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Time to talk: Communicating with your partner

Communicating with your partner

Good communication is the foundation of a good relationship. Without it, resentment, fear or distrust can build up, and there’s nothing like this trio to cause relationship problems. 

So it is no surprise when Relate, the UK’s largest provider of relationship support, reports that many couples seeking counselling from them say that communication breakdown is one of the main reasons.

To understand how better to communicate with your partner, Luisa Williams, CEO & Founder of My Family Psychologist, joins us to explain the four key communication styles and why understanding them is important in forming and maintaining all relationships.  

Communication is an important aspect of life that can impact how we form and maintain relationships.  

Having a good understanding of our communication style can help develop self-awareness and identify our areas of improvement and strengths, resulting in strengthening our relationships, reducing conflicting situations, and expressing our needs.  

Communication styles are influenced by external factors that are then internalised. These styles are not fixed but transition and adapt to the scenarios we face.  

There are four main communication styles:

  1. Assertive

  2. Passive

  3. Passive-aggressive 

  4. Aggressive  

 Assertive communication 

The assertive communication style is a widely accepted style that is considered an effective communication style.  

It is focused on the needs of the communicator and those with who they are communicating.  

Theses communicators value their time, rights, needs and themselves- as well as others.  

They are driven by their desires and needs as well as respecting others desires and needs.  

They are straightforward and direct in expressing their opinions, advocate for their rights and someone who states facts (without labels or judgments). They are fair, honest, open to criticism or bargaining whilst ensuring others understand and interpret the situation at hand in a realistic manner.  

Others will feel that they can trust the assertive communicator at their word, that they know where they stand, that they have been listened to, considered, and respected. 

 In summary, the assertive communication style consists of: 

  • Direct communication 

  • Appropriate honest 

  • Advocates for oneself 

  • Utilised “I” statements  

  • Listens and does not interrupt  

  • Express emotions  

Passive communication 

This style of communication focuses on the needs of others rather than the needs of their own.  

They are driven by the desire and belief to please others and avoid conflict. 

They typically are indirect about their thoughts or feelings and will submit to other desires.  

They struggle to take responsibility for decisions, have no opinion, agree to others without question, talk softly, do not express their feelings, and avoid conflict or confrontation.  

Others may view a passive communicator as frustrating, confused about their needs, and some may advantage of the individual.  

In summary, a passive communication style consists of: 

  • Indirect communication 

  • Denies personal needs  

  • Apologies for emotions  

  • Defers to other opinions  

  • Minimises one’s experience  

  • Prioritises other emotions  

Passive-aggressive  style of communication 

People who communicate in a passive-aggressive style may appear passive on the surface but can act out their needs in an indirect way.  

They are driven by beliefs such as “I’ll please you, but I will get back at you”. 

They have difficulties expressing and acknowledging their anger, resulting in feeling trapped, unable to confront conflict or their needs.  

They often sabotage themselves due to unclear intentions, and their expressions do not match their emotions.  

Passive-aggressive communicators may be sarcastic, ‘two-faced’, spread rumours, give silent treatments, talk about others behind their backs rather than confronting others and indirectly aggressive.  

Others may feel they are frequently left feeling confused, angry, hurt, or resentful.  

In summary, the passive-aggressive communication style consists of: 

  • Indirect communication   

  • Denies difficult emotions  

  • Indirectly expresses anger  

  • Backhanded compliments  

  • Denies there is a problem  

  • Feigns cooperation 

 Aggressive communication 

They focus on their own needs and disregard the needs of others.  

They are driven by beliefs such as “I’m right, and you are wrong”,, and “I’ll get what I want no matter what.” 

They come across as bossy, condescending and threatening.  

They often are close-minded, interrupt or speak over others, put others down, use threats and are not effective listeners.  

Others may feel defensive, humiliated, hurt, afraid, disrespected, and can resort to fighting back, being resistant or defiant.   

In summary, an aggressive communication style consists of: 

  • Inappropriately honest  

  • Dominate others 

  • Does not listen  

  • Critics or blames others 

  • Low frustration tolerance  

  • Only uses “you” statements  

How understanding your style can help when communicating with your partner

Understanding the styles of communication is just beginning. Now,  it’s time to take that learning and develop self-awareness by exploring and understanding your style of communication,  your behavioural tendencies and personal needs. 

Whatever your goals relate to your relationships, family, work, finances, you need to learn to communicate effectively to achieve them.  

This does not mean talking the loudest, getting the last word in or pretending everything is fine. Powerful communication comes from understanding your needs and learning how to express them clearly — while also valuing the messages you receive from others.

Starting to practice better communication today will help you build your relationships, set clear boundaries and improve your life

Get in touch 

If you need some advice on communicating with your partner, please contact My Family Psychologist. 

We offer specialised counselling services for adults, couples and children, as well as mediation services. Get in touch and see how we can support you when you are going through a difficult time. 

Visit the My Family Psychologist website here.

Family law advice 

For any family law advice please  contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist lawyers here


The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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