Old Communication Skills Aren’t Working? Couples Therapy Can Teach You New Ones!
By Linda K. Laffey, MFT
Every couple has their own way of communicating.
When two people first meet, they often say they ‘clicked’.
This early bonding is the result of a strong communication between them, often non-verbal.
The couple may not even be fully aware of how that ‘click’ works.
But as couples get to know each other and become part of each other’s lives, and particularly when they live together, the original ‘click’ comes to share communication space with other forms of communication. These are often patterns we adopted earlier in life. Patterns we may have copied from our own parents are at play, as well as patterns that originated back in teenage relationships.
But these old communication skills usually don’t work, especially when new conflicts emerge. On the contrary, they can trap you in a vicious circle of escalating anger and frustration with no productive outcome.
Couples counseling can teach you some new communication skills–ones that will help you to understand each other better. You may even ‘click’ again!
Shift your focus from talking to listening. Even if you think you’ve heard your partner say the same thing before, try to listen with your heart. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood. What does he or she really want to get across?
- Don’t make assumptions
Yes, you’ve known each other for a while, but you are not inside another person’s head. You don’t know what they are thinking. You only know what you are thinking.
- Ask questions
Luckily, there is a very good way of finding out what is going on inside your partner’s mind. Ask! Many couples never establish a good habit of asking instead of making assumptions.
Couples counseling can help you to form that good habit and to practice it.
- Welcome conflicts
Conflicts are a natural part of any relationship. Conflicts are healthy.
They reveal what you both need and want. They help you to get closer by creating good compromises. Do not avoid conflict. It’s an opportunity to communicate. Trying it with the help of a counselor can ensure that it will go smoothly and be productive.
Ask your partner to express a difficult feeling, and practice new communication skills while you are in the counseling session. Then repeat that process at home when you feel ready to do so.
- Stay in the present
The worst words in any conflict are ‘always’ and ‘never’. They can transform an otherwise manageable issue into what feels like an accusation.
Try to be precise and focus on the matter at hand.
The counselor can alert you when you fall back into old communication styles that no longer work for you.
- Know what you want
One of the most important aspects of good communication is to know yourself. Do not expect your partner to guess. Do not use him or her to find out what you want through arguments. Spend time trying to understand yourself.
- Stick with ‘I-statements’
Don’t make general statements that somehow suggest you know the universal truth. Stick with personal statements such as, “I feel”, “I think”, and “I believe”. That is more real and more precise.
- Check in with each other
You don’t have to wait until a conflict arises before you use your new communication skills. Make it a practice to ask each other what is going on. You may be surprised at the answer, even if you’ve been together for a long time.
- Spend time telling each other the good things
Your counselor can teach you both how to connect regularly, in positive ways. Tell each other what you appreciate, at least once a day. Notice something positive about them, and share it with them.
- Non-verbal communication
Ask your partner what kind of non-verbal acknowledgement they would like from you daily. Pay attention to small signals. Respond. Experiment.
And you can also actively start looking for that ‘click’.
Your couples’ counselor can explore your relationship story with you. Together you can find the many hidden clicks that seemed lost for such a long time.
Couples counseling is a good investment, and your new communication skills will last you a life time.
Take the first step…
If you are ready to end the anger and frustration and to take your relationship to a new level by learning new communication skills, I would like to help. Please contact me via voicemail or email so that we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT