If there’s one secret to a lasting relationship, it is speaking the same language: conversations that revolve around compromise result in enduring relationships. Effective communication shouldn’t be complicated, yet most couples complain that it is. This proves to be a serious roadblock—if you’re not talking openly, honestly, and frequently, how can you know what your partner wants? How can you come up with solutions? Poor communication will create strife between you and your other half, and the wrong words may cause irreparable damage to your relationship.

The best step you can take to overcome problems in your relationship is to change the way you speak about them; addressing challenging situations differently can shift their course entirely. Here are three of the biggest communication mistakes that ruin good relationships, as well as ways you can encourage understanding and agreement instead:

Mistake 1: Interrogation and aggression.

No one likes to be interrogated, but no one dislikes it more than a man. When we want to have a serious talk with our partner, we tend to bombard him with all of our questions and concerns as soon as he walks through the door. This not only frustrates the other person, but it is a highly ineffective way of articulating your needs. Jumping from subject to subject, or berating him on matters that don’t pose serious problems, only subtracts from the more valid points you’re trying to make. It is human nature to accuse when being accused, even if that person is plainly guilty. If you speak aggressively, your partner will respond in kind, which means a misunderstanding can quickly escalate into an all-out war.

Try this instead: Wait until your loved one unwinds then gently open one subject of genuine importance. You might feel an urge to bring up everything at once, but it’s best to stick to one topic. You will get to cover all the crucial points in time, so start with the most pressing. Your partner is more likely to be receptive if you’re engaged in a comfortable, non-combative conversation.

Don’t forget to listen, too, when your significant other opens up to you. Hearing and listening are two separate arts; you may hear what he’s saying (or you may be so upset that you don’t want to hear anything he has to say), but are you really listening to his thoughts and opinions? Many people have trouble expressing their emotions, and only by truly paying attention can you absorb the deeper meaning of your partner’s words and move toward a resolution.

Mistake 2: Talking about him instead of to him.

External influences are like weeds that ravish a flourishing bond. Without intending to, we invite all sorts of energies into our relationship: family, friends, and even enemies play a role in the dynamic we share with our partner. Become aware of who and what is interfering in your relationship. Doing things like hanging up on your partner in the middle of a disagreement then calling your friend to complain about him is not only an unwise choice, it is a prime communication mistake. It is you and your partner who are in a relationship, not your friend, sibling, parent, or any other outside party.Acknowledge how your ego is influencing your dialogues. Focusing only on “me” when you talk—like constantly saying “you hurt me” or “you did this to me”—discourages progress and brews tension. A heightened ego is a destructive force in any relationship.

Try this instead: Keep your relationship exclusive and guard your privacy, promising to speak to each other instead of about each other. You may feel the need to vent to someone, but sometimes it’s best to simply say a prayer for guidance. This also involves focusing on “we” instead of “me” during conversations and letting your proud guard down. Even if your partner did something irrefutably wrong, it’s more advantageous to both of you to seek good faith instead of fault. Ask questions like, “How do you think we can fix this? or “How can we keep this from happening again?” Hold each other closer to your hearts than you hold your egos, and you’ll succeed in upholding healthy, long-term love.

Mistake 3: Lashing out when you’re desperate.

Arguments often form because one or both partners have reached desperate limits; bickering emerges from dissatisfactions that were never resolved. When we experience extreme emotions, our thoughts become disorganized and we forget to filter our words. This leads us to say things we don’t mean and which we’ll likely later regret. Yelling and fighting diminish the power and authenticity of your words, and speaking when you’re at your wit’s end may just end your relationship.

Try this instead: Meditate and mitigate your emotions first. Meditation helps you access your higher self, where all solutions are available to you. Consider what would happen if you approached the situation with greater calm and logic, planning the points you will make beforehand. What can you say to reach common ground? Make sure your and your partner’s emotions are steady before embarking on a subject you’re keen to discuss. You may want to get things off your chest right now, but you must respect your loved one’s timing or the conversation won’t turn out the way you want. Know when to have the serious talks and when to wait. If your partner is in a compromised mood because he just got bad news, wait a couple hours or even a few days. But if he’s showing emotional vulnerability, seize the moment: capitalize on the times when he’s sensitive, impartial, and loving. These are your best moments to strike up delicate issues and receive favorable responses.

Efficient communication can be achieved by applying simple principles that reduce discord and increase compromise. Elevate the energy of your conversations and watch you relationship thrive.

To better communication,

Dr. Carmen Harra