOU are struggling with.

Every time, one problem comes up again and again and again and again: 


So when Jamie emailed me about guest posting on how to have better communication with your partner (based on an interview she conducted with Louis Venter), I didn’t hesitate to say YES!  

Thanks Jamie!         -Celeste

Better Communication with your Partner

Communication is one of the most important aspects of any romantic relationship. That said, the majority of couples do not communicate as effectively as they should.

Louis Venter is a relationship expert and counsellor in South Africa. He regularly teaches couples how to communicate effectively with one another.

We have asked Louis how couples can learn to communicate effectively, rather than becoming frustrated with one another and leaving conflict to go unresolved.

More than just words

What many couples do not realize is that effective communication with your partner involves far more than just talking; it is feeling, seeing and hearing each other.

Communication is connection; it’s not just the sharing of information, but two separate worlds becoming visible to each other. It is showing up with aliveness and availability to the story that your partner has to tell.

Better Communication with your Partner- tips you can start applying TODAY.

One way in which you can make yourself more available to hearing what your partner has to say is by sitting very close to each other while facing each other and holding hands.

While this may seem specific, experts have argued that by doing this you open yourself up to hear what your other half has to say. Try this technique and see if it helps.

Being physically close during communication is important. Physical closeness in communication helps couples to bridge the distance between two separate and different worlds.

Make Time

One of the biggest causes of divorce across the world is the busy lifestyle many people lead.

Often, couples struggle to prioritize their relationship over other aspects of their lives. Those who are not willing to make the effort in their relationship may believe that connection and intimacy will happen without time, energy and intentional deeds to develop intimacy and connection.


Making time to communicate is vitally important. Being busy with something else doesn’t help communication and connection. Rather, being pre-occupied while trying to communicate can cause more harm than good.

Make time to communicate with your partner on a deep level. Practice communicating deeply for at least 10 minutes a day. Talk about every aspect of your lives – not just conflict. If you aren’t sure about what you should communicate about, we provide you with some good starting points at the end of this article.


It’s no surprise that talking is an important aspect of communication. However, few couples know how they can use speech to enhance their relationship and feelings towards one another.

It’s important to always communicate feelings, fears and desires to your partner. In a relationship, you should always be open and honest with your partner.

Better Communication with your partner

Stay clear of blaming and shaming your partner, this will only have a negative impact on both you and your partner. Instead, try communicating true needs.

Communicate with vulnerability, softness and kindness. Stay patient with your partner, while they try to understand you. Know that listening and understanding someone else is difficult, so be sure to appreciate when your partner is trying.


In relationships people often focus on talking rather than listening. We’re so caught up on talking about how we feel without really focusing on what our partner is saying and processing their words effectively.

Louis Venter explains that when having deep communication with your partner, after each sentence you should repeat your partner’s words. Use exactly the words your partner used.

Check in if you understood your partner with saying “Did I get you?” We call this mirroring. Our deepest desire is to be understood with fullness. Practice listening to the words, but also to see the world behind the words.

Listen to the tone of voice, see the tears and become conscious of the hurt. Stretch yourself into feeling the emotions of your partner. True listening is not just listening to the word of your partner but validating their feelings by allowing yourself to be touched by it.

Continued Listening

Commit to develop deep listening and talking skills with your partner. Read books and attend seminars on communication skills for couples. Most people haven’t learned to voice our deepest needs and deepest fears in ways that our partners can understand.

Conversation Starters to Deepen Communication

Deep, honest communication is a vitally important aspect of any relationship, but it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are a few conversation starters you can use to get started:

– “What I need the most from you in the next few weeks to feel love is …”
– “One thing about me I haven’t that I have not shared with you lately is …”
– “I want to tell you how I am doing …”
– “The most precious thing about our relationship for me is …”
– “What I enjoy the most doing with you is …”

Deep, intimate and satisfying relationships with good communication are absolutely possible. If you are struggling to communicate effectively with your partner, try out some of these suggestions and let us know how it goes.

This article has been created with the help of Louis Venter from Couples Help. Louis is a leading relationship and marriage expert who is based in South Africa.

