Lubing Up Your Relationship: 5 Steps For Better Communication

We’ve all been there–unexpected friction, dryness, and chafing, preventing us and our significant other from reaching completion. We can try to push through, hoping that mere effort will win the day. We can give up, hoping that the same problem won’t plague us on our next attempt. Or we can take action by applying a restorative balm and rescuing ourselves from discomfort and failure.

While the above could certainly refer to the physical act of lovemaking, it also applies to the less salacious aspects of a relationship as well.  Communication is the non-sexual lubricant that every romantic partnership needs to flourish.

Naturally, not all communication is created equal. Just like sticky drugstore lube is no match for a designer water-based brand, some communication will set your relationship back rather than helping you and your partner to grow and flourish together.

Here are some tips to keep your communication–and your relationship–silky smooth.

Keep Communication Smooth

In our hyper-connected world, sometimes it can be tough to make sure you’re making time for high-quality, in-person communication with your partner. If your communication has dwindled to a few pleasantries over breakfast, an occasional flurry of daytime texts, and a couple of exhausted attempts to chat before bed, it may be time to reconsider your approach. Set aside a special “date night” every week and pledge not to look at your phone—you’ll be surprised how much you still have to talk about! Alternatively, set up a short weekly “check-in” with your partner to make sure you’re communicating about household issues, personal growth and work goals, and see how that impacts the amount of communication you have with each other throughout the day. If time is an issue, look for activities you can do together to maximize your opportunity to chat—exercise, cook a meal, take a class.

young man in leather jacket is whispering something to his lover

Honesty Lubrication

Whether you’re discussing pop culture, division of household duties, or finances, it’s always a good idea to be truthful. This establishes a baseline of trust and accountability between partners, and in addition, eliminates potential sources for conflict before they arise. If you and your other half have different communication styles, acknowledge this openly, and figure out ways you can both feel heard, but still comfortable.

Glide into kindness

When you and your partner first started dating, it’s likely that you both let compliments fly fast and furious. However, it’s easy to forget how good it feels to give and receive compliments once the initial rush of a new relationship has worn off and both partners get caught up in the grind of daily life. A simple “hey, handsome” or comment about an attractive outfit can go a long way to injecting some fun back into the relationship, and praise for a job well-done, whether it’s mopping the floor or closing a deal at work, is always a boost.

Keep Language Smooth

What you may think of as a playful joke may come across to your partner as a thoughtless comment or worse, a harsh criticism. Keep an eye out for unexpected reactions and be proactive in asking whether or not you’ve said something to upset your partner. This is a two way street—if you’re on the receiving end of not-so-nice behavior, make sure your partner knows how you feel so you can work toward interactions that make everyone happy.

Couple beauty sexy lovers talk in bed isolated

Soothing the Rough Edges

All couples experience disagreements, arguments, and fights, but the couples who stay together approach these difficult times as opportunities for growth rather than a death knell for the relationship. If emotions are running high, don’t be afraid to ask for a temporary “cease fire” so everyone can calm down and think more rationally about how to solve the problem.  Find ways to balance negative feedback with positive and enter into any discussion willing to accept constructive criticism as well as dishing it out. If you can’t get on the same page as your partner on an important issue, consider seeking counseling—sometimes a neutral, third party can ease the way to a resolution.

When in doubt, just remind yourself: the couple that talks together stays together!

It’s All Relative: Meeting the Parents

Whether you’ve been hot and heavy with your new main squeeze for a couple of months or a couple of years, meeting the parents is stressful for everyone. Your partner is hoping you get along with his entire network of relatives. His family is hoping you’re not too weird/crazy/mean to be dating him. You’re just trying to hold it all together. Luckily, with a little foresight and planning, you can ensure an easy introduction that works for everyone.

Do the homework.

If you’ve only been on a few dates with your honey, you might want to hold off on meeting Mom, Dad, and the rest of the gang until you get a sense of how he or she gets along with everyone. Do they talk and text everyday, or do they only get together at major holidays? Is there major drama with his older brother or her younger sister? Do they just not talk about long-lost Uncle Terry, or are conspiracy theories welcome? Also remember, if you’re being pressed to meet the family before you’re ready, be sure to let your partner know that you need time to get to know him or her better before you can meet everyone else.

