Communication in relationships
Do you feel like you and your partner are not communicating? Do you feel unheard? Perhaps you have noticed that you have the same conversation or argument over and over again without resolution. Most couples feel this way at some point. You have no trouble communicating with friends or people at work, but for some reason, it’s just not working at home. Something is getting in the way of you hearing and understanding each other. An important part of all couples counseling and premarital therapy is learning how to communicate in effective ways with your loved one. Communication within a relationship is very different than any other dynamic, and it takes skills that most of us were never taught to do it effectively. The good news is that it is a simple problem to fix. Through a process of therapy and education you can get back on track and have the kind of relationship you deserve.
What does ineffective communication look like?
You probably know if you are having trouble communicating, but some people wonder if a particular pattern is part of their communication issues or something else. Unhealthy or ineffective communication shows up in many ways, but here are some of the most common scenarios:
- Frequent fighting
- Feeling unheard
- Being overly cautious with what you choose to say
- Feeling pushed into conversations you don’t want to have
- Getting no response or a brush off when you try to talk
- Walking away from conversations feeling disappointed or unhappy
- Feeling criticized
- Feeling the need to defend yourself during arguments
- Getting no support when you ask for something
- Feeling like the only one participating in the relationship
These are by no means the only ways that ineffective communication show up for couples, but if you identified with anything above, you will want to address it.
What does healthy communication in relationships look like?
If you have ever experienced it, you know exactly how it feels when you have good communication with your spouse/partner. It’s a great feeling, right? If it has been too long for you to remember, or you are one of the many people who have never experienced effective communication in a relationship, then you may be wondering what you’d be working towards. Good communication in your relationship provides:
- A sense of security
- A feeling of being able to talk about anything
- A sense of being heard and understood
- Ability to resolve differences and disagreements easily
- A feeling that all problems are manageable
- Support from your partner
- A deeper connection and intimacy
- A sense of being valued and respected
- Confidence in your relationship
- A sense that both of you are engaged and present
Wouldn’t those things be worth working towards?
Why aren’t we communicating?
The reality is that you probably are communicating. We communicate all of the time, even when we are not talking. So the real question is: Why is your way of communicating as a couple not effective?
There are several possibilities that we can work together to figure out. You may not be communicating in a way that is effective for your partner’s personality and style. Your partner may be very direct, and you tend to be more passive in the way you say things. You may be approaching conversations in a manner that automatically makes your partner shut down. You may like to fight or have a very conflict avoidant pattern that does not work for your mate. Perhaps one or both of you just never learned how to communicate effectively in relationships. And it’s even possible that there is something else going on in the relationship that is the problem, and the poor communication is just the symptom. Whatever the reason, learning what is not working for the two of you is a basic first step.
What if my partner and I are total opposites?
It doesn’t matter if you and your partner have similar personality traits and communication styles or not. If you are willing to work to make the marriage/relationship last, you can learn how to manage any differences. Most couples have some very different preferences regarding communication. The trick will be to learn what works for each other and communicate in a way that is effective for you both.
How do we improve our communication?
In both couples counseling and premarital therapy, we start with identifying your communication patterns, and determined which are working and which need to be changed. Then there will be a process of learning the communication style that works for you both as a couple. This does not take long-term, in-depth counseling. It’s a pretty quick process to learn the new communication skills that will be effective. Then most of the work is done on your own; practicing and perfecting your new skills. This will be done through a series of exercises and practice assignments which will be provided in session.