Quality Time Love Language Guide

Five keys to speaking the love language of quality time.

I hope I’ve gotten the message across clearly in this blog that I am no marriage expert. I am a FAR cry from a perfect spouse and find it very difficult to put most of what I learn from researching these articles into practice.

quality time love language

You said it kid.


There is one area where I am becoming quite an expert and that is how I feel loved. I’m able to articulate how I want Rich to treat me to make me feel the most love. Knowing this is actually a huge blessing to both Rich and me, and Gary Chapman and his 5 Love Languages [amazon link] book helped to define better what I felt.

Now it happens to be quality time month on the blog and lucky for you my love language is QUALITY TIME! What an excellent coincidence.

Most of these ideas come from Dr. Gary Chapman himself, but are also backed up by my nine years of experience in what helps and doesn’t help in filling up the love tank of a quality time love language spouse.

You may think quality time is all about spending  A LOT o f time together, or going out and doing a lot of things together.  Maybe that sounds exhausting.  Or expensive.  But as you can see below, loving a quality time love language spouse actually has very little to do with  the actual amount of time together and everything to do with how you spend the time you do have together.

5 Keys to Loving a Quality Time Love Language Spouse:

1 Give them your UNDIVIDED attention (ie: Put the phone down!)

“Nothing says ‘I love you’ like full, undivided attention.”  – Gary Chapman

YES!  Yes, yes yes yes yes.

For quality timers,  undivided attention is the name of the game. If your spouse’s love language is quality time, don’t talk to them while you are focused on something else, it will drive them bonkers. Not while you’re watching something, not while you’re Facebooking, not while you’re gaming.

If you are in the middle of something and they want to talk, it is better to say, “Just a sec, I’m almost done,” and then give them your full attention when you talk rather than trying to have a conversation while you are distracted.

Not that I am speaking from experience here . . . (but I’m totally speaking from experience here).

2 Maintain eye contact.

Oh my gosh guys. If you remember nothing else from this post, remember this: eye contact is important! It is the gateway to loving a quality time spouse.

As I was re-listening to the 5 Love Languages recently, I was surprised to hear just how much Gary Chapman talked about eye contact with a quality time love language. But it was honestly like he was reading my mind. Like he was articulating something I had never thought to articulate.

I think I audibly said, “YES!” when I heard him say that maintaining eye contact tells your spouse that you have their full attention and will make them feel loved and understood.

Quality conversation with sustained eye contact is the key to my heart. It fills me up like nothing else can and when I don’t have it for a while, I always feel disconnected from Rich and start to feel unloved.

This is probably one of the reasons I love companionship inventory so much. Sunday nights we don’t watch anything, and we block out at least an hour to just chat. Even if the topics are hard sometimes, my love tank gets filled up every Sunday night just by having focused one-on-one conversation.

quality time love language
Al knows what I’m talking about.

3 If you don’t have much time, make the most out of the time you do have.

Even if it is only 10 minutes a day- make those 10 minutes count! Focus on each other. Talk, connect, express love, snuggle, have sex, whatever, just make it intentional and focused. Ten minutes of pure connection will yield much better results in way of connecting than two hours of being together without focused attention on each other (Netflix, I’m giving you the shifty side eye here).

4 Actively listen without interrupting.

A quick reminder on how to actively listen with the F.L.A.P. method: focus, lean, affirm (paraphrase) and probe (ask thoughtful questions).

Active listening is one of the most loving things you can do for your partner regardless of their love language, but unfortunately it’s not intuitive. Most of us go to stating our opinion, jumping to conclusions and interrupting more naturally than active listening in our conversations.

In short, we think of ourselves and our thoughts, words and opinions more than we think of our partner’s when we’re talking to them. This takes conscious effort to reverse, and there is no better time than the present to start practicing!

Perhaps the quickest mind trick is to actively try putting yourself in their shoes- try to see the world how they see it and feel the things they feel- while your partner is talking to you.

Interrupting is like nails on a chalkboard for someone whose love language is quality time. It makes them feel unheard and uncared for.

