Love, Lindsay

'How Often Should I Talk To My Partner?'

All your relationship questions answered — right here, right now.

On April 2, I asked our Facebook audience what relationship question they'd most like me to explore: "Do couples talk each day?" or "Can long distance work?" With 57 percent voting for the former, it was the clear winner.  You crazy kids really love love, don't you? 

This might come as a shock to readers of a relationship advice column, but my answer to "How often should I talk to my partner?" has less to do with couple as a unit, and more to do with the individuals that make up that couple. Why? Because the key to effective communication in a relationship is figuring out your and your partner's needs and then working together to establish a daily routine that fulfills both of them. 

For example, if you're an introvert, you may have a natural inclination to enjoy alone time, even when you're in a relationship. So you may not need to check in with your partner every day. That's totally OK so long as you communicate this preference early on. Perhaps their preference is to talk to you every day, and if that's the case, you can strike a happy medium with a morning or evening check-in on the days you don't see each other.

Besides personality differences, relationship timing plays an important role in determining and adapting each person's communication needs. When you're in the very early stages of dating someone, some people don't need to talk to each other every day because that could be too much too soon. When you progress to a long-term relationship or marriage, however, most may need or want to check in with each other every day to maintain the stability of the relationship, not to mention for purely practical reasons. 

This increase in communication can also coincide with when you and your partner move in together. In that case, you should talk every day, but avoid also texting constantly so as not to run the risk of communication overload. 

Believe it or not, the same goes for long-distance couples. You don't need to overcompensate for less physical contact with constant communication. That can actually do more harm than good because it limits each person from living their local life to the fullest, and they end up having nothing new to share with their partner. So while you can certainly check in with each other at the beginning and/or end of every day, don't flood each other's phones with texts. 

Whatever you decide for your communication routine, don't try to compare it to other couples'. Some couples may need or want more frequent communication than others, but that doesn't mean their connection is stronger. What every couple can do to communicate effectively, regardless of frequency, is something Celeste Davis of the Marriage Labratory calls "The 10 Minute Connect." 

Couples can set a time each day, every other day, or how often it makes sense to them, when both partners are free from distraction. This way, each person can focus solely on talking to the other. Davis and her husband begin by asking each other questions like:

  • "What was the best part of your day?" 

  • "What was something hard that happened today?" 

 "What are you looking forward to tomorrow?"  

By discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly, couples can encourage each other to celebrate successes and give each other time to vent, which can make couples feel closer and more involved in each other's lives, without a huge time commitment. That's important because, according to a YourTango survey of 100 mental health professionals, "communication problems" was found to be the most common factor leading to divorce. 

To nip this problem in the bud, couples need to focus on how they communicate, not just how often. According to 70 percent of the experts surveyed, men cite "nagging" and "complaining" as the top communication problem in their marriage, while 83 percent said that women's top complaint was that their spouse doesn't validate their opinions or feelings enough. 

So we've all got some work to do. Though neither partner should feel like they have to censor themselves with the person they love and trust, each person needs to be mindful of how their words might be received. Before you speak, take a moment to ask yourself, "Am I speaking out of emotion or logic?" If it's emotion, take a moment to reframe your original sentiment in a way that doesn't attack or ignore your partner.

No matter how much you and your partner talk each day, communication is not the end all be all for a healthy relationship. In fact, an Internet-based study of 2,201 participants referred by couples counselors, tested seven "relationship competencies" professionally considered important in promoting happiness in romantic relationships. 

The study aimed to rank the skills in order of importance to figure out which aspects of relationships are most important to keeping them healthy. The researchers tested for communication, conflict resolution, sex or romance, stress management, life skills, knowledge of partners, and self-management. 

While the participants who reported communicating more effectively did show the highest satisfaction with their relationships, there were two other factors that also showed strong links to couple happiness: knowledge of partner and life skills. So couples communication is a part of the foundation for relationship health and happiness, but it's not the sole determinant. 

Even so, you should probably check your phone to see if your partner has texted you ... just to be safe. 

Lindsay here, A Plus's resident relationship guru/columnist. While I may not know everything, I do know a lil something about love and our seemingly endless pursuit of it. Having written dozens of A Plus articles about dating, relationships, and sex, I'm ready and willing to investigate all of your romantically-inclined questions (submit here!) — because I've asked them myself. What I hope to bring to A Plus's readers is a sex-positive, body-positive, and most importantly, you-positive perspective on modern love. Consider Love, Lindsay your digital Cupid.

Cover image via ALP STUDIO on Unsplash

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