Lots of Couples tell me they can’t communicate
When couples come to my office I ask them what brought them to couples counseling. More often than not couples tell me they can’t communicate. In fact, outside of having intimacy problems or money issues, communication is right there at the top of couple’s concerns.
Comments that soon follow the statement “We can’t communicate” include things like:
“She/He never listens to me.”
“I don’t understand why she/he has to get so loud and makes a fight out of it.”
“She/He just shuts down and then there’s NO communication.”
The Fact is You Communicate Well in Lots of Other Scenarios
Interestingly most partners communicate just fine in many other scenarios. At work, with friends, and other family members most people communicate generally well. Of course, there is a conflict potential in all relationships, but often the type of miscommunication we see in couples is particular to that couple. The way in which couples communicate, navigate conflict, and repair is often a bit different than in other relationships.
Why is it that we hurt those we love the most?
How is it that couples have some of the most intense, hurtful interactions with each other, often in their words or communication? We’ve all heard the saying, “we hurt those we love the most.” The reason comes back to the concept of attachment.
Our spouse is the one we most closely bond to, feel secure with, and count on for the ups and downs of life. This is the person from which we base our expectation, “you’ll be there for me, right?” When this expectation feels at risk, or when the relationship feels vulnerable or when you don’t feel heard, respected, or loved there’s a strong emotional reaction.
When fear or doubt questions our security in a relationship there tends to be a strong reaction either to protect yourself from getting hurt or to attempt to protect or save the relationship. In Sue Johnson terms, you may protest the distance in the relationship or you may fight for the relationship which often looks like a nasty fight or the inability to communicate.
What if it Goes Beyond Communication?
If the solution for couples were all about communication skills the divorce rate would be much lower. Communication skills tend to be pretty basic and easy to learn. But the problem is not just the way in which we communicate. The problem goes to why are we communicating the way we are.
In my work with couples I use Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) model which goes beyond how couples are communicating and looks at the cycles and patterns beneath what is said and done. I help couples find the motivators that generate the jabs, sarcasm, yelling, shut down, walk away reactions in conflict.
Each couple has their own pattern or cycle that they find themselves in. This pattern likely repeats itself nearly every time there’s conflict, no matter the content of what they are addressing. With assistance couples are able to identify and see the underlying causes of their reactions and reasons for their inability to communicate.
Couples begin to understand each other more clearly and with this they are able to begin to see the forest from the trees. Couples become capable of getting out of their cycle and learning new ways to interact with each other for calmer, more loving and respectful resolution of their concerns.
Learn more about me and couples counseling
To learn more about my practice of couples counseling please visit my website at: www.insightcounselingalexandria.com. I provide a free 10-15 minute consultation for those interested in beginning couples counseling.