Category: Couples Therapy

No defending when communicating as a couple

Listening Essentials for Healthy Communication

Talking effectively about feelings is an exercise that will strengthen trust and intimacy in a relationship. While talking is important, listening is just as crucial. Talking about and listening to certain events and issues must be presented in a comfortable environment that is committed to certain communication rules and understandings.

The role of the talker is to describe what emotions you are feeling; such as frustrated, angry, hurt, fearful, etc. Attach the emotion to a person, event, and how this affects how you feel about the relationship and about how you feel about yourself. An example is, “I feel hurt when you don’t listen. It makes me feel like you don’t care about my thoughts, opinions, or about me. It makes me feel like I’m invisible, I don’t’ matter, and I’m small.”

Next, explore what this might remind you of from earlier times in your life or previous relationships. For instance, “It reminds me when my father yelled at me as a child and continued to ask me to explain myself. I grew so scared while he yelled that I couldn’t think; my mind went blank. He continued to yell and I continued to retreat.”

Subsequently, explain what you need to help make you feel comfortable. This enables your partner to understand, empathize, and attune to your needs. With continued support from your partner, a loving connection and safe reliance grow.

The role of the listener is to put your feelings and perceptions aside, be fully present, engaged, and attentive. The listener is curious, asks questions, provides reflective statements and acknowledges your spouse’s perception of the event or issue. Another role of the listener is to ensure the four taboos of communication are avoided. They include:

  1. Criticism
  2. Demanding
  3. Defensiveness
  4. Angry outburst

I discussed rule number one, criticism and rule number two, no demands. Criticism and making a demand is a self-interested act that is demeaning and leads to a hostile environment causing distance, distrust, and defensiveness. The third rule is to avoid defensiveness.

What is Defensiveness?

Defensiveness is a reaction to justify your behavior and serves to protect. It is a function to make yourself feel better and make your partner wrong. Defensiveness usually results in blaming, criticizing, or counterattacking. The defense protects against pain, shame, guilt and fear.

The solution is to share your feelings about your inner world that was triggered during the event. Express how it makes you feel about yourself, the relationship, and what sensitive area from your past was ignited. At this point, it is the responsibility of the listener to keep in line with your role and put your feelings and perception aside. With practice, the process will become easier and your relationship will strengthen.

If your communication is falling into the trap of criticism, domination, defensiveness, and uncontrolled anger, call me at (424) 258-5416, email me at april@aprilwrighttherapy.com, or complete the contact form below and let’s begin a course of action so that you may build trust and intimacy again.

Healthy, happy couple - April Wright Therapy

The Four Taboos of Communication – Rule #2 — No Demanding

Research has come a long way since the 1960’s when the book The Mirages of Marriage by Don Jackson and William Lederer expressed that distressed marriages lacked a contract based on rewards and positive feelings.  It was suggested that partners negotiate a contract based out of self-interest to arrive at the best deal. Therapy approaches also recommended couples to designate a day of thoughtful exchanges.

Couples therapists now recommend couples work together with mutual trust and with shared meaning and purpose. Psychologists suggest partners act nice to each other not out of self-interest but out of mutual interest.  Furthermore, professionals advise spouses to express emotions in a committed safe haven of trust, curiosity, and validation.

The ingredients for not only loving but being in love with your partner resides with good conflict-resolution skills and daily emotional connection where calmly talking, listening, cuddling and saying, “I love you” and meaning it occurs.  Cuddling is important because it secretes oxytocin, the chemical that creates bonding and a great sex life.

The components to creating a healthy, happy relationship may sound overwhelming. It’s really quite simple.  It starts with some basic communication rules.  The guidelines include staying away from the four taboos of communication.

  1.    Criticism
  2.    Demanding
  3.    Defensiveness
  4.    Angry outburst

I discussed the menaces of criticism and how it leads to a hostile environment causing distance, distrust, and defensiveness.  The second communication pitfall to avoid is making a demand.

What is a demand?

A demand is a forceful request based on self-interest.  The act of a demand is being domineering, controlling, and forceful.  Similar to criticism, demanding something of your spouse is not constructive and does not have the mutual interest of the relationship in mind.

Demanding actions of your significant other commonly results in a passive-aggressive partner.  Passive-aggressive behavior is a defense mechanism to punish you for your demands.  Relationships that resort to demanding and retorting passive-aggressive behavior turn into a vicious cycle of retaliation, intense anger, and distance.

The solution is to pause before speaking when a demand enters your mind.  You may ask for a time-out and express that you can reconvene in an hour or whatever particular timeframe you need to speak calmly and express what triggered the demand.   Give yourself plenty of nurturing time to think and assess what soft spot was hit that brought forth this demand.

When you are ready, ask respectfully to your partner when is a good time to talk.  When a time is set, make sure the setting is comfortable with no distractions.  Share your perception and feelings of the event and what feelings about yourself and the relationship come forward.  The more you express your inner world in a committed safe haven of curiosity, understanding, and empathy, the closer you become.

If your communication is falling into traps of demands and passive-aggressiveness, call me at (424) 258-5416 or email me at april@aprilwrighttherapy.com and let’s begin a course of action so that you may build trust and understanding again.

Don’t be embarrassed to seek couples therapy

We define the treatment path in couples therapy after patiently listening and carefully understanding the problems couple is facing. Our practical and scientific approach, while balancing and weighing the emotions at stake, helps us bring in the much needed transparency and attachment among the partners. It definitively helps in doing the right thing, and taking the right decision, not only for the relationship, but personally as well.

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