Relationship and Marriage Communication Counseling
RELATIONSHIP COMMUNICATION COUNSELING
Relationships are complicated, and we don’t pretend that communication will fix all your problems. Instead we choose not to focus on the issue at hand that leads to an argument, but on the deeper meanings and connection.
Communication: A Key Relationship Skill
You are probably asking yourself one of these questions day in and day out. Communication issues are rarely a one time thing, but tend to happen over and over, wearing you out:
“We don’t talk anymore.”
“I can’t talk to my husband, he is always: getting mad, shutting down, ignoring me, etc.”
“Why can’t we communicate?”
If you feel that you can’t communicate with your partner, then you may be on the path to feeling like you are living alone or with a stonewalling roommate. The feelings associated with not being able to talk with your partner range from anger to loneliness.
In daily life, poor communication can mean that when you come home with a new brand of ice cream and ask if this one is okay, you get a one word reply: “Sure.” It could also be even more glaring. For example say you got a new job or promotion, but when you tell your partner excitedly they just nod a bit and continue what they were doing.
Your main desire now is likely: “If we could just talk.” For other people the underlying feeling is “If I could just feel connected to my partner and understood.” If you have just started having this feeling, act now! Communication issues are some of the earliest signs of relationship distress, and can be much more easily fixed early on. Most couples come to therapy years after the point that they can most benefit from it (we estimate 6 years too late). Just as your car requires maintenance, your relationship does as well. As soon as that check engine light of “poor communication” comes on, you should talk with someone who can help.
Note: Relationship issues are similar across all relationship types. When we use terms like “couple” we don’t intend to exclude any groups from our advice. Non-monogomous or polyamorous couples can benefit as much from our relationship counseling as any other normative couple. In fact many of the common obstacles that such relationship arrangements bring can be best navigated with the help of a relationship advisor.
We offer Couples Counseling for:
Our Clinicians also help with:
- Preparing for Partnership & Premarital Counseling
- Life Transitions (beginning, ending or changing your relationship status)
- Marriage Counseling
- Relationship Discernment Counseling
Contact us to schedule an appointment or ask a question:
Relationships Thrive on Communication
Communication is the number one issue that couples name when they talk about the biggest challenges in their relationship. Just under 60% of couples state that communication is a main reason for them to seek therapy.  This was tied with intimacy/emotional neglect as the top reason to seek therapy across all couples.
This makes sense, especially when you think about relationships the way we do. Relationships at their core are unions of two completely different viewpoints and realities. If we can’t communicate with our partner about how we understand certain situations and problems, we can’t understand their perspective and act as a unit.
A major reason why couples face issues with communication is that we all learn how to communicate differently. We learn how to communicate when we are children (mostly from parents) and so we often use the same skills throughout our lives even when they don’t help us. This extends beyond romantic relationships as well. If you saw a parent bully their friends, you may take away the same lessons as you grow without even knowing it. So in a relationship, even if you see exactly the same problem or situation as your partner you will communicate in different ways and complications may ensue.
Fixing communication isn’t as simple as using a talking stick so that we each get a chance to hear each other, but instead is about re-learning how we understand our partner and our behaviors surrounding how we communicate.
What You Never Knew About Communication in Marriage and Relationships
Verbal communication is just the tip of the iceberg.
If you imagine communication as an iceberg, only the top 10% verbal. The bulk of communication is under the water and involves our underlying meanings, beliefs, motions, intontations, actions, and emotions.
Communication is mostly non-verbal
It’s almost impossible to say just how much of our daily communication is non-verbal, but nonetheless, nonverbal communication remains a major aspect of our daily lives. In many cases it is not what we say, but how we say it. In the example above, if you get a nod or an “okay” from a partner or even a flat/sarcastic “that’s amazing,” you can’t help but be frustrated. The message is technically fine, but the tone completely ruins the expectations that you had. Small moments like this define a relationship.
