The Language of Love: 6 Tips for Better Communication

You love your partner, and can't quite imagine life without him. Yet when the two of you are together, it's all too easy to fall into the pattern of criticizing, berating, and belittling, with each of you feeling wronged by the other. No wonder it sometimes feels like the two of you are oceans apart when it comes to intimacy.

If you'd like to relearn how to speak the language of love so that you and your partner are on the same page sexually once again, it's important to:

1. Start from the beginning. Realize that some of the negative feelings that surface toward each other may have to do with your childhood. You may feel so exasperated by what you perceive as your partner's criticism that you can hardly talk to him. Your reaction to a partner's criticism may be partially triggered by grievances you've held onto since childhood. When you are sitting with your partner discussing finances, you may feel "like you are sitting with your critical father discussing a report card," says Robin Kerner, Ph.D., of St Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. Recognize that both of you bring past hurts to the relationship, and try to keep a sense of humor.

2. Avoid misinterpretations. Be sure you that you comprehend what your partner is saying. It's easy for him to say one thing and for you to hear another. To avoid this, Kerner says, mirror your partner. "Look at your partner as he is speaking, and repeat back what he is saying," she says. "The goal is to keep defensiveness down and to try to hear what your partner is saying." Mirroring can have the effect of ensuring that you don't feel reactive and angry toward your partner, she says. When you both feel calmer, you may be feeling more like having sex.

3. Agree to disagree, but keep anger in check. It's not okay to give in and lose it by screaming and yelling at each other. To encourage good communication and a loving relationship, empathy toward each other is crucial, Kerner says. Just not feeling it? Try remembering what it was like at the start of your relationship, when you were hopelessly in love. Look at old pictures together, play music that you played when you were first together, or go on a date to somewhere you used to go together.

4. Gain some perspective. Keep in mind that over time, a couple can become desensitized to each other's conversations. "They begin to hear less and less," says Lisa Rene Reynolds, Ph. D., author of Still a Family: A Guide to Good Parenting through Divorce. To encourage couples to hear what the other partner is saying, Reynolds encourages them to start making "I statements." For instance, she says, one partner might initiate a conversation by saying "I think..." or "I would like it if you..." This technique works much better than if you are constantly using the accusatory "You did this" and "You made me feel that."

5. Schedule regular time to talk. But, Reynolds says, if the conversation grows heated to the point where couples feel like things are getting out of control, cut the talk short and take a short break. Write your partner a short note to share what you are thinking. Ask him to respond with a note.

6. Take note. A notebook can also be a good place to communicate what you both want out of sex. For example, Reynolds says, you and your partner should answer questions for each other about your sexual intimacy. For example, you should both respond to questions like "I am satisfied with how often we have sex" and "I feel like I need more attention from you." After answering the questions, both partners share their answers. It may be a learning experience for both of you--and ultimately may bring you closer.