The hype of Valentine’s Day has gone down and couples are back to their normal routines. Sometimes in relationships, partners get stuck in patterns and their communication is no longer easy, effortless and productive. One of the main reasons people seek out couples’ counseling is to address communication. Most couples come in and say they want to improve their communication.
This month, we have asked our team of martial counseling experts and local mental health professionals to share their top communication strategies for couples.
Couples definitely need communication skills but what does that mean exactly? One of the biggest misconceptions is that couples need more “communication skills”. What most couples need are better strategies to express their wants/needs and ways to compromise. Communication comes in many shapes and forms. You can communicate about the day to day facts of your life. This would include what you did for the day, any significant events, any interesting facts, etc. Most couples are able to communicate on this level. Another level of communication is to express wants and needs. Some people have a difficult time expressing what they want in a relationship. Sometimes, people are not taught to ask for what they want. And some people are accustomed to taking what they want. In relationships, there needs to be a give and take and a way to ensure that will happen. That is usually where a marriage counselor can be most helpful. Marriage counselors can help couples learn how to express their wants and needs. Further, they can teach couples ways to compromise, including looking at priorities, forgiving your partner for past mistakes and clarifying your positions. Another level of communication includes sharing feelings. This is often the hardest thing for couples to do. When partners learn to express their sadness, fear, shame and anger, they also deepen their relationship. Sharing feelings is a way for couples to connect. Marriage counselors, especially those trained in Emotionally Focused Couples Counseling, help to facilitate this type of connection and sharing during therapy sessions, thus teaching the couple how to do it outside of the sessions.
Next time you wonder if you and your spouse need to work on communication skills, ask yourself what level of communication you do have and what level of communication you can expand upon. Many couples learn that communicating on all three levels can produce a satisfying and enriching relationship.
Amanda Patterson, LMHC, CAP decided to become a therapist while attending Nova Southeastern University. She saw the need to help people achieve the life they wanted to live, while creating a life of her own. She completed her master’s in Mental Health Counseling and started a career in the juvenile justice arena. Since then, she has started a private practice in Pembroke Pines, Florida, specializing in depression, anxiety relationship issues, and substance abuse. Amanda is a believer in holistic treatment and she practices veganism, meditation and yoga in her life. Find out more about her practice here. For a free 15-minute consultation, call or text Amanda at 954-258-8845 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Words can sting, and leave a lasting effect. When arguing, keeping to the point of the matter can be difficult as tempers flare and emotions boil. However, remember that you’re arguing with someone you want to keep in your life, someone you’ve chosen and who has chosen you.
Be specific. Be mad about what happened, but not “at” the other person. Keep your anger limited to the object of the argument, not the individual. Do so by being specific. Instead of “You don’t care about me“, which may be how you feel in the moment, limit the statement to what happened that made you feel that way. Try “you didn’t stick up for me“, which is something that your partner can change in the future, leading you to feel more cared for.
Avoid extremes. Remove “always” and “never” from your vocabulary. These words bring in statements that are irrefutable in an argument, and leave an indelible mark in your mind, causing you to make sweeping generalizations that will ultimately be untrue. Instead of “You never follow through“, stick with the specific task such as “I asked you to put the laundry in the dryer an hour ago and it’s still in the washing machine“. Thinking that your partner “never” or “always” behaves a certain way leads one to resentment.
Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Weston, Florida. She is a trauma specialist conducting short-term therapies using metaphor and humor. She works with adolescent and adult individuals, couples, and groups as well as supervising interns. She’s also a published author. Follow her at: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Amazon.
Are you and your partner struggling with communication? Would you like some exercises that could improve your communication and enhance your relationship? Here are two activities that you can do with your partner so you can understand each other on a deeper level.
1. Make a list of your partner’s positive qualities. Often, we focus on what is negative and not happening in a relationship. That is something that causes resentment and a negative pattern of communication. Would it be helpful to turn that pattern around? Making the list of your partner’s positive qualities is an effective way to redirect your focus from the negative into the positive. My suggestion is to write down all of the things you like about your partner. Try to be complete and write about physical attributes as well as personality traits that you find positive. Share the list with each other. Having a conversation on what you find favorable about your partner can put you on an encouraging mindset, thus placing you both on a better path to communicating.
2. Another suggestion is for you and your partner to take a trip together. This is an excellent way for you to both relax, unwind and enjoy focusing on each other. Sharing a new experience and new memories is a great bonding opportunity. Planning the trip, sharing the trip and talking about the trip afterwards are all times to communicate with each other. Getting away does improve communication as it takes stress out of the conversation. When you take stress out of the equation for a period of time, amazing things can happen to a relationship.
Are you looking for more suggestions? Visit my website at www.PlantationRelationshipCounseling and you can sign up to receive my Six Secrets to Better Communication in Your Relationship. Don’t let poor communication stand in the way of having the relationship you desire.
Michelle Scharlop is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in Plantation, Florida. She has over a decade of experience in working with all types of relationships such as dating, premarital, married, parent/adult child and adult siblings. As a Relationship Expert she specializes in communication issues, conflict resolution, infidelity, infertility, blended families and life transitions. If you live in Plantation, Davie, Sunrise, Weston, or any of the nearby areas, she is the Relationship Expert that can help you break down the walls, stop walking on eggs shells and have the relationship you always dreamed of having with your spouse/parent/adult child/sibling. Give her a call today, so you can get started on getting your relationship in a stronger, happier place.