These 3 Therapist-Approved 'Tricks' Can Fix Almost Any Relationship Challenge

Photo: Dean Drobot via Canva
man and woman walking and having a calm, serious discussion

At some point, we’ve probably all dreaded and stumbled through challenging conversations with someone we care about, and we likely yearned for more effective communication in those moments.

Navigating challenges in any relationship can prove to be quite tricky, and communication can make or break a solution.

Therapist, author, and attachment expert Eli Harwood has some helpful things to say about how to be better communicators when things are difficult, awkward, and hard.

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3 Things You Must Do To Solve Just About Any Relationship Challenge

1. Talk about it.

At the beginning of her video, Harwood references a Fred Rogers quote: “Anything that's human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.”

On that same note, after studying 40,000 couples, Dr. John Gottman identified the most problematic types of communication in romantic relationships. He found that contempt, which he says is the biggest predictor of a failed relationship, emerges when respect for our partner diminishes.

Have you ever been out with a couple and seen one partner roll their eyes at what the other partner is saying? Or has your friend ever expressed a view you find absurd, and instead of addressing it, you roll your eyes and dismiss them as crazy?

Reactions like this turn collaboration into division and shut down communication.

When issues are not addressed head-on, the space for resentment to grow widens, potentially leading to the end of your relationship. It is crucial to not only discuss issues as they come up, but to do so respectfully.

2. Make sure you both feel safe in your connection.

It is a common tendency to dive straight into addressing relationship issues without expressing our affection. This can often lead to making our loved one feel unwanted and anxious.

According to Harwood, “There is something about saying there is security in our relationship — and we can deal with this — that helps our bodies to relax."

Harwood further states that security in a relationship not only helps us relax but also enhances our problem-solving capabilities.

This insight aligns with our current understanding that those with anxiety may be more likely to have poor-quality relationships. Additionally, research finds that positive displays such as humor and affection, are strong indicators of future stability in relationships.

You can see why it doesn’t hurt to start off your conversation by stating just how much you adore your loved one and to come back to this place of safety and love when needed.

3. Make time and space for both of you to feel heard.

In the heat of an argument, it is all too easy to become entangled in the quest to be right. Conversations lead to talking over each other and refusing to consider the other’s perspective.

Harwood says you could make your biggest mistake here — by not hearing the other person out.

“Communicate how deeply you care about the person’s perspective," Harwood suggests. "Give them thirty minutes to explain what it is they want you to hear, even if you disagree with all of it.”

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The communication tips Harwood shares require a high level of emotional intelligence and maturity — especially when handling disagreements.

As explained by Harvard instructor Margaret Andrews, "Emotional intelligence is critical in building and maintaining relationships and influencing others."



If you aren’t sure how to increase your emotional intelligence, Andrews has a few suggestions:

  • Recognize and name your emotions
  • Ask for feedback
  • Read literature

Yes, read books! Reading from other people's perspectives not only gives us insight into people’s motivations and actions but also increases social awareness — which is a cornerstone in building high emotional intelligence.

Effective communication serves as a crucial pillar in any healthy relationship!

By addressing concerns openly, reinforcing relationship security, and listening to your loved one’s perspective, you can help cultivate happier long-lasting relationships.

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Marielisa Reyes is a writer with a bachelor's degree in psychology who covers self-help, relationships, career and family topics.