Having communication problems with your partner or spouse?
Do you ever find yourself complaining about not being able to communicate with your loved one? Some couples say that they either never communicate effectively, or they do communicate a lot; however, even that gets them nowhere. Have you ever fought so much about the same thing that you decided not to bring the issue up again and just sweep it under the carpet? What if you found yourself holding back more and more until eventually you no longer can keep quiet anymore and you explode?
Ineffective communication or lack of any communication can be very upsetting, discouraging, and stressful. We are often left feeling frustrated and mad, especially when we have the best intentions in mind but we are somehow perceived negatively by our partner. Sometimes, asking your spouse a simple question or trying to make a nice comment can turn into a screaming match within seconds. What used to be a simple and pleasurable conversation about weekend or vacation plans can turn into an argument that sometimes can drag itself for days or weeks. Often, couples will say that they no longer talk with each other about anything other than “logistics” of everyday life only because “the deeper conversations” don’t go well.
Your communication can get better!
Did you know that one of the most common reasons why couples come in to therapy is because they don’t know how to communicate? Fights are normal part of every relationship; the way we repair these fights is what can either strengthen or weaken the bond that you have with your partner. Regardless of what the issue is, my goal is to help you stay engaged in a difficult conversation, resolve fights, and deepen your connection with your spouse.
We all get stuck in vicious cycles…
Often, these awful arguments seem as if you and your partner were stuck in a vicious cycle that never ends. It is a pattern! We impact each other a lot because we love each other. Every couple out there has a pattern or a cycle that plays out differently depending on the circumstances.
It is not uncommon that while in the heat of a fight, you start predicting what the other one will say or do. You learn how the fights will start and end. Usually, it all starts with what your partner did or said. Maybe he/she forgot your anniversary; maybe you received “that look” again or you heard “that tone of voice.”
When one of these behaviors happens, within seconds, we start creating “stories” about our partners and the situation itself (Ex. “He was late, he must not care about me.”) Our perceptions start to color everything else. Anger, frustration, and upset cripples in. We want to fight back, defend or shot down.
That may sound like: “You always……you never……how dare you” Blame and attacking starts and your vicious cycle officially takes over the conversation. This type of cycle is classic. You might also find yourself in a cycle where you pursue your partner, but your partner leaves and withdraws. Regardless of the type of cycle you have, you end up feeling disconnected, hurt, and lonely.
In couples therapy you can learn how to step out of your vicious cycle!
In couples therapy, I will first help you become aware of the type of cycle you engage in with your partner. We will work on slowing down your regular patterns of interaction so that you can discover what the fight is really about. We practice recognizing how your emotional responses, while understandable, may be perpetuating a negative cycle. I will also help you discover the parts of the cycle that are not easily seen or talked about.
Once we slow things down enough, I will help you experience your partner in a different way—maybe the way that made you first fall in love with him/her. Finally, I will teach you how simple (yet really difficult) stepping out of the cycle can be. Once we reach that, we start creating a new, positive cycle that will ensure safety in your relationship and further help you in times of stress.
But what if talking about the difficult issues will make things worse?
Sometimes I like to compare talking about difficult issues to ‘opening a can of worms.’ A fear that therapy might make things worse is understandable since we will be ‘opening your can of worms.’ However, I am certain that every time you fight with your partner at home, your ‘can of worms’ already gets re-opened, and in the heat of the moment, the ‘worms leak out of the can’ creating arguments, or ‘the can explodes’ creating more chaos and severe distress.
Unlike at home, in the therapy room, I am there to facilitate the process and see each of your points of view objectively. In essence, I can help you talk about the upsetting issues (worms) in a way that will prevent the leak or even the explosion of the can. And, yes, it is only natural that we struggle sometimes talking about the difficult topics in a calm and composed way!
Therapy will take “Forever” and I just don’t have the time for it
Therapy doesn’t have to be time consuming… it all depends how you look at it. It takes time to “fix” and repair the rigid and often destructive pattern that has kept you and your partner stuck for years. One or three therapy sessions may not do it justice.
Recently, I committed myself to 24 chiropractor sessions to correct my posture. My chiropractor compared the entire treatment to wearing braces to correct the teeth. Now I compare that experience to couples counseling—reshaping your relationship and strengthening your bond takes commitment, consistency, and work. If you want to give an honest chance to improve your relationship, give it 6 months before you evaluate progress. Find time that works for you, and I will do my best to offer you a flexible schedule to support your treatment.
Remember that the frequency of your therapy sessions is in your hands. However, especially at the beginning of treatment, I recommend that couples come in weekly. By doing so, we are able to “catch the momentum” and dive more quickly into the issues that cause the most distress in your relationship. Later on, depending on how much support you need, we can see each other every other week or even once a month.