Articles by Alex Ryder, Break ups, Communication, Conflict, Couple's counselling, Couples, Friendship, Relationships, Trust

Relationship Communication Skills – The effects of responding to your partner

The most effective way to reduce the frequency of conflict in your relationship is to build goodwill and positive sentiment; put simply, by having a good friendship.


It’s very likely you have had a good friendship somewhere in the course of your relationship, so if it has faded recently, there are lots of ways to get it back. One of the most effective ways is by getting into the habit of responding to your partner. By that I mean something as simple as answering “yes”, or “uh huh”, or “that’s right”.

The frequency with which you respond to your partner (or not) is an extremely strong predictor of how successful your relationship will be. In fact, newlyweds still married after 6 years have been found to respond to their partner 86% of the time. Newlyweds divorced within 6 years however, have been found to respond to their partner 33% of the timeThat’s because providing no (or limited) responses results in your partner initiating less interaction in the future and causes couples to drift apart (which is the number one reason for separation).

Responses can be positive, negative or neutral. Obviously, negative responses that are short, aggressive or critical are more likely to leave lasting bruises on the relationship; and no responses or disinterested responses will probably leave your partner feeling ignored and unvalued.

Responding to your partner will:

  1. Increase Trust– in fact this is one of the key skills to repairing trust if it has been broken.
  2. Establish emotional safety– it will increase your partner’s comfort level around you, and reduce stress in the relationship.
  3. Reduce the frequency of conflict – over time, stress and tension are reduced, and you and your partner are less likely to react to the things that typical trigger conflict in your relationship.
  4. Strengthen your friendship– responding to your partner generates goodwill and promotes friendship.

Regularly responding to your partner essentially buffers you and your partner from being on edge or overly reactive. By regularly responding to your partner you are telling them:

  • you are interested in them
  • you care about what they say
  • you want to help them (even if you can’t right now)
  • and that you accept them (even if you don’t accept all their behaviour).

You may not think what your partner has said needs a response (or even deserves one). But if you do respond in a positive way, you are building trust, emotional safety, and ultimately a strong friendship. Here are some examples of how simple a positive and neutral response that builds friendship can be:

Your Partner: “Gee, it’s a nice day”

Positive response: “Yes it is”

Your Partner: “Matthew [their child], has been testing today”

Neutral response: “Oh, how so?”

Couples often ask me in my Sydney Eastern Suburbs practice whether something this simple can make a real difference in their relationship. Regularly responding to your partner in a warm and interested way is one of the best ways to build a foundational friendship with your partner that will ultimately create a long lasting a happy relationship.

If you and your partner feel distant or are lacking the friendship you used to enjoy, a Couples Counsellor can help you develop the skills to improve your friendship and your relationship.

About Alex

Alex is an accessible and compassionate therapist.  His clients appreciate that Alex listens with the intention of genuinely understanding them.  He’s lovely with adolescents, who seem to warm to him

immediately, and he creates a space in sessions for any or all participants to have their say and feel heard.

Alex’s particular strengths are in the area of working with couples and he has extensive experience and training in this area.  He is both Gottman and Systemically trained and draws on practical ideas that clients can immediately make use of to enhance their relationships.

Alex comes to Sydney Couple and Family Therapy Specialists from backgrounds as a Lifeline Crisis Line Counsellor and Trainer and Therapist at the highly-respected Jansen Newman Institute.  He has supported individuals and couples through trauma, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation and adolescent struggles.

Alex has helped many people through intensely frightening and painful life events – and to a place where they have the skills and confidence to carry themselves forward.

Alex is married with a young family and therefore easily relates to the stress and struggles that many couples and young families face today.

“It takes a lot of courage to share a moment of crisis with someone you don’t yet know.  Even more so, to entrust your intimate relationship over to them.

I have been in the fortunate position to be trusted with that responsibility many times and have helped people – through their own bravery, honesty and effort – to transcend their suffering and improve their key relationships.”

Alex also runs the pre-marriage counselling course at the Sydney Couple and Family Specialists

Qualifications and Professional Membership

Alex holds a Masters of Counselling and Psychotherapy from Jansen Newman Institute Sydney, and a Bachelor degree from the University of Sydney.  Alex also holds a Gottman training certificate.

He is a member of the Australian Association of Family Therapy, the Counsellors and Psychotherapist Association of Australia, and the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia.

Why see a Couples Counselor?

Are you wondering if couples counselling is for you? In this interview Alex Ryder answers common questions we hear from people who want to understand more about this process.

And remember, if you are a new client you can book a free 15 minute telephone session with Alex.

“We really like your approach. The other couples counsellor we saw left us stuck in negativity.  Right from the start we felt hopeful with you.  Your positive approach helped us out of the slump, so we could address the real issues.” – Murry (36) married to Tasha (39); One Child (3) – Clients who saw Alex Ryder for Relationship counselling.

“I’ve wanted to refer you to so many people.  Obviously I haven’t given the circumstances, but we are huge fans and are so grateful for your help.” – Tom (49) married to Sarah (43). Two children; 15 & 13 – Clients who saw Alex Ryder for Relationship counselling following an affair.

“I think we told you in our first session that you were the last couples therapist we were going to try. Everything was on the line.  So thank you for… well everything.” – James (55) married to Philippa (53) – Clients who saw Alex Ryder for Relationship Counselling

Sign up today to get tools and strategies to build your relationship

Call us Today Book FREE Consultation