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Communication in relationships

Everyone says to have a good relationship you need to communicate, but what is good communication and how do you get it? This tip sheet will explore ways that you and your partner can talk to each other, especially when there is disagreement, and how to talk about boundaries and come up with relationship agreements. 

Components of Communication


Any healthy relationship needs a good process for negotiation. Effective negotiation can help both people in a couple feel equally part of everything, from conflict resolution to decision making. Negotiation, when done well, will maintain the esteem of both partners and protect their interests. Both partners will get at least some of what they want. 

A great way to kick-start good negotiation is The Really Listening Model.

The Really Listening Model has three sections that are equally applied to each partner. 

Partner 1: Communicates his or her point of view and needs without interruption 
Partner 2: Summarises back to partner 1 what was said
Partner 1: Makes any corrections

This process is then repeated with roles reversed.


Part of the negotiations might be exploring each other’s personal boundaries and determining the boundaries for the relationship. For instance, each partner might disclose their ‘Deal Breakers’ - the ‘no-go zones’ individuals have with regards to relationships. These might include anything from a partner smoking to cheating or religion. Each partner determines where these non-negotiables are for them. 

Once the deal breakers have been discussed and accepted, the next step is to determine the boundaries placed on the relationship. These boundaries need to be specific, agreed upon by both partners, and applied to each partner equally. An example might be how long each partner is allowed out at night without the other partner. Clear boundaries make it easy to determine when a partner is crossing a line, such as one partner spending the whole night out while the other was home in bed when the boundary agreed upon was home by 3am.


Using the skills of negotiation to discuss boundaries and rules in a relationship can lead to a relationship agreement. This may sound too clinical and unromantic but clear rules and boundaries are a good foundation for a healthy and happy relationship. An agreement doesn’t necessarily have to be in writing, but a clear and direct verbal agreement means both partners agree and understand the rules.

What might be included in a relationship agreement? Topics that typically come up in relationship agreements include finances, living arrangements, relationship status, monogamy, safe sex, how to deal with conflict, individual friendships or going out individually. Setting aside some time, particularly in a new relationship, to work out a relationship agreement can be an effective way to protect your relationship from typical pitfalls. 

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MensLine Australia has professional counsellors available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing confidential and anonymous information and support for all relationship issues. Call us on 1300 78 99 78 or register for online counselling