Couples often complain about communication issues in their relationship. It's very true, and it's really no one's fault. I tend to think about communication in terms of behavioral modeling. Most of these communication skills are habitual and unconscious. We learned how to navigate our emotional needs by watching our parents deal with stress, and we imitate their coping strategies. In turn our parents learned from their parents. There are no classes that teach you how to communicate in a romantic relationship, and so everyone is flying by the seat of their pants, doing the best that they can.
Unfortunately, when I encourage couples to talk through their concerns, I see a lot of people argue ... but few people really know how to listen. Often couples approach conflict like it is a debate. In an effort to win the argument, most couples exhaust each other until one person finally gives up and goes away.
The common traps that couples seem to fall into around conversation are:
- Convincing the other person that you are right
- An inability to communicate what we are needing
- Ignoring feelings and focusing on explanation (telling a story)
As a couples therapist, I am engaged and interactive, encouraging my clients to experiment with new ways of behaving and then determining what works best. Our job in counseling is identify unconscious dysfuctional patterns and cycles and practice new skills that might be more helpful in a relationship. My strategies are based on recent scientific research in attachment theory and neuroscience, and I have advanced training in the field of interpersonal development. The goal of couples therapy is to practice emotional intimacy in a safe setting until we have developed a set of skills that you can use at home. We not only use our minds to gain insight into the nature of the problem, but we are also using our emotions to create new ways to connect with each other.