Head: You're Not Listening! - By: John Denvert

Deck: Just because you can hear your loved one, it doesn't mean you're actually listening. Without effective communication, your relationship is likely to fail. Here are the "seven keys" for keeping the conversation real.

By Rolonda Watts

Every couple knows the importance of communication. It's the precursor to respect, trust and hopefully some hot lovemaking.

But if communication is the foundation of every successful relationship, why is it often so hard to accomplish?

One of you is a workaholic, leaving the other feeling neglected. One of you wants spontaneous sex and the other doesn't even want to be touched. Or the new baby in the house has chased the lark of romance out the window.

How do you communicate, especially during the trying times?

Renee Piane, winner of iDate's 2014 International Love Coach of the Year Award, says it's time for all of us to get real about love and face the fact that it isn't easy. But with diligence, commitment and a lot of hard work, couples can maintain a beautiful and long-lasting relationship.

Renee has spent two decades in the love coaching business and has been happily married for 11 years to her handsome husband, Joe Campanella. She shared with me the "seven keys" to nurturing connections with the one you love:

1. Watch Your Timing

Timing is everything when it comes to couples successfully communicating.

"When one person has been ruminating a long time about an issue, a lot of times when they ask to communicate about this issue, the other person is blind-sided by it, or may be in a stressful situation from work and they haven't unwound, " Renee says.

She uses a special love technique with her own husband when issues arise and something uncomfortable needs to be discussed. She makes sure when he comes home from work, he has a chance to change into more comfortable clothes, get relaxed, and, most importantly, she says, they eat.

"When somebody's hungry and you're trying to talk about something that's very sensitive, you don't want your blood sugar all whacked out, " she says.

2. Pay Attention to Tone and Timber

The tone and timber of one's voice has a lot to do with successful communication.

We can all recall a tone of voice that sent us running for the hills, and another tone that soothed our weary souls. Renee says just the tone of your voice can change everything.

"Watch how you speak to each other, " she says. "When people are pissed off and irritated and there's all this negative energy in the space, it's hard to communicate from the beginning. Don't make it worse with a harsh and demanding tone."

Renee and Joe enjoy sharing secret signals that help them communicate. For instance, when they're at a party and it's time to leave, instead of demanding, "Let's go!" Renee says she gently rubs Joe's back and he knows that means, "Wrap it up, honey, I'm tired and want to go home." His signal to her: a simple finger whirl in the air. Keeps things simple and clear.

3. Touch Each Other - a Lot

Touching is connecting. Whether it's a rub on the back, a smooch out of nowhere, or holding hands while watching a movie, touching is the essence of lovers' communication. Renee warns that when the touching stops, so does the deep connection.

"Just put your hand on your sweetheart's heart and say I'd like to connect. Touch them, just to connect energetically. It's been proven that when people hold hands, or touch each other or even snuggle, it brings back that chemical feeling, if you still have it, " she says.

Renee says sometimes we treat our pets better than our mates: "You speak sweetly to your dog or cat, you pet them, you touch them, you feed them, and you walk them. But sometimes a wife, say, won't want to touch her husband. She lets him feed himself. And they talk to him like a dog. 'Go sit and watch TV!' or 'Don't touch me!' When you do that, eventually they don't give you the rewards anymore."

Renee says most of the couples who've hit a snag in their relationship and call her for coaching are mainly complaining about a lack of sex and romance. The wife is irritated with her husband because he's not romancing her anymore. The husband is frustrated with the wife because he's not getting any booty. The touching, kissing, and romance are gone, while the resentment only grows with no connection, only rejection. Change the pattern!

4. Take Time Out Together

Be together alone.

People get bored with relationships because, well, the relationship has become boring. Couples should set appointments to get together. Put a date night on the calendar and let your friend borrow your kids while you and your sweetie have a little fun. If you go to dinner, make an effort to be charming and conversational - don't just stare into your smart phone at the table.

Renee points out that when children come along, many wives turn their affection toward the baby, leaving their hubby crying for some coddling too.

"He's just a child in a big man's body! I don't care how old you are, all of us have that inner child inside of us that wants attention and love from the person we have chosen to live our lives with, " she says.

Renee and Joe enjoy something they call "Koala" time, where they carve an hour out of their super busy schedules just to hold each other and cuddle. She says it brings them closer and slows down the rapid pace of life.

