Couples coming in for counseling most often request help with Communication Skills. This is so common that it’s not IF it will be requested, but what it will be needed for: need to be able to talk with each other about child-rearing, aging parents, finances, personality conflicts, sex etc.
Improve Your Communication Skills as a Couple
I have a well-developed system I use to teach couples these skills. I use this in my office with individual couples and teach it in workshops.
Learning to communicate effectively is like learning a foreign language or learning to play a musical instrument- instruction and practice over time are critical to acquiring the ability to make it happen. These skills need to be available when there is an important message to convey, a need to hear our partner when they are very upset or just to be able to attune and bond with each other in a much more meaningful way.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why is communication so important for couples?
Some kind of communication is foundational to connection. It is how we connect intellectually, emotionally and spiritually with another person. Even our physical connection requires communication. Couples often begin with intellectual connection, proceed to emotional connection and experience rewarding spiritual and physical connection as they grow closer to each other by means of communication. We need to really hear our partners, remembering and interacting with what’s important to them. In this way we meet each others needs and feel close (safe, loved, appreciated).
What are some common communication mistakes?
Oftentimes we don’t really set aside our agenda and listen as well as validate the other person’s viewpoints. We can miss what they are expressing. It takes work to listen well. We need to listen for the situation they are presenting, what they make of it (thinking), how they feel about it and the effect the situation has on them. The ability to look for these aspects of communication and reflect them back to the speaker is key in the speaker feeling heard. A person who is heard feels validated and tends to feel safe to open up and share more. Couples need to be careful to listen first and understand without talking over or interrupting the other. Each person needs to be heard. Don’t be too quick to “fix” the problem or offer solutions.
Why might couples have difficulties in communication?
Besides the common mistakes mentioned above, we have all had the experience of feeling really emotional in conversations. At that point we may have difficulty listening to the other person. We need to try to “set ourself aside” to listen, remembering that we will have the opportunity to express our feelings and opinions and be heard. It is also common for one person to speak for the other, telling them what they think or feel. Any time we characterize the other, we can expect pushback as no one likes someone else telling them who they are. We often find that the greatest difficulties come about when something that has been really painful for us in the past is re-experienced in the present. One example of this would be a when a person was not validated (not heard for his or her own thoughts, feelings, opinions and beliefs) growing up and experiences that later in life. That person would be likely to have a strong reaction that can be difficult to overcome until they do some work on those painful experiences.
How long does it take to improve communication skills?
This depends on where each person is in their skill level coming in. It also depends on the interest each person has in becoming a better communicator. Communication is a skill. Much like learning a foreign language, but with more pitfalls due to the emotions involved, communication skills are learned through a lot of trial and error usage. Couples who are serious about learning to communicate better would typically make good progress over an 8-12 week period of time – which is considered short-term treatment.
Contact our Couples Communication Therapist
Have questions? Ready to start your first session? Contact Dr. Crow today to learn better communication skills for a stronger relationship.