In my previous blog posting, I talked about two of the three key points we’ve been focusing on in the Couples Therapy group – sensitivity to your partner, and staying connected to your partner. The topic of this posting is the third key point – learning better methods of communication.
There are different levels of communication, and different dynamics that occur in conversation. Sometimes when a person is speaking to their partner they tend to withdraw or act out. We must look “underneath” and find out what is really going on with that person. Sometimes withdrawal is a way of being angry, perhaps about not getting needs met. Acting out can be a reaction to someone asking the partner for a specific action over and over again without the desired result; this increases the stress of the person asking and his or her behavior becomes more intense to the point that the partner reacts negatively. Often, there are unmet needs that stem from childhood and have become “triggers” for that individual. These triggers need to be explored by each partner so they can develop insight about them and talk about them in a way that can lead to greater empathy and understanding. Partners also need to be aware that because of these triggers, they sometimes cause negative projections toward the other person. They must recognize that usually these are their own internal feelings, and should refrain from placing them on the partner.
Couples tend to have the same fights repeatedly. It’s difficult for people to break out of their patterns of behavior. They may want to stop having those same fights and move on to resolve the issue, but that is very hard to do when the unmet needs keep cycling back through.
The way to work on this is two-fold. First, both partners must look inside and determine their own feelings and needs, then think about what they are communicating and asking for. Second, each partner must learn that listening is the most important part of communication. How often do we really hear each other? While the other person is talking, are you thinking about what you are going to say in your defense, focusing on your own explanations and objectives instead of concentrating on your partner? I always find that when couples are really stuck in their communication, if they can just put themselves in each other’s shoes for a moment and really feel what it feels like to be that person, to see things from his/her perspective and then to communicate that, oftentimes the breakthrough is miraculous. They see that the other person’s needs are not as big as they thought; the partner just wanted his/her needs to be heard and understood.
Miscommunication creates conflict. Learning to really listen and see things from the other’s perspective without reacting defensively – that’s when true communication begins and conflict is diminished.
If you are interested in learning about upcoming Couples Therapy Group sessions, please feel free to contact me at 415-563-4342 or 510-883-9312, or by email at [email protected]