When couples seek help through counseling, the three most commonly stated goals are to work on their communication, parenting issues, and to improve their sex lives. The most common complaint I hear from couples seeking counseling is “we don’t know how to communicate”.
Communication is the key to deeper connection and understanding. Some people may equate communicating to ‘agreeing’ or to ‘being on the same page’, but communication in an intimate relationship is the method by which we teach people about ourselves, and also how we learn about others. Without effective communication, it is impossible to express our needs and to understand those of our loved ones.
When we join together in an intimate relationship, each of us carries our own definitions and meanings of communication along. Since each of us comes from a family, and our family is the place where we first learn the basic skills that help us to communicate, we all come into our relationships with very different approaches.
Some of us may have learned that communication is dangerous, and that by asking questions or inquiring in depth about a topic, others will become upset, and possibly angry. These individuals may have grown up with the belief that open communication isn’t an option if they need to stay safe. Staying safe may mean not upsetting another person and therefore, asking questions or trying to clarify their own feelings (or those of their partner) may feel scary and foreign. Others may have been in an environment where active verbal communication was the primary way family members connected. Talking, listening and being curious may have been skills they acquired as they watched their parents discuss difficult topics and hear each other out. In some families there may be no emotional communication at all, and therefore we are left to guess about how to relate to people and never quite sure if what we are doing is right.
It’s no wonder communication can be so trying for couples when all of these factors are considered. Each one of us comes into a partnership with our own unique way of understanding what is ‘normal’ in terms of communicating.
- Are you unsure of how to open up to your partner about your feelings?
- Are you afraid to share your feelings because you don’t want your partner to get upset or angry?
- Did you learn from your family that showing emotion or being upset is a sign of weakness?
Is it time to work on improving your communication? Couples counseling and psychotherapy will help to improve your intimate connection, friendship, and bring more overall satisfaction to your intimate relationship.
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