Communication Skills for Couples

Lack of meaningful and effective communication is the #1 complaint of most couples who come to me for counseling. Either the partners don’t have the skills, (After all … who teaches us how to communicate in an intimate relationship?) the skills they do have go out the window in the heat of an argument, they’ve reached the point where communication is “functional” (talking about what the kids are doing, what they’ll have for dinner, who’s going where and when) but not “intimate” (sharing feelings, thoughts, ideas, etc.), or they’ve given up even trying to discuss anything meaningful because doing so has led to repeated escalation, with no resolution of their conflicts. 

By the time many couples get to counseling, they are hurt, disappointed, exhausted, angry, overwhelmed and certainly, frustrated.

I believe that most marriages that end in divorce do so because the husband and wife are not communicating well. They don’t understand each other. And … after a while, they stop trying. But, it doesn’t have to be that way! I have seen dramatic changes in couples (their attitude towards each other, their general demeanor when they come back for their next session) after they learn some basic communication and conflict resolution skills and put them into practice, first in my office, then at home.

A skilled therapist/counselor or coach can see the negative patterns of communication that the couple doesn’t recognize (usually because they’ve become so entrenched in their style of relating to each other). Much of what I do in my practice is educational: in this case, after I discuss with clients my observations about their communication patterns, I begin teaching them more effective ways to communicate with each other.

If you and your partner/spouse are having problems communicating with one another, what I have written below may give you some food for thought and will hopefully, be helpful to you. Some couples can successfully learn healthier techniques on their own. However, most couples benefit from several sessions with a skilled couples counselor or coach to guide the process as they learn new ways of relating to each other.

We are always communicating

Even silence is a form (and a very powerful one!) of communication, but it can mean different things depending on the situation. It can mean we’re tired, angry, hurt, overwhelmed, etc. It can mean that we’ve shut down (whether purposefully or unintentionally) and are not taking in anything our partner has to say. So … how do we know what’s going on with our partner?

Honest, open communication sets the foundation for a “best friendship” and a happy, healthy marriage/relationship. It builds trust in the relationship and in each other. Most of us have to learn to communicate well, especially in relationships that mean a lot to us and in which we are very emotionally involved and vulnerable.