One of the biggest problems in relationships is the inability of partners to communicate properly. Most people use one of three main styles of communication: aggressive, passive, and assertive. Many people are prone to using passive communication, where they avoid problems and standing up for themselves in favor of making others happy. Those who favor passive communication are more likely to forgo giving their own opinions with a “whatever you think is best” or “if it makes you happy.” Others are prone to aggressive communication, which is self-centered, angry, and attacks any hint of disagreement. “You’re such a jerk for not wanting to do this!, etc.” If one or both partner(s) is/are consistently using one of these communication styles in a relationship, that relationship may potentially be unhealthy.

Healthy relationships are characterized by assertive communication. Assertive communicators use calm “I” statements – “I am frustrated that you forgot to clean the kitchen because we have guests coming over.” Assertive communication means stating your own point of view and looking after your own rights, but being willing to listen to and compromise with the other person.

In addition to how partners communicate, it is also important to keep communication open about what each partner wants out of the relationship and how they feel about how the relationship is progressing. The healthiest relationships occur when each partner can communicate honestly with themselves and their partners about what they think, want, and feel.

Some things it may be wise for each partner to reflect on and discuss include:

  • What do I want out of this relationship?
  • Are my needs being met?
  • Are my partner's needs being met?
  • Do I feel comfortable talking about my needs and desires with my partner? If not, why not?
  • Is my partner comfortable talking about their needs and desires with me? If not, why not?
  • Do I feel I can be truthful with my partner?
  • What are my boundaries? What am I comfortable with? Does my partner know where my boundaries lie?
  • Can I trust my partner to respect my boundaries?
  • Am I happy in the relationship?
  • Does this relationship help me feel good about myself? If not, why not? If I feel bad about myself, is this relationship healthy for me?
  • Can I look after my own well-being while participating in this relationship?
  • Does my partner expect me to look after myself before seeing to their happiness? If they don't, are they a healthy partner for me?
  • When I talk, is my partner really listening and paying attention?
  • When my partner talks, am I really listening and paying attention?
  • Can I tell if my partner is uncomfortable even if they don't say so?
  • Do my partner and I respect each other?
  • Is my relationship healthy and equal?

If you feel you cannot talk to your partner about these questions or if you are unhappy with the answers, STSM has counselors and assistance available 24 hours a day. STSM's office contact number is 771-7273 or call our toll-free hotline at 800-491-7273.