Renee is a big fan of the mini-vacation, even if it's only to a local hotel. Mark out time to spice things up with at least one night alone.

5. Keep Technology Out of the Bedroom

Your bedroom should be revered as a sacred space for love. Keep it quiet, simple and peaceful.

Renee refuses to have a TV, telephone or any technology in the bedroom - except for maybe a sex toy! She says gadgets like smart phones are not only a distraction to the love connection process, she fears they hinder sleep as well.

6. Indulge Your Partner With Special Treatment

Make each other feel appreciated.

Remember how hot you two used to dress when you first started dating? The woman raced to get her hair cut and nails done; she wore slick jeans and sexy lingerie. She even pushed up "the girls!" He picked nice restaurants and brought flowers.

Renee encourages couples to remember how they were when they were first dating.

Make your partner feel appreciated. Send love notes, slip things in their suitcase, say "thanks" for walking the dog or taking out the trash. It's the little things that count. Rub his head when he's stressed; women want that, too.

"Men treat you the way you treat them. If you're being bitchy and expecting him to suddenly become 'Lance Romance, ' it's not gonna happen, " warns Renee. "Somebody has to initiate the reconnection. And if you're really disconnected, you need to get help. Some people lose sight of why they even married the person in the first place."

7. Stay Tenacious

Love can endure, but it's not for sissies.

Renee suggests couples in distress write out a list of what bothers them in the relationship and see what each person may be adding to the issue and then take responsibility.

Renee was coaching a couple who'd hit hard times. The husband, Bill, was drinking all the time and the two were not communicating. The wife, Carol, said she was done. She ate her feelings and gained weight. Neither really knew what the other was thinking. Communicating at that point seemed impossible; they barely talked.

Renee advised Carol to make her husband a nice lunch, wear something attractive, walk up to him and say, "Bill, I'd like to speak with you, " while gently placing her hand on the side of his face and looking him straight in the eye. Renee told her client to recite one of her "love scripts" to her husband:

"Bill, I want to try and save our marriage. I know I have not been as kind to you as I used to be. I know you've been in your hole, drinking and avoiding me. But how much of you wants to save this?'"

Renee says Bill broke down and cried, revealing that he truly wanted to save the marriage. He said he drank because he didn't think Carol wanted him anymore. A touch, a soft tone, a big hug, and a little handholding went a long way for Bill and Carol that day.

As Renee points out: "They had to go over the bridge of discontentment, the anxiety and the angst. They were pissed at each other all the time. Most people who are mad at each other stop touching, stop connecting. It is scientifically proven that couples that hug and touch like they used to do in the beginning stay together longer and with a more satisfying relationship."

Couples who have hit a wall should seek couples' therapy without shame. "You can't blame your partner for everything. Part of it is you, " she says.

If your relationship is on the rocks, break the old patterns. Take time for love. Don't just hear what your loved one is saying - listen to them.

Note to production: Put the following paragraph in a shaded, rectangular box. It should stay where it's now located in the copy:

Renee Piane will soon release her new book, Get Real about Love, for the busy woman looking for love. Her first book, Love Mechanics, is for men doing the same. You can reach her at renee@reneepiane.com

About the Author

Rolonda Watts is the president and CEO of Watts Works Productions. She's also an award winning journalist, talk show host, producer, actor, novelist, voice over artist and professional speaker.

Watts began her television career as a local CBS news reporter in Greensboro, North Carolina before joining WABC Eyewitness News in New York as an investigative reporter and anchor. She later hosted Lifetime Television's talk show Attitudes, before joining Inside Edition as weekend anchor, producer and senior correspondent.

Her internationally syndicated TV talk show Rolonda ran for four successful seasons. She would later work with Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and Rosie O'Donnell to launch the Greenstone Media Network for women.

Her big screen credits include A Mother's Love, which won a five-star rating from the Dove Foundation and was accepted into the 2011 Hollywood Black Film Festival. He other films include Christmas Mail, Soul Ties, Broken Roads, House Arrest, and 25 Hill.

Her extensive television credits include JAG, The West Wing, The Jamie Foxx Show, and The Steve Harvey Show. She has appeared in the daytime drama series Days of Our Lives and The Bold and The Beautiful.

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One of you is a workaholic, leaving the other feeling neglected. One of you wants spontaneous sex and the other doesn't even want to be touched.

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