Are You And Your Partner In A Perpetual Communication Breakdown?
Are you and your partner struggling to communicate effectively, thoughtfully or even kindly? Do you feel that no matter what you say, the other doesn’t listen? Have you often felt like you’re being ignored, treated like a child or not appreciated for what you contribute to your relationship and family? Perhaps you and your partner have fallen into a “you never” or “you always” communication style, and the usual outcome is a ramping up of arguments where one or both of you feel criticized, judged, demeaned or angry. Or, perhaps you now worry that any kind of interaction will lead to conflict.
Struggling with communication in relationships can be a frustrating, confusing and weary experience. You are probably longing for your partner to show you love the way you want, and feel hopeless when you don’t get it. Your efforts to communicate the importance of being loved in your particular way may fall on deaf ears. Furthermore, your partner may get angry because you don’t appreciate his or her way of showing love and begins to resent your demands for change. The same may hold true for your partner, making frustration and the feeling of not being “good enough” the theme of your relationship problems.
It may feel that no matter how hard you try to connect with your partner or which approach you take, you’re still hitting walls. Or, maybe you’re close to giving up on having any kind of meaningful engagement and feel shut down, invisible, unimportant and frustrated by the seemingly never-ending, cyclical conflicts. You may even fear that, if you can’t find a more effective way to talk to each other, your relationship is doomed.
Couples Communication Issues Are Very Common
If you and your partner are struggling to communicate effectively, respectfully or from a place of love, you are not alone. In fact, communication problems are the number one issue that brings couples into therapy. And, when communication has broken down completely, couples are desperate to discover whether or not their relationship is viable. They need a good couples counselor to help them get their most basic fears out in the open and attended to. Then, and only then, can the couple begin to address their distress about not feeling equally heard and valued.
One partner usually blames the other for the breakdown in communication and connection. They believe that, “I’m the one trying, but he or she is not!” It’s not uncommon to feel as though their partner should make the first move, apologize and reach out in ways that prove a need for connecting with their ‘other half.’ Most likely, their partner is feeling the exact same way about the interactions and so both partners end up standing their ground, waiting for the other to give in and make amends.
The truth is that most people communicate in the same ways as their parents and family members. They operate in ways that are familiar and seem natural, not questioning whether they are effective, healthy or meaningful. Not knowing that there is any other way, they recreate their own family dynamics in the couple relationship, setting the stage for clashes and melt downs that jeopardize the connection.
You might be wondering why it was so good when you were dating and so bad now that you are committed. In the initial stages of relationship, most couples enjoy a blissful time within a romantic bubble where everything feels like magic. However, the romantic bubble eventually bursts when couples are faced with the reality and stress of everyday life. Often, at this point, both members of the couple are trying to find space for their separate, autonomous selves, having given it up during the magical days of romance when they felt as if they were “one person” or soul mates. In order to get back in touch with their individual selves and still maintain their couple connection, power struggles become the norm.
Many couples engage in power struggles and will purposely do (or not do) things to upset their partner. For example, one may deliberately play loud music that their partner hates or aggravate a partner by never taking dirty dishes to the sink. This primal response to conflict is extremely common because it creates feelings of being strong and in charge. While seizing power may feel good in the moment, this strategy cuts cords of connection rather than weaving new ones.
The good news is that while couples communication issues are the norm, they are also resolvable. An experienced couples therapist can help you get to the root of the these struggles and unfulfilling patterns. You can begin to effectively express your needs and regain harmony and connection in your relationship.
You And Your Partner Can Develop Healthy Relationship Communication Skills
You can resolve your communication issues, and I can help. In safe and guided sessions, I will help you and your partner look at all the ways you communicate, identify the current and underlying issues that are creating conflict and teach you effective communication skills for couples.
