Don't lash out at your partner in anger.

Ingram Publishing

The No. 1 question people in couples’ counseling have, says psychologist Julia Colwell, is “How do we communicate better?”

“People really want to be able to talk, but they can’t for some reason,” says Colwell, the author of the new book “The Relationship Skills Workbook.”

Here are some of Colwell’s tips for how people in relationships can learn to express themselves freely.

Don’t lose yourself in the relationship: One of the most common problems Colwell sees is when one half of a couple knows something is wrong, but doesn’t take any steps to address it. “They think: ‘We are having a good time and I don’t want to wreck it,’” says Colwell. “So they are pretending. There are a lot of ideas out there that we aren’t supposed to say that stuff.”

 

Take time to compose yourself: Lashing out in the heat of the moment is never a good idea, says Colwell. “Take a walk or go get a drink [if you are upset],” she suggests. “Trying to problem-solve in that state is a really bad idea because it just gets worse and worse. It’s best to wait at least 15 to 20 minutes.”

Don’t be accusatory: “Instead of saying things like ‘I feel like you don’t pay attention to me’ or ‘You never loved me,’ say something like ‘It makes me feel sad when [we don’t talk],’” Colwell suggests, adding that it’s important to focus on feelings. “Emotions are simple,” says Colwell. “Saying ‘I am scared because…’ or ‘My stomach is in a knot...’ is better because there is a whole level of intimacy with that rather than saying ‘I’m really mad you were late.’”

Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.