Start small.

If your partner is set on you being his plus one at a big family wedding or this year’s multi-generational reunion, suggest that you meet a smaller group of his relatives to start out, especially if you’re shy or overwhelm easily in large groups. Meeting just your partner’s parents or siblings can give you a sense of their family dynamic without the added pressure of participating in a bouquet toss or three-legged race. Plus, you offer them the opportunity to really get to know you as a person, rather than as your date’s arm candy–it will make introductions at bigger family functions easier for everyone involved.

Set yourself up for success.

Encourage your partner to choose a meetup situation that works for everyone. After all, he knows everyone involved. Suggest avoiding passive activities, like attending a movie or sporting event, where conversation isn’t the focus. Sharing a meal, meeting for drinks, and other low-key social activities are best.

When the big day finally arrives, do everything you can to ensure a smooth introduction. Get a good night’s sleep, eat well, exercise–do whatever it is that helps you be your best self. Be polite and respectful, and follow your partner’s lead. Avoid discussing religion, politics, and other hot- button topics for the time being. Be sure to give everyone a basic picture of who you are. Tell them about your hometown, your work, and your hobbies. Keep it friendly and light–humor is your friend here.

Give honest feedback to your partner.

After you’ve both made it through the first meeting, take the time to check in with your partner. Let her know what you liked or didn’t like about the family, or ways that she behaved when she was with them that are red flags for you. If your relationship is getting serious, it’s important that decide together about what kind of family interactions are acceptable, and whether the two of you see eye-to-eye on how you fit into one another’s families. And don’t forget to emphasize the positives you experienced with his family–remembering the moments that worked alongside the moments that didn’t will go a long way toward figuring out the best way to build your relationships with family as a couple.

Breaking Up Without Breaking Down

Breaking up is the worst. Adjusting to life after you’ve ended a relationship you’ve emotionally, sexually, and financially invested in, is effing terrible, even if you’re the one who broke things off. Trust me, I break up a lot, and it never gets any easier. And while I can’t promise that I always follow my own advice to a tee every time a relationship goes belly-up, I can tell you that this simple roadmap will make adjusting to newly single life a lot less difficult.

Set Boundaries for Contact

Breakups can flatten you emotionally, but you’re going to have to keep it together enough to handle the practical parts of separating. Even if you and your ex-sweetie didn’t combine finances or cohabitate, chances are you’ll need to coordinate the return of a few personal items, fill out some paperwork, or negotiate who gets custody of the Netflix and HBO Go passwords. Be very clear about your needs in terms of scheduling, and be honest with yourself about whether or not you can handle seeing your ex face to face. Text messages and email are great ways to communicate effectively while still preserving some privacy if that’s what you need. If you’re dealing with big stuff like mortgages or vehicles, be sure to have a lawyer handle that. For the little things, see if a friend can help out by picking up those books you left at his apartment or dropping off that spare key you’re holding onto.

Go Easy on Mutual Friends

Speaking of friends, don’t be a jerk to the ones who know both of you! While “friendship custody” can definitely be a thing, don’t pressure your friends to cut ties with your former partner. If they want to talk about the breakup or what she’s up to now and you’re not in the mood, gently remind them that you’re hurting and that you’d prefer to steer clear of those topics. Do your best not to take out any residual anger, jealousy, or grief you have for your partner out on your pals, and be sure to check in before you launch into an unscheduled vent session. If you find that some friends are keeping their distance from you while staying buddy-buddy with your ex, respect their choice, but find a way to let them know if you’re feeling hurt by the loss of their friendship. In most cases, clearing up this awkwardness will get that relationship back on solid ground.

Indulge in Self-Care

Processing the end of a romance on top of your everyday obligations is tough. Schedule time out from your job, family obligations, and social life to pamper yourself. That can mean different things for different people–athletes might schedule in extra time at the gym or prepping for a half-marathon, foodies might take a day to tour a local farm and cook a gourmet meal, and fashionistas might start the day at the spa and finish up with a shopping spree. Also be sure to pamper yourself daily, taking time to reflect in your own way by meditating, journaling, or calling a friend to take emotional inventory and keep yourself in balance