If you’re a habitual New Year’s resolution-maker, you’re probably familiar with how quickly they can fail. There’s no one holding you to your promise to keep your email inbox organized, and by January 15, your inbox is full of marketing emails and chain letters from that second cousin you met once five years ago, and you give up. This New Year’s, try something a little different. Instead of making a resolution just for you, try making a joint one with your significant other.

People feel as if they’re not being listened to, or they feel they can’t get their needs met by their partner. Because no two individuals are exactly alike, there is no possibility that you will perceive life the same way your partner does all the time or even much of the time. Those who pursue the dream of having a relationship that is always easy and conflict-free are doomed to disappointment.

Without good communication skills, an otherwise wonderful relationship can begin to break down. This New Year’s, resolve to communicate better with your significant other and ask them to resolve to communicate better with you. While a conflict-free relationship isn’t possible, you can learn to approach one another in a way that focuses on understanding where you both are coming from and caring about one another’s well-being in every situation.

It’s OK to pursue your own goals and desires, but if you genuinely care about your partner, you should be putting the same energy into helping them get what they need or want. And your partner should be doing the same for you.

To get started, here are four communication skills to practice together:

1. Use “I” statements.

This one you’ve heard a million times already, I’m sure. Using “I” statements is vital for communicating what you want, need, or feel without blaming, shaming, or otherwise putting your partner down. It sounds simple, but it takes a lot of practice, and you won’t get the hang of it right away. Keep trying because it really does work.

2. Learn to negotiate.

 

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