If all this Valentine’s love talk has got you feeling blue instead of seeing red, you’re not alone. Relationships can be hard—whether they’re with a romantic partner, family member, or friend. Sometimes, we drift apart. Other times, conflict rears its ugly head. Often, we simply don’t see eye to eye on basic viewpoints.
No matter who you’re in a relationship with or what has got you down, talking about the problem can help. Keying in to your own personal wants and needs for a relationship or situation will bring clarity to your interactions with others.
“Talking to a therapist can help you reconnect with yourself and your loved one for better communication about what you want in the relationship,” explains Aron Wolf, MD, Teladoc’s behavioral health medical director.
Read on for ways therapy can help and how solid communication is the foundation for every great relationship.
Communication for connection: talking and listening
If you’re having pain, stress, or trust issues in a relationship, consider the conditions that surround both serious and everyday conversations. Communication is an opportunity to get closer to another person, to learn about their motivations, and to share feelings through powerful words. If you or your partner are speaking in a way that is aggressive, indirect, or disinterested, this can hurt the relationship.
Share what’s important about your day or why an issue really matters to you, leaving space for your partner to respond and share his own opinions. Being a good listener means hearing and taking in what another person is saying: make eye contact, nod your head, and keep body language open and accepting. Put the devices away and give your loved one the gift of your full attention. Scrolling through your phone, staring at the floor, or crossing your arms in defense changes the tone of a discussion.
Solid connection is the ultimate relationship goal: Sharing why you think the way you do and learning why someone else’s experience may be different opens up new opportunities for understanding. By making the time and space to really talk and listen, the possibilities for closeness and discovery are endless. If this open environment is lacking in your life, you’re not alone. You’re also not forced to live this way forever.
Trying therapy to get to the heart of the matter
Our pasts are our own, and our experiences—from childhood to current day—shape both who we are and how we communicate. The basis for being a strong relationship partner or friend is having a strong sense of selfhood. “A therapist can help you explore past difficulties, other relationships, and the unique factors that impact how you behave in relationships,” Dr. Wolf explains.
A trained professional can help you get to the root of your role in relationship challenges. The therapist can also give you tips on active listening, achieving open dialogue, breaking down misconceptions, and maintaining boundaries. For example, he may suggest frequently checking in with your partner during an important discussion with comments like “What I heard you saying just then was…” or, “Let me see if I’ve understood you correctly…” in the flow of conversation. That way, you become a more active listener and truth-seeker during the talk. It’s also important to ask questions—without interrupting—and listen to each response.
A large part of making—and keeping—healthy relationships is being open and honest about your own difficulties and weaknesses. No one is perfect, and it’s OK to say, “I’m not sure,” “I behaved badly just then,” or “I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Apologizing when you’re wrong, telling the truth, and putting your partner or friend first will show how much you care.
If things feel like they are unraveling in a relationship, you can go “back to basics” and practice the strategies a therapist has taught you. Teladoc’s mental health specialists team—made up of ready-to-listen counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists of your choosing—are here to support your personal and relationship goals. Always secure and confidential, our providers truly care about your well-being and finding solutions for life’s problems. Relationships don’t have to be so hard; help is available through the Web or mobile app today.
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