couple miscommunicating

Are You Making These Communication Mistakes in Your Relationship?

Do you think to yourself, “We don’t know how to communicate“? Feel like you argue in circles, never resolving your differences? Sick of feeling unseen and unheard?

Good, healthy communication is a skill. It’s like a muscle that has to be toned through exercise. It requires intentional effort and practice and guess what? It’s something couples can learn how to do.

We’ve seen what poor communication can look like. A great example is the recent 2020 Presidential Debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

No, they’re not an intimate couple. Yes, they were debating to win. But even by debate standards, this lacked civil discourse. How many times do discussions between you and your partner turn into heated arguments like theirs?

How often do you cut each other off, talk over each other, name call, or smirk at your partner’s comments? How many times do you create circular conversations that go nowhere?

In your intimate relationship, you will have differences of opinion. In fact, I hope that you do. That means that two unique personalities are visible. That’s a good thing.

But, how you navigate your differences matters.

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Skills You Can Learn Through Marriage Counseling

In couples therapy, marriage counseling, or relationship counseling, we help couples see their own intimate communication dance. This includes learning about who tends to lead, follow, control, be aggressive or passive, pursue or distance, shut down, withdraw and so much more.

In fact, below is a chart that highlights skills we help couples avoid along with teaching them what they can do instead to help make their intimacy dance more fluid, connected, and loving.

10 Communication Skills for Couples – Mistakes and Solutions

Avoid This… Instead Do This…
Talking over your partner Be quiet while they speak
Blocking your partner’s ideas and feelings Ask them what they think and feel, then listen
Name calling Manage your anger, take a deep breath
Blame and Shame Practice personal accountability
Bringing up old wounds and random issues Stay focused and stick with one topic
Belligerency (“You’re the problem, not me”) Remember it takes two to tango
Sarcasm or hostile humor Say, “I feel really angry right now
Eye rolling, sighing Take a break, then come back to talk more
Personal criticisms Focus on the problem, not on character
Using words like “always” and “never Say “sometimes” or “this happens a lot

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You can see that these communication skills are not complicated. Anyone can learn to strengthen and improve them. Over the years, we’ve seen thousands of couples in therapy. Every couple comes in with their own unique story that needs some form of guidance and healing.

As couple’s therapists, we use charts just like the one above to provide concrete tools for you to draw from, homework to practice and new skills to learn.  Your therapy sessions help you practice these skills so that you can bridge the divide between you.

Let’s consider the story of Harriet and Kirby.

Relationship Counseling with Harriet and Kirby

Harriet and Kirby came into therapy because they were at odds in most subject matters – sex, money, parenting and work. They felt deep marital dissatisfaction but weren’t ready to call it quits. They knew that they loved each other but didn’t know how to manage their differences.

We met weekly. Harriet expressed feeling overwhelmed by their work and parenting schedule, changes in her body after having kids, overall exhaustion on most days and missing the “little things” Kirby used to do for her to make her feel special.

Kirby talked about his stress around being a father due to how he was raised, numbing out each night with social media, feeling like he was always “in trouble” with Harriet and that he didn’t do anything right by her standards. He also said their sexless marriage had him feeling like less than a man.