5 Offer sympathy, not advice.

“We are often trained to analyze problems and create solutions.  We forget that marriage is a relationship, not a project to be completed or a problem to solve. A relationship calls for sympathetic listening with a view to understanding the other person’s thoughts, feelings and desires. We must be willing to give advice but only when it is requested and never in a condescending manner.”  – Gary Chapman

If your love language is quality time, you are surely nodding along on this one.  We just want to talk to be heard and understood NOT evaluated and instructed. Rich and I misunderstood this for years, and it was rough.  We are both guilty. Now, often we’ll ask, “Wait, do you want advice on this?” And that is a great question because most of the time the other one says no.

Quality Time Love Language | 5 Love Languages | Gary Chapman

So if you are married to someone whose love language is quality time- make eye contact, make the most of the time you have together, put the phone down and actively listen while they are talking.

And if you really want to take your relationship to the next level- join our love experiment this month: connection with your spouse for 10 minutes every night as explained here.

Setting Boundaries in Marriage: What Does that Look Like?

What does setting healthy boundaries in marriage look like? We’re often good at getting mad or resentfully accommodating, but usually not so good at setting healthy boundaries.


That is a topic I’ve never really addressed on the blog because in all honesty I don’t really know how to think about them.

Oh I know how to lay down my desires to get what I want, but I’ve never really had a firm grasp on what setting healthy boundaries looks like exactly.

That is, until I’ve spent a lot of time researching it for my upcoming book about mixed-faith marriages (sign up here if you are interested in that).  I’ve thought A TON about this topic recently.

Some people I’ve interviewed for my book are in a situation where they legitimately need to set down some boundaries in their marriage.

And its hard.

Because our knee-jerk reactions in these tough situations are generally either to get really mad or to withdraw.

Setting boundaries in marriage? How do you do that? What does that feel like? Click through to read more.

Now, it should be said that perhaps I don’t understand about boundaries because I’ve never been in a serious situation where I’ve needed to set some.

The credit there all goes to Rich.  Realizing that gosh, Rich really doesn’t make demands of me filled me right up with love and appreciation for him.

But some people do make demands of their spouse.  Some people make a lot of demands.

We aren’t in control of how demanding our spouse is, but we are in control of how we react.  Do we get upset?  Resentful?  Vengeful?  Do we withdraw? Do we let them have their way but disconnect emotionally?

Brene Brown (bless that woman!) says when you are faced with a demand that violates your personal integrity (which is when a boundary needs to be set), you don’t puff up and you don’t shrink.  You stand your sacred ground.

Brene defines boundaries as knowing what is ok and what is not ok. When you are faced with something that is not ok, you don’t start fighting and yelling (although this is a natural reaction, it’s not helpful) and you don’t shrink (resentful accommodation).  You don’t become a doormat to accepting things that violate your personal integrity.

You stand your sacred ground and you do it with love.

If you are wondering (as I did) if you are in need of setting a boundary– ask yourself, “Would this boundary come from the best in me or the worst in me?  Who would benefit from this boundary- just me or both of us?”  A good boundary should actually benefit both parties, and should be coming from the best in you.

When asked this, it became clear to me that I’m not in a position where I need to set any boundaries in my marriage.  Sometimes I don’t get my way and I want to “put my foot down” (that would result in me getting my way), but that is coming from the worst in me, not the best in me.

For example, I would love to get rid of stuff Rich wants to keep, but I know that that is not coming from my personal integrity- it’s coming from wanting to get my way.  Keeping stuff around that Rich wants to keep does not violate my morals or harm me in any way other than bothering me.  So we’ll keep talking about it and compromising, but its not worth setting a line in the sand over.

Setting lines in the sand always comes with a consequence, and your friendship and connection is what will take a hit.

While I couldn’t find anything in my marriage that needs a boundary, I actually did find a few behaviors in my parenting that did. I think I have unintentionally become a bit of a doormat to my kids’ demands, which often causes me to be resentful towards them.

So I lovingly set some boundaries recently that would benefit BOTH me and my kids. And for maybe the first time, I didn’t create boundaries out of anger (I formerly didn’t know that could happen). I set them calmly and lovingly. And I’m happy to report, it’s been working wonderfully. I feel like I have more respect for myself and have been less resentful toward them.


