Improving Communication With Your Spouse
When couples talk about poor communication they typically refer to one of three problems.
- Confusion over advise giving and support
- Failure to set up good communication mechanics
- Not staying on topic by throwing in issues from the past or generally stockpiling issues.
Advice and support are not the same processes. The most common pattern is where one partner is trying to tell the other about their day or how they feel about a troublesome event and the other partner starts to give advice on what the other partner should do about it. The one receiving the unsolicited advise often becomes frustrated which usually results in the advise giver becoming frustrated as their "advise" is not well received.
Communication mechanics are often simple behavioural agreements that couples fail to make to ensure better communication. For example, one partner may begin telling the other about something they feel is very important and another partner is not listening or engaged in a TV show, checking their phone messages etc. In other words, attention has not been secured and sanctioned. Good mechanics would be to ensure that attention and willingness to listen is secured first.
Sounds simple yet when couples fail to clarify if they have the others attention communication is often very unfulfilling. Another example of communication mechanics may be trying to talk at a bad time. A classic would be when one partner is exhausted from the day and just needs to "decompress" while the other wants to have a problem-solving discussion.
When couples topic jump the result is usually that nothing is accomplished. Failure to stick to one topic and thoroughly hear each other out is a common problem. Topic jumping can be the result of unresolved issues or communication habits that the couple have fallen into where they get caught in a loop that both feed.
The Number One Cause of Divorce — Unmet Needs
There are many surface "causes" of divorces such as infidelity and substance abuse. Often, however, there are more subtle processes going on that lead to divorce. When couples do not develop healthy ways to maintain effective communication, problem-solving, affection (casual and sexual), one or both will have unmet needs. Although most marriages can tolerate unmet needs for a short while, in the long term, problems typically result including; loss of intimacy, a boring or uninteresting relationship, addictions (both substances and process addictions such as gambling or pornography), and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
How Relationship Counselling Can Help
Relationship counselling can help by taking the secrets out of the closet and allowing both partners to express concerns/frustrations in a safe environment. Both partners are supported in speaking openly about both their thoughts and feelings. Old and new issues are discussed where both can perhaps "hear" their partner for the first time or at least hear in a way that promotes more understanding.
It is normal for a couple to get stuck in ruts where they continue to see their problems in the same way or believe that their partner is really the one to blame for the state of the marriage. Relationship counselling can help by providing more objectivity and a different opinion as to how the couple could both solve problems more effectively and develop a closer relationship.