One of the biggest reasons couples attend couple therapy or marriage therapy is communication issues. While communication issues are usually a problem, they are often a symptom of other more significant issues. They are usually a result of a lack of a solid emotional connection. They can be a result of poor compromise. Yes, you may have trouble communicating, but it’s perhaps because you don’t understand your partner’s love languages (how they express and feel loved). Maybe you and your partner don’t see eye-to-eye for various other reasons. What seems like a big deal for one person may be inconsequential for the other. One partner may want to be listened to or connected, while the other has a good faith desire to solve the problem and move on. Teaching communication strategies is helpful, but they often break down when a couple is outraged, and learning how to understand and control emotions through Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) can help.
Communication Problems are Normal in Relationships
There is a reason there are so many best-sellers written about couple communication and particularly differences between men and women. While these books may stereotype, that doesn’t mean that they don’t contain some truth. For example, some point to human evolution and the belief that early survival strategies have shaped the way we communicate today into a sub-optimal way for modern society and relationships. Communication can be particularly strained after an affair.
Within the worst relational conflicts lie the greatest opportunities for growth and intimacy.Dr. John M. Gottman
There are Many Strategies to Improve Couple Communication
The Gottman Method and Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) contain many communication strategies based on decades of research. For example, learning how first to build a friendship, then have difficult conversations, communicate compassionately, and how to deal with the aftermath of a fight are just some practical interventions. Couples can transform how they relate to and understand one another by learning excellent techniques.
Because of the large average delay (six years) between couples first detecting that there is something seriously wrong with their relationship and getting any kind of help, many couples will have compounded problems.– John Gottman
You May Still Have Questions
You can learn how to listen without getting defensive or immediately solving the problem. It may be surprising how techniques related to these principles diffuse emotions. Many communication exercises for couples can help with this as well.
It may be a matter of finding the right occasions and rituals for communication and listening. Unfortunately, both partners may not be in a space to both talk and listen at the time the other would prefer. Nevertheless, learning communication skills for couples can help you throughout your lives.
The Gottman’s (John Gottman and Julie Gottman) talk a lot about the four relationship killers (defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism, and contempt). Learning the antidotes to these common communication patterns can transform a relationship or marriage.
For more Columbus Ohio relationship therapy questions, please see the frequently asked questions page.
Sometimes Listening to Your Partner is all That is Necessary
Saturday Night Live produced the following skit about partners listening to each other versus solving the problem. While the video has received well-deserved criticism for being sexist, it has some truth and can be humorous if not taken too seriously. Sometimes one person wants to talk and be heard, while the other just wants to solve the problem and move on.
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