So if you need to set some boundaries, don’t puff up, don’t shrink, just stand your sacred ground.

The Power of Giving Up Having Things My Way

Do you want to be married or do you want to be right?  In this post I go through some situations were I wanted to be right and my marriage reaped the consequences.

The theme for the month of September will be all about my personal marriage wins.  Each month I send my email subscribers a “win” I’ve had for the month, so the posts this month are taken directly from those emails I’ve sent out.  My email list is where I get pretty personal, so if you want in on this (and duh, you definitely want in on this), just  sign up right at the bottom of this post. 🙂

From November 5

Hey friends,

Alright, my “marriage win” for the week is actually all about a marriage mistake.  Well, a couple marriage mistakes.  But isn’t that how we gain our wins?  By making mistakes?

So, my mistakes were involving always needing to have things my way. Perhaps it’s because I’m a youngest child or perhaps just because I’m selfish, or perhaps both, but regardless, I really like having things my way.

As you can imagine, this repeatedly brings marital discord as it did in the three examples from my week last week:

Situation 1:  We had planned to chop a significant amount of our girls’ hair off this week for some pretty intense hair cuts.  I was pretty sure I could do a good job of it myself.  Rich preferred I take them to someone professional since it was a big change.  Welll, I ran out of time and was so convinced I could do a good job that I just did it myself while Rich was at work.

Situation 2:  Saturday morning my oldest daughter had a soccer game.  It was her last one, so I wanted the whole family to go.  But it was raining and quite cold and Rich made the point that the younger two children would just be miserable so one of us should probably stay home with them.  Instead, I got my way and we all went.

Situation 3:  Saturday night was Halloween as you may have noticed.  We usually watch a movie together on Saturday night.  Rich wanted to watch a Halloween movie.  I did not.  In the end we didn’t.

I know right?  Rich is the most patient man around.   But these things took their toll on our connection for sure.

Do you want to be right or do you want to be married?  I learn that lesson the hard way frequently because I tend to always think my way is the best. But really love is the best way.  Click through to read why.

On Sunday mornings I try to prepare for church by asking God what is keeping me from progressing.  I got the strong feeling that I need to work on this “always getting my way” thing.  I honestly had totally forgotten about all those seemingly unrelated situations I just typed out, but God brought them back to my mind.  I sincerely apologized to Rich and promised to do better.

I’ve been trying this week and it’s really hard!  I’m ALWAYS so convinced that my way is the best way.  But in the end, having a happy marriage and thus a happy family is so much more worth it than getting my way.

Love is all about sacrifice.

Have you had any experiences with learning to let go of getting your way??  I would love it if you would respond and tell me all about it!

So, now that you know what goes on in these emails, to get them in the future, just click the box below.


Book Review: For All Eternity

A review of the book For All Eternity by Dr. John Lund.

My friend Sabrina, who posted her Share the Love post with us last month had such great advice that she gleaned from the book For All Eternity that I knew I had to ask her to do a separate book review post.  Even if you don’t think you’ll read the book, you should seriously get in on the advice/overview she’s written for us. This post is littered with gold nuggets of communication wisdom.  Content communicating??  Gold!  Thanks Sabrina!

BookFor All Eternity by Dr. John Lund

ReviewerSabrina Gardner

Consensustwo thumbs up!

When Matt and I were first married, we went on a road trip and listened to a book on CD called For All Eternity, by Dr. John Lund. We’ve listened and read it a couple times since then and have implemented a lot of what Dr. Lund teaches. One of the main ideas of his book is learning to decipher our own expectations:

“Communication is an exchange of understanding. All frustration comes from unmet expectations. There is no such thing as someone who is frustrated who did not have an expectation that was unmet.”

If I expect Matt to come home from a full day of work (after biking 8 miles, as he does most days) and help immediately with our three children or pay attention to me, I am setting myself up for disappointment. He comes home tired and needs time to decompress. When I adjust my expectation of when I will get help from him, I can be calm, knowing that in 15 minutes, he will be happy and ready to help.

