Communication | Couples Therapy
When we first meet a couple each person usually believes that they are communicating effectively and they often conclude that it is the other person’s problem or fault. If only the partner could change, and truly understand, then the problems would be over. In holding someone else responsible they avoid looking at the painful thoughts and feelings underlying their own contributions to the problem. Communication | Couples Therapy.
The problems couples face are often a result of individual coping strategies that are no longer working. We all learn a number of dysfunctional communication habits in childhood. We observe parents raise their voice to get their way or refuse to talk as an attempt to cope, or at least not let the other “win”. Discussions become disagreements, which in turn become arguments, and eventually both parties give up, exhausted from the vicious cycle.
These maladaptive ways of relating lead to quick judgments and misunderstandings even if each person may think they have clearly said what they want, and heard what the other is saying. Many times they focus and respond to one small part of what was said, or they focus on what they believe isn’t being said, and ultimately, they miss what is meant!
Childhood experiences led you to deploy defensive strategies to cover up feelings and needs that you thought where unacceptable. Feeling unmet and unheard may in turn have led to feeling a lack of confidence, beliefs of being unworthy, and fears of asking directly for what you want because you do not expect to get it. You learned that it was not entirely safe to relate in an authentic and open manner, as you assumed you would get hurt.
As we begin to examine and dismantle these defense structures, which have developed from these long held beliefs, we can make different choices in our communication. Rather than pointing a finger at the other, we help each person feel safe and shine a light on what may be getting in the way of authentic communication. You will not always agree with each other, but you can be able to fully express thoughts, needs and desires in a way the other can hear, and in turn you can listen with an open heart and with curiosity.
When we leave long standing issues unattended, resentments can build, and this is a recipe for problems relating to others who might unknowingly or unintentionally trigger those feelings. The other person has triggered a reaction, and that reaction can point us to areas that need to be resolved within ourselves. It is actually an effective alarm system that offers us an opportunity to learn how we can resolve our pain, and listen and respond beyond our defenses.
Relationship therapy is a rewarding and enriching experience. As each of you open up and reveal the wounded areas within, the possibilities for growth and healing individually and as a couple are unparalleled. When you no longer need to hide, or make yourself right or make the other person wrong, you begin to communicate from your heart with a clear mind.
Questions for Thought
Below are a few questions that are intended to help you consider your personal situation more closely. If your responses cause concern and you want to make changes, we encourage you to contact us to discuss how we can best help.
- Do you hold off on confronting problems because you are concerned that you will be rejected?
- When having a discussion do you sometimes resort to name calling?
- Are there any topics that are taboo or off-limits?
- When arguing, do you use black and white statements such as “you always” or “you never”?
- Do you believe that omitting important facts is not a lie?
- If something is bothering you, how long will it take you to bring it up?
- Do you use sarcasm in your communication?
- Are you able to talk about something important while you are doing other things?
- If someone is being critical of you, do you get defensive?
- Do you not bring things up because you feel that the other person should know without having to tell them?
- Do you often interrupt during discussions?