- Does it seem like the communication with your spouse/partner is missing something?
- Had you felt like you really knew your partner only to realize now that maybe the connection dropped?
- Do you speak to your spouse only to feel like you’re talking to the wall?
- Do you find yourself repeating yourself over and over again with vague or little response?
- Has the romantic connection in your relationship fallen off?
- Does it seem like your relationship is defined by loneliness and anger?
- Is there emotional and relational distance between you causing frustration?
- Do you say something only to get it back to you twisted into something else?
- Are you having the same arguments say, like about money, kids, exes, work, sex, family outings?
- Are your conversations minimal or lacking meaning?
- Does it seem like you’re roommates instead of being a couple?
If you are frustrated and maybe a bit angry with your spouse/partner when it comes to communication and attempts to connect with your partner leave you feeling sad, isolated and lonely, you are not alone. Many individuals as well as couples who come to meet with us, are undergoing the same kinds of communication difficulties and experiences when it comes to finding fulfillment in their relationships. Many times they find themselves doing the same negative habits (or habits that seem to continue to stir the pot of conflict, frustration, and misunderstanding among themselves). As time goes on, you might feel more and more convinced that things have to…no, must change—you can’t fake it any longer with isolation, flare-ups, and poor, pathetic, or conflictual communication…this is not what you signed up for.
As relationship, couple, and marital counselors, we are passionate about listening to our clients, receiving them as they come to us as, sorting out the entanglements of their relationships, and working toward healthy, practical yet realistic solutions. We help them work through their difficulties, misunderstandings, mistrust, and disconnections to find a way through to a more healthy, happy, and fulfilling relationship. Many times we have found that most couples don’t know how to communicate effectively with each other.
Communicating was not a subject in school
Remember in kindergarten when you were taught to raise your hand, say “please” and “thank-you”, take turns on the playground, and many other things? We were taught reading, writing and arithmetic in the classroom, play was during recess and communicating effectively was…well not part of the curriculum. We learned by observing the adults or peers in our lives and we were expected to follow the rules they set. Although “don’t interrupt me when I’m talking” may have been expressed to you, this still didn’t give you ways to understand effective communication skills. You saw how they did it and mimicked them which may or may not have been pleasant, helpful or effective.
So, with what you learned, what your spouse/partner learned, along with your style, personality, experiences, history of life mentors, etc. you are now sorting out what going to help improve communication, help you get along better, and to overall improve your connection with your partner/spouse so he/she gets you…understands you. Let’s look at some steps that will introduce you to effectively communicate with your spouse.
Steps to improve your communication
Being ready to communicate may not come easy for you or maybe it does. Preparing to communicate starts with a self-check-in. How are you feeling? What is your mood like? Are you hungry? Irritated? Lonely? Tired? Overwhelmed? Recognize to be in tune with yourself before you engage in conversation with your spouse/partner. Take a moment to re-center, relax, and shift gears…whatever it takes to get ready to connect with the one you are in relationship with.
Be available, stay focused
Once you have done your check-in, find out how your partner is doing. Ask if he/she is available or near ready to share about their day or what’s happening or how they are feeling or what project they are working on. Show interest in him. Show interest in her. As you show yourself available, be there in person and in mind. Be focused on what he/she has to say. Be attentive to the content. Listening in an undivided way may be quite difficult for multitaskers. Many people (typically women but also many men) can listen and do 2-3 other things simultaneously. However, the giver of information may not see it that way. So, be mindful of the one you are listening to.
Receive/Accept your partner for him/her
Accept your partner/spouse for who he/she is as a person. Receive what he/she has to say. You are not there to agree or disagree. You don’t have to pretend to understand what he/she may be saying if you truly don’t understand. It’s not about your opinion or assumption of what you may believe he/she is saying at this moment. Be attentive to words, tone, and body language. However, be very careful not to take on his/her expressions, emotions, thoughts, or attitude personally. Let yourself allow him/her to own their own stuff. No judgment.
After listening to what he/she has to say, let them know that you are reflecting back what you heard him/her say. This is a bit awkward as some may believe you were not listening. Actually, this is the opposite. This shows you are paying attention. Also, this step is huge because it really lessens or eliminates assumptions. This also allows the giver a chance to hear what he/she said from your listening ears.
When you clarify, you are asking your spouse/partner to help you understand what they are conveying. Focus on content. Now, if the content is very detailed or career specific or difficult for you to grasp, let them know as best you can what you heard him/her say. This is showing that you are present with him/her. You may seem bored maybe annoyed by what is shared. Remember, your there for him/her. Being interested in him. Being interested in her.
Couples therapy helps you communicate more openly, effectively
Over the past several years, we have helped a multiple number of couples discover significant changes, develop a stronger relationship foundation and reestablish a clear, positive, healthy connection. In an honorable, compassionate, safe, and non-judgmental place, you and your partner will be able to work through unproductive, unfamiliar, at times harmful, or negative communication approaches and develop greater empathy for one another using effective approaches to communicating with each other.
Together, your counselor will model quality and effective communication skills you both will need in order to work through any unresolved conflict, mistrust, intimacy issues, parenting, or social issues in a respectful, interactive, and productive manner.
Imagine, while in counseling you and your spouse/partner can learn to stop blaming each other and start understanding where the other is coming from. You can also find and practice new ways to communicate, so you can feel understood and heard as well as ask for your needs to be met…even when discussing hot topics or sensitive issues. Through this, you and your spouse/partner will develop “us”/”we” goals that you are willing to work toward meeting. Another goal is to help you both gain insight and awareness into your habitual reactions and behaviors so you can change the way things are to the way you want them to be. As patterns and habits shift and you start to experience your relationship differently, you can create a much greater relational, physical and emotional connection.
You may have some questions or concerns…
Will our counselor take sides?
This question may or may not be asked out loud, but many men or women may see this as happening. It is natural to assume that if you are opposite gender than the counselor, or if your partner seems to be more liking to the counselor or some other possibility, that you are at a disadvantage. As couple’s counselors, it’s our duty to be objective taking into account both sides and view you as one client not two differing or opposing people. We look to create mutual connections and focus on the relationship and your goals. The counselor is here to create a warm and welcoming environment for each partner to share their perspective and experience. So, rather than casting blame, or promoting one partner’s perspective over another, we seek to encourage genuine openness, empathy, and understanding in our communication.
What if my spouse/partner doesn’t want to come to counseling?
This is a good question and a common situation. Although your spouse/partner may not want to join with you, you can begin the process by addressing your own issues and reactions in individual sessions. The changes you make can have a significant impact on the relationship. This will help you to process your own thoughts, feelings, action, and attitude. This may start the shift in the way you interact which may change the overall tone of the relationship as well. Who knows, maybe your spouse/partner may become more interested in changing too. However, keep your individual counseling time focused on you…your mental and emotional well-being. As you see yourself change positively, it may not be easy for your spouse/partner at first but your change may certainly be the catalyst for him/her to be part of the positive changes he/she sees in you.
What if one of us wants to change but the other one doesn’t?
This certainly may occur and it may even be implied by your spouse/partner. There are many times in relationship that there are old patterns that are stuck. Each of you has a will to decide. Each one has his or her own pace for change and there may be other things that may affect the change. Sometimes, just as in dancing, we have to be cooperative, patient and inviting of the other to change as you change together. Ultimately, how you and your partner communicate and change is up to each of you.
By working with an educated, experienced couple’s counselor, you can begin moving through and discovering new ways to improve your communication with one another linking the connection you desire toward a stronger more fulfilling relationship.
Reach Out and Connect
If you’re struggling in your relationship, we are here to help.
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