This doesn’t apply just to our spouses. When our second child was born, I was expecting him to be like his older sister who had slept solidly through the night very early on. When that didn’t happen, I was incredibly frustrated. Our son was about four months old when one night I woke Matt up and told him I was just done with this boy who wouldn’t sleep and I needed Matt to help him because I was becoming too frustrated to be kind. After taking care of the baby, Matt gently reminded me to change my expectation of what our baby would do and my frustration level would go down. He was right, and after I adjusted my expectations, I felt like I could deal better with our children.

A Review of For All Eternity, a book by John Lund

Dr. Lund suggests communicating in a way he calls content communicating, meaning you hold yourself and your spouse accountable for every word spoken. People typically rely on facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice during a conversation, and can easily misinterpret what the other person is trying to say. Content communication avoids these misunderstandings by committing to rely on only verbal cues and owning your statements. If my husband doesn’t understand what I want, it’s my fault because I did not communicate it clearly.

Content communicating is about stating the desired outcome clearly and with respect and kindness in such a way that it cannot be misunderstood. It is our job to communicate our own needs and expectations clearly.

One story in particular that Dr. Lund tells has stuck with us and we have often referred to it. A family of five siblings were all going through divorces, and one member invited Dr. Lund into their home to see if there was a systemic problem in the family. Dr. Lund noted that during dinner, the father of these siblings would stare at a dish on the table that he wanted. Someone eventually would notice and ask if he wanted the gravy… no… the peas? When Dr. Lund spoke later with the father, and asked why he didn’t just ask for the peas, the father said, “If you have to ask, it doesn’t mean as much.” Doesn’t that just sound crazy?! Nobody can read minds, and it is our job to take responsibility for what we need and desire.

Honestly, Matt and I still rely on voice and facial expressions, but we both consciously try to be explicit in expressing what we need or want. One of our first Christmases together, we decided together on two large-ish presents. Christmas morning came, and I was shocked that Matt had not gotten me anything else. Well, in his mind, we’d talked about Christmas, decided on specific things, so he thought he was done and it was settled. Now he knows that even if we pick out something together, I still like to be surprised with one small thing. And I know that if we’ve talked about presents and I want an extra surprise, I need to tell him. Sometimes we feel our spouse doesn’t love us because they fail to meet our expectations, but if we have not clearly communicated what we want, we set our spouse up for failure.

One other point I’ll mention from For All Eternity is the importance of apologizing and forgiveness, which are crucial in a marriage. When we hurt someone, it doesn’t matter so much if we meant to or it was an accident. Dr. Lund’s example is that if he accidentally bumps you off a two-story building, the consequences are the same for you whether he bumped you or shoved you.

“With the reconciliation process, it’s more important that if I caused you any hurt, sorrow, or heartache, I acknowledge it, feel sorry for it, and apologize, even if it was done inadvertently.”  – Dr. John Lund

Apologies are not explanations. They do not shift blame over to the other person. “I’m sorry, but if you had/hadn’t…” Also asking why your spouse hurt you is not a good idea. Dr. Lund explains, as “there is really only one answer and it’s ‘I made a poor choice.’ … Is there an answer that I could give that would bring you peace? There is not. The only appropriate answer is one where we take responsibility for our choice and offer an apology that is not an explanation.”

Apologizing sincerely and quickly when there has been hurt has been valuable to our relationship. I feel safe with Matt and trust that he holds my heart carefully. I am grateful that Matt forgives me quickly when I’ve hurt him. Sometimes we have been intentionally hurt by someone, perhaps our spouse, but if we hold onto the pain, it only continues to hurt us. Forgiving our spouse when they have hurt us frees us to greater understanding and peace.

As Elder Kevin R Duncan said recently, “Gratefully, God, in His love and mercy for His children, has prepared a way to help us navigate these sometimes turbulent experiences of life. He has provided an escape for all who fall victim to the misdeeds of others. He has taught us that we can forgive! Even though we may be a victim once, we need not be a victim twice by carrying the burden of hate, bitterness, pain, resentment, or even revenge. We can forgive, and we can be free!”

I love this. Forgiving is freeing. And forgiving your spouse, and being forgiven by your spouse is beautiful.