Do you and your partner fight all the time, over seemingly minor issues? Do you both struggle to hear each other and resolve your issues?
If this is you, you have lots of company! The most common reason that couples call me for therapy is for communication problems.
Indeed, communication is one of the biggest issues that couples struggle over. Couples counseling for communication problems can help you both in a variety of ways.
The main areas that we will focus on include:
- Both you and your partner’s experience of the communication problems in your relationship, including your unmet relationship needs
- Identifying and changing the destructive/negative patterns of communication that are creating and maintaining your relationship problems
- Identifying typical roles you both play within your negative communication cycles
- Changing negative beliefs about your partner’s behaviors and motives which are contributing to your poor communication
- Strengthening communication skills that already exist in the relationship
- New strategies and tools for healthy couples communication
- Applying new communication skills to old problems, and building confidence to use these new skills for future problems
Frequently asked questions about couples counseling for communication
We fight all the time. Does that mean we should break up?
Having frequent arguments in your relationship means that there's a problem with communication (at the least) and deeper, more serious problems in the relationship that need attention before they cause a split (at the most).
However, communication problems are very common among couples, especially during high stress transitions such as a big move, having a baby, or changing jobs.
Having frequent fights doesn't mean the relationship is doomed. It can be a signal that one or both of your needs are not being met, and that something needs to shift in the relationship. It can also signal that you and your partner don't yet have the key skills that allow couples to work through conflict and get their needs met in better ways than through fighting.
If we look at your frequent arguments in a positive light, it means that you two are still engaged in the relationship and are making efforts (albeit, unproductive ones) to get your needs met within it.
A big red flag is when one or both partners is not getting their needs met, but fighting stops because he or she is pulling away and disengaging from the other. Even at this point though, the relationship can be saved if both partners truly want to save it.
I don't think our communication problems will get better without counseling, but my partner won't come with me. What do I do?
This is a tricky issue. On the one hand, therapy can be helpful for your relationship even if you come alone to sessions. On the other hand, however, when there are communication problems it's far better that you both attend therapy sessions together.
Having you both attend sessions helps me as your therapist observe your communication problems firsthand so that I can target the focus of our work.
It also helps to have both partners account of their personal experience when conflict happens. Having only one partner's account is only half the picture and leaves out a lot of important data!
When the goal is working on communication problems in the relationship, I strongly recommend couples therapy as the best form of treatment. See "What is my partner doesn't want to come to couples counseling with me?" in the FAQs section of Couples Therapy for tips on how to handle this.
If these tips do not work and couples therapy is simply not an option because your partner won't come, you may have to accept coming to sessions alone and doing your part to help improve the communication. In this case, you may want to consider Individual Therapy for Relationship Issues.