Having a good marriage can be hard work for many couples. In any relationship that stands the test of time, there are mutual feelings of respect, trust, and intimacy. But when those feelings are challenged by misunderstandings, dishonesty, or abusive behavior, relationships break down as one or both of you begin to feel disconnected from the partner you thought you knew.

According to Allison Cohen, MA, MFT, a psychotherapist in California, it's possible to re-establish that all-important connection and feel close again. Cohen suggests asking yourselves the following questions and taking these steps to improve communication, strengthen your bond, and feel more satisfied with your relationship:

1. Am I committed to this relationship?

If so, let your partner know that even in troubling times, you are still loyal, trustworthy, and supportive. Be honest. If you wish to feel more connected to your partner, say so. If you feel physically or emotionally unsafe, say so. At the same time, if your partner is pressing for a conversation you aren't prepared to have, say so in a reassuring manner that lets the other know you are still emotionally available, but maybe just having a bad day.

2. Do I communicate effectively?

Frequent, clear, and direct communication is vital to any relationship. Take time to share thoughts, address issues, resolve problems, and make plans. "Being explicit about your needs is essential to a successful relationship," Cohen says. "It allows you to avoid the 'mind reading trap' of assuming your partner can intuitively know your desires, simply because the two of you have been together for so long." Practice being a good listener and acknowledge what your partner has to say without interrupting or behaving defensively.

3. Can I walk away from a fight?

When there's an argument, you or your partner may need some time to calm down before you say or do something hurtful. By temporarily disengaging, you may be able to prevent an emotionally charged situation from escalating into irreversible damage.

4. What can I do to rejuvenate the relationship?

Everyone knows that successful relationships take work, and intimate relationships can be especially fragile. "If you and your partner sit down and think about what could improve the relationship, you may be surprised at how pointed the suggestions may be," Cohen adds. "Brainstorm together on a piece of paper." Soon, she says, you have created a precise road map leading straight back to emotional and physical connectedness.

Allison Cohen, MA, MFT, reviewed this article



Harris, Victor Williams. "9 Important Communication Skills for Every Relationship." University of Florida Extension Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences.