Has Communication Between You And Your Partner Become Mean, Messy or Missing?
Do you and your partner seem to always be at each other’s throats? Do you fight about the same things over and over or seem to have the same kind of fight? Are you living in a constant gridlock, where there is more yelling and less listening? Has being right become more important than getting along? Do you yearn to be heard and understood by your partner but feel that your attempts to communicate leave you feeling more angry, anxious or alone? Have your fighting styles become incompatible – meaning does one of you push or nag while the other withdraws or hides? Do you oftentimes think that your relationship would be much better if your partner could really hear you and/or just go with your flow?
Times of conflict and poor communication affect even the strongest relationships. Kids and careers can come to dominate time that was once allotted for each other. Over time, emotional walls can be built. One or both of you may begin feeling unheard, frustrated or lonely. A simple disagreement can spin into what feels like a domestic world war. You may want your partner to go one way while he or she is pushing you to go in another direction. Communication can begin to feel impossible, making your relationship feel doomed, toxic, and or stuck.
Communication Break-Downs Are Normal
If your relationship is suffering from increased conflict, you are not alone. You may have heard of the 7-year itch. That “itch” can actually occur at anytime. Things like kids and work get in the way and you may all of a sudden wonder why your marriage feels so hard. Simply, as many others have experienced, you are stuck in a very common cycle that feels very bad. Somewhere along the way, you lost your marital friendship and ability to communicate in kind and effective ways.
Couples Counseling Can Help
You don’t have to maintain your current cycle. There are many ways to move out of it – even if you’ve been experiencing difficulty with communication for years. It is entirely possible to develop new and healthier ways of interacting with each other. You can achieve positive change and restore harmony to your relationship.
Experience shows us that couples therapy is extremely effective in helping couples reconnect and develop a healthier communication style. A highly qualified and experienced BPS couples therapist can help you and your partner develop the insights and skills needed to identify and change the patterns that have kept you stuck, frustrated and disconnected. Sometimes, people in coupled relationships simply need to learn how to let go of being right. When they’re able to do this, the relationship can experience a dramatic shift.
Your BPS therapist can help you learn how to communicate better. You’ll learn how to pick your battles and how to fight fairly. You’ll work on reestablishing a friendship, which is key to a lasting, long-term relationship. With help, you can begin communicating on a deeper level and rediscover the fondness, admiration and love you once felt toward each other. In time, rather than allowing conflict to push you apart, you can develop the skills to work through it together and deepen your bond.
But you still may have questions or fears…
I think we need some outside help, but I fear that my partner will not be open to the idea of therapy.
Many people are hesitant to try couples therapy because of a fear that they will be blamed for all the problems in the relationship. This is not the goal of couples’ work – its goal is actually the opposite. In therapy, you’ll learn that there is something that is not working within the “system” of your relationship and not exclusively with you or with your partner as individuals. With help, you and your partner will learn how to identify what’s keeping you from communicating fairly, respectfully and lovingly. You’ll also learn skills to change the patterns that are keeping you stuck.
If your partner still refuses to attend, therapy can be effective – though probably not as much – if you attend on your own. Working on your own issues and learning some tools to help improve communication can lead to a stronger and more connected relationship. And, your commitment to therapy may elicit a curiosity in your partner to attend a session.
I’m afraid that therapy will make things worse.
This is a very common fear and understandably so. After months or even years of walking on egg shells around your partner, the idea of talking openly can feel scary. And, some sessions might be hard. But, aren’t the ongoing and unresolved fights hard, too? By doing nothing, you’re allowing the pattern of poor communication and constant conflict to continue, which makes everyone unhappy. In therapy, however, you’ll learn how to handle your arguments and their aftermaths in healthier ways. Rather than continuing within the same cycle – which hasn’t worked – you’ll learn how to set healthy boundaries and take time for space and self-care. And, with the help of your therapist, you will set ground rules. For example, some topics are only to be discussed in therapy until there is growth and resolution around a particularly painful subject. In time, you can develop the skills to navigate these conflicts on your own. Learning how to do so can significantly strengthen and deepen your relationship.
We’d like to try therapy, but I am not sure that it’s financially viable right now.
Ask yourself if your marriage is worth fighting for. Also ask yourself what the emotional costs of your ongoing conflicts have been to each of you as well as your family and friends. Your marriage may be the most important relationship of your life. What is the value of feeling and interacting more lovingly, effectively and respectfully now and in the long-term? This is your significant relationship, which radically impacts your life and your wellbeing. Getting help to communicate with your partner in more effective and lasting ways may be one of the best investments you can make.
Many people come to BPS having worked with other therapists who were not trained to work with couples on communication issues or who they couldn’t relate with – which is a waste of time and money. At BPS, we’ll conduct an initial assessment and match you with a therapist who is trained and experienced to work with couples and whose personality is a good match with yours and your partner’s. Once you find that good match, making a commitment to yourself and your partner may prove to be the venture of a lifetime – imagine being much happier on a regular basis and ask yourself what that is worth.
We encourage you to schedule an initial assessment with Dr. Jan Hittelman. Jan will work with you to determine what your specific issues are and to ensure a good match between you and a BPS therapist in terms of personality, style and expertise.
You can also check out our free, online therapist directory, which will match you with a therapist who has expertise working with couples’ communication issues.