We Have Communication Problems. How Do We Fix Them?

When couples begin counseling one of the most common difficulties I hear couples talk about has to do with communication.  I often hear one or both say this, “We just don’t know how to communicate.  That’s why we are here.”

Chances are people in this situation feel a lack of intimacy.  If you feel empty in your relationship and when you try and get your needs met you run into resistance from your mate, you could surmise that you and your partner are having communication problems.  Many couples then think if they could just learn how to “communicate” the relationship would be improved.

When I hear this I wonder if the word “communicate” is really code for he or she doesn’t listen to me, or he or she doesn’t understand me or even he or she doesn’t love me because if they did, they would do what I needed and I wouldn’t feel this way.

When people summarize their marriage or relationship strife as communication problems I know as a couples counselor that I am just scratching the surface of what is not working between the two.  What I know is that it’s not just a matter of learning different words to fix the communication problem, it’s a matter of understanding what one is feeling and being able to convey it accurately so the partner can understand.  I know that fixing a communication problem means getting two people on to the same page by helping the couple learn to be available for each other and that usually means helping people develop their listening skills as well.

When we grow up we learn how to do a lot of things.  We learn how to listen to our parents or tune them out.  We might learn how to get attention by being a helper in the house or becoming a good student to receive praise.  Maybe we acted out to get noticed.  What ever pattern we learned as a kid we probably still use as an adult.  And why wouldn’t we.  We would have no reason to change if we are not in relationship.  But being with another person we are in such close contact the ways of getting ourselves noticed just might not work anymore.  This is no one’s fault.  Every one receives training when young and does the best they can when they couple.

But while being dutiful or acting out might have been successful strategies before we were a couple, they just don’t seem to work when we get close to another person in an adult relationship or marriage.  This business of not communicating comes in when two people want to be together but they get so frustrated trying to get their needs met and they just can’t seem to understand why it’s so challenging to make themselves heard by the other person.

There is a distinct difference between being an independent person in the relationship and being part of a couple.  That doesn’t mean you have to lose your identity, it just means you become aware of your partner and his or her needs as well as your own and you are conscious of this at the same time.  That may sound like a lot of juggling, but trust me, that’s when a relationship gets really good.  When you notice what you need, are aware of what your partner needs and everyone get’s what they need you are living in a place of peace and happiness.  No more communication problems, both of you just taking care of the other, seamlessly.  Now that’s true communication.

Send your comments to linda@lindanusbaum.com

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Do I Need A Therapist? …Answers from a Marriage and Family Therapist

Wow, what a good question.  Do I need a therapist?  How many of us have ever wondered if we do?  How many times have we just thought that life felt too overwhelming for us and maybe, just maybe, someone could help us figure it out?  Probably a lot of us have thought this at some time or another, and why not?  Living can be complicated.

And that’s just one of the reasons people call on a therapist.  Here are some more thoughts that could lead someone to wonder if they need one.  It’s not uncommon for people to say to me, “I’m not sure what to do next, I feel stuck.” “I am sad about my life and don’t know what to do.” “I am always mad at my boyfriend and feel unhappy.”  These may sound like every day occurrences, and they are. But what is an anthill for one person could become a mountain for another.  Maybe there’s a problem at work, or with one or both of your parents.  Any of these issues could make a person wonder about seeing a therapist and getting some counseling.

Marriage and Family Therapists are trained to help people sort out their difficulties.  That’s our skill set and that’s what we do.  We help people look at their struggles.  We help people understand their thoughts about those struggles.  Then we help people understand their feelings about the struggles.  For most people this is a new opportunity to explore one’s self.

Some people hold on to the notion that they should be able to figure themselves out.  They can’t imagine allowing a stranger into their world.  But sometimes the discomfort of not knowing how to fix a problem can lead someone straight into therapy.  And here is the good news; through therapy people get better!  Yup, people learn how to understand themselves, and that allows for all kind of new experiences in life.  When we understand what we like, don’t like, want, don’t want, we can then learn how to ask for what we like, or say no when we’re confronted with something we don’t like.  For most people this is the key to feeling good in life; knowing what will make you happy.

Through therapy people also learn they can’t always control their surroundings or how people should react.  Expecting people to act a certain way can lead to stress and aggravation.  Becoming disappointed because things don’t work out the way you think they should doesn’t have to be a way of life. Through counseling people learn that they may not be able to control their surroundings or other people but they can control how they act.  That can lead to increased self worth and that’s freedom.

Send your comments to linda@lindanusbaum.com

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