How Proper Communication Leads to an Intimate Relationship
When Couples Can’t Communicate
It is fairly well known that communication between partners is the keystone to a healthy relationship. One of the main reasons that people seek out the help of a couples’ counsellor is a breakdown in communication. However, many people overlook what communication actually is and the reasons it is so important. These oversights often lead to negative emotions and other issues that bring the couple to counselling in the first place.
Talking Isn’t Enough
One of the most common misconceptions is that communicating is simply talking. Healthy communication is so much more than saying enough words. At its core, communication is effectively and productively discussing concerns, conflicts, and ideals in your relationship, and, more importantly, listening to your partner’s concerns, conflicts, and ideals. When one or both parts of this process is being overlooked, partners begin to feel like their voice is not being heard and they have no say in the way the relationship progresses. These feelings of being silenced can lead to despair, anger, and resentment that eventually tear the relationship apart if communication isn’t restored.
Having a Neutral Party
Relationship counsellors, such as myself, teach our patients basic techniques that build a groundwork for effective communication, but there is another benefit to counselling for communication: mediation. Often, when one or both partners feels like they cannot give voice to their complaints, it is easier for them to relay those concerns to their partner through a third party to get them out in the open so they can be addressed.
Continuing the Work
Of course, counselling is only effective if it works outside of the office as well. In addition to providing this “safe space” to air grievances, I teach my patients how to express their concerns in a productive way, one that addresses the problem rather than attacking the partner. For good communication to work, the other party has to be able to listen without getting defensive, as well. Defensiveness, while instinctive, leads to the complaining party not feeling like they were able to “get through” to their partner, and thus causes new breakdowns. John Gottman refers to these bad habits, along with stonewalling and criticism, as the “Four Horsemen” and they are predictors of divorce. With therapy, couples can learn alternatives to these four critical communication mistakes for use throughout the relationship, so they can turn bad habits into good ones.
By learning the basic skills needed to communicate effectively and having a safe place to air grievances, patients can begin to take what they learned during therapy and apply those tools at home. This is when the relationship can start to heal.
If you feel like you and your partner are having trouble communicating effectively, and you don’t know what to do, call to set up an appointment today to get your relationship on the road to recovery.
Gozde Gokozan, MS, MA