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Communication During Coronavirus: Listening and Learning

Communication affects how safe and secure we feel in our relationships as well as our level of intimacy.

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In the Coronavirus era, many couples have been confronted by an all-new dichotomy. We are home more often and physically closer than ever before, but we’re simultaneously drawn inward and experiencing an increased sense of disconnection. When live-in partners are compelled by our current circumstances to spend nearly all of their time together, numerous unexpected and seemingly contradictory challenges arise.

Communicating love and admiration to your partner is a hallmark of any relationship, yet after some time and dealing with the stresses of day-to-day life, you might find that positive communication diminishes. This includes telling your partner that you love them. These comments start to fade in frequency. You may not express gratitude for your partner aloud because it may not come naturally. Instead, you make a big deal over trivial issues and miss the big picture. 

One effective way to increase positive communication and to learn more about your partner is to ask open-ended questions. For instance, I often advise couples to ask their partner questions such as, “What was it like at work today?” This query can elicit more conversation than “Did you have a good day?”

According to Dr. John Gottman, posing questions that require no more than a yes or no can kill a conversation, whereas open-ended questions such as “What did you like best about the movie?” require a deeper response that can enhance conversation.

Ultimately, these broadly relatable questions serve as a tool for partners trying to be more active in taking an emotional interest in their loved one. And in these trying, unprecedented times, it seems the positive results of such inquiry will provide a counterbalance to the strife, uncertainty, and stress that we’re all living with. 

Here are four more questions to ask your partner (and for them to ask you) to increase intimacy

1. What’s one thing you think could improve our relationship?

2. What are two things you like about the way I communicate with you?

3. What are two things you would like to see me change about how I communicate with you?

4.  How would you prefer we spend our free time together this weekend? 

Sometimes couples are so absorbed in their problems that they forget to see their partner as a person. You can strengthen your relationship by learning more about your partner and discussing their thoughts and feelings. If you try to answer the above questions about your partner first and then compare answers (or interview each other), you are on the path to building authentic love and improving the quality of your partnership. The following points can help you attain closeness with your partner on a daily basis.

Communicate better in your relationship.

8 strategies for increasing communication and creating loving intimacy

  • Be sure you first understand before seeking to be understood. Respond to what your partner is really saying in the moment. Be attuned to their experience, more than your own.
  • Freely communicate your admiration and fondness for your partner. You might say, “You’re such a special person, and I’m lucky to have you.”
  • Catch your partner doing something “right” and compliment them for it.
  • Practice offering mutual gratitude on a regular basis. For instance, you might say, “I’m so grateful that you work hard and I can see you had a tough day. I’d like to get you some iced tea and hear about how your day went.”
  • Turn towards your partner when they make a bid for attention, affection, or any other type of positive communication. Overtures often display themselves in basic but powerful ways such as a smile or pat on the shoulder. In contrast, turning away might mean you continue to watch TV or look at your phone when your partner is sharing something important with you.
  • Remind yourself of your partner’s positive qualities and express your positive feelings out loud several times each day. In “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work,” Dr. John Gottman suggests increasing the number of positive comments you make to your partner. Listen to their point of view and adopt his rule of 5:1 ratio of interactions—meaning for every negative interaction, you need at least five positive ones.

Communication affects how safe and secure you feel in your relationships as well as your level of intimacy. Since communication and intimacy are connected, take time every day to really listen to your partner and have the courage to ask open-ended questions (rather than making assumptions) to make sure you understand them. Over time, you will find that you will feel closer, argue less, and feel more satisfied in your relationship.

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Terry Gaspard MSW, LICSW is a licensed therapist and author. She is a contributor to Huffington Post, TheGoodMenProject, The Gottman Institute Blog, and Marriage.com. Her new book, out now, is THE REMARRIAGE MANUAL: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around. Follow Terry on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com.

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