The best learning is experiential. As you and your partner communicate in session, I observe the live dynamics that lead to the moment when one or both of you feel angry, upset, let down or unheard. There and then, I’ll guide you to identify and express the expectations you had of one and other that didn’t get met. I will help you and your partner hone in on the subtle signals you receive from each other’s body language that contribute to feeling misunderstood and dismissed. I’ll alert you when I sense that you are holding back, hiding, being passive aggressive or non-responsive. In that moment, you’ll be asked to tune into your intentions and how you chose to express them. I’ll invite both of you to discuss the results. By working in real time, you can begin to understand the ways in which you and your partner disappoint and hurt each other and why. Together, we’ll look at how your intentions came across, how and why they got misrepresented, ending in impasse or recrimination. That’s when I’ll offer you alternatives ways in which you might communicate so that it engages your partner in a way that allows both of you to feel taken in as you intend.
I can also help you and your partner learn the language of emotions, which enables you get in tune with yourselves, find words to appropriately describe feelings and communicate with your partner so you can be understood. When communication is feeling-based and direct, you can get to know each other better and begin honestly and openly sharing the impact your partner has on you, what it triggers inside you and what it is that you are longing for.
We’ll also identify and explore the underlying issues that are leading to your communication problems and tease out the knots leading to arguments and repeated pain. Arguments are rarely really about simple things, such as being late or forgetting to pick up the dry cleaning. Rather, they often stem from insecurities and fears that we developed in childhood. Once you identify where the pain is really coming from, you can discover ways to engage that respect your boundaries and individuality, but that also help you see things from your partner’s point of view. Walls come down, leading to not only better communication, but also increased intimacy and a deeper connection.
Further Benefits Of Communication Counseling For Couples
- You and your partner will feel free to be yourselves, enjoying a more authentic relationship
- You will find many new and surprising ways of being loved, reducing your levels of disappointment and hopelessness.
- You will experience validation and acceptance from the one you most want it from.
- Disagreements will no longer threaten the relationship, becoming instead a sign of strength that you can have different opinions but still be an ‘item.’
- As you learn to accept each other’s differences as normal and healthy, you will have fewer experiences of betrayals and disappointment. Most of all, you will have fewer unmet expectations.
- Your level of security will increase, making you more tolerant and forgiving of one and other.
It is possible to let go of fear and communicate openly and honestly with each other. With the help of an experienced couples therapist and the willingness to engage in the therapy process, you can gain a sense of freedom and fluidity in your relationship. You can say what you’re feeling in the moment it is happening without worrying that doing so will cause your relationship to crumble. By learning to let go of judgment and becoming more curious about and interested in each other, you can develop a trusting relationship based in clear communication, love and understanding.
You still may have questions or concerns about therapy for couples communication issues…
I’m afraid that my partner will be dishonest in sessions and that you’ll believe him or her.
I guide and facilitate sessions so that both you and your partner are given equal time to express what you need to. Both of you are taken seriously, and no extra weight is given to one person’s account of the problems. I also provide the space and time for you to respond to each other and share your experience on whatever the other brings up. I will ask you each, in turn, what specific issues are troubling you and look for similarities so that we can begin the process of understanding your mutual hurts and fears.
I don’t trust that my partner will follow through with agreements made during counseling and worry that I’ll pay the price for saying certain things at home.
It’s not uncommon to worry that couples therapy won’t work or that it will even make things worse. And, if an argument does occur following a session or your partner is not being accountable to his or her word, that makes an ideal topic for our next session, where you can make your partner aware of your fears.
I’m worried that I won’t be taken seriously and that my thoughts and feelings will matter even less.
In sessions, you will be not only invited, but also encouraged to share openly because you and your experience matter very much. I can teach you how to share your feelings with your partner directly and effectively. You can break through fears and preconceived notions about not being heard or understood and begin communicating in ways that get your needs met.
You Can Enjoy Healthy Communication And Connection
I invite you to take the next step and call my office at 310-985-2491 to schedule an initial appointment. You, your partner and your relationship are well worth investing in.