This means that communication is open to interpretation. If your partner hates attention and praise, maybe a subdued response is what they prefer so that’s what they give. If you gave your partner the same exact reply in the same way, it’s possible that they would have a completely different reaction.
In reality what drives communication is our core values, values like our sense of self, our beliefs about what to prioritize. If your partner has low self-esteem and reacts negatively to praise, understanding that root belief is key to learning how to communicate comfortably with your partner.
This is why we choose not to focus on the issue at hand that leads to an argument, but we focus on the deeper meanings in the relationship. Oftentimes it isn’t simply the point of contention: dishwasher, job, chores, kids, etc. but about feeling like your opinion matters and your partner cares about what you think.
Communication can be a sign of something deeper
Beyond not feeling listened to, poor communication is often our underlying emotions showing through. Maybe you just moved in with a partner and now she isn’t communicating as easily. Perhaps she is tense about the idea of a long term commitment, but doesn’t want to talk about it because it may bother you. Here resolving the “communication issue” means coming to terms with the emotions and beliefs at play.
Emotional intimacy is often an underlying issue of communication problems in couples and must be addressed to change behavior and improve relationships.  Read more about our emotionally focused work and intimacy.
How to Communicate Better in a Relationship
Step 1: Build a healthy communication environment
Therapy works well because it recreates a safe environment for difficult issues to be talked about. In our day to day relationship we can get lost in our immediate needs and find it difficult to pull back and look at the big picture (even us therapists fail at this at times). This means that couples need an open mind when it comes to communication. You may need to rethink how and what you talk about, and being in a new therapy environment can help with this.
Step 2: Understand who you are
We come into relationships with all kinds of beliefs, thoughts, feelings and habits. If we never examine these it can lead to mishaps during the relationship. Many states have mandated premarital therapy so that these can be explored before any contracts signed.
Understanding yourself is the first step to a successful relationship. Some people find it best to talk about their inner life directly with their partner, while others prefer to work separately with a counselor for a session or two. In either case, you will learn more about yourself and any red flags (negative thoughts, behaviors, etc.) to look out for in later therapy sessions.
Step 3: Understand your partner
If you think of a relationship like a bridge, there are two riverbanks that the bridge is built into and both have to be stable for lasting connection. Those banks of the bridge are the personalities and beliefs of each partner.
In therapy, whether your partner is sharing more about their attitudes towards relationships and communication with you in the room or not, you will learn more about how they see the relationship through their eyes. Sharing is strongly encouraged in sessions, and the answers we get from partners are certainly worth hearing.
Step 4: Understand the Relationship
There are many aspects of a relationship that it helps to explicitly talk about with your partner. Much of the time when we are dating we ignore the important long term questions to ask, and when we are committed we are too comfortable to ask them.
Many couples find benefit in redefining boundaries. For example, if you are constantly spending time with each other (perhaps due to a pandemic) you may be in conflict more. How much “me time” or “free time” do you each need to be happy? It’s easy for many couples (especially newlyweds) to smother each other with time.
Similarly, discussing your roles and responsibilities in the relationship and around the house can be important to do up front to minimize conflicts down the road. Perhaps this means discussing roles when it comes to intimacy. How can you reduce stress during the day to make intimacy possible? Who should initiate what and when? Do you need to make it an explicit priority to have a happy relationship? All of these are questions we should consider.
Step 5: Build New Communication Skills
Some couples find benefit in practical skills like active listening when learning how to better communicate with their partner. They can also try starting conflicts with an“I” statement: “I feel…”, instead of starting a conversation where the other partner feels defensive right away. There are dozens of techniques and games that we teach couples to improve their specific communication issue.
Break-free and begin your journey to
There is a future life where trauma does not control your day. Imagine yourself feeling calm, confident and ready to handle new situations with ease. The tools to living the life you have always envisioned are here, at your fingertips.
LifeStance Health can help.
Reach out directly to our Client Care Coordinator for questions, matching, and scheduling:
Our services are also available online through Zoom. Telehealth/Online counseling gives you the opportunity to explore your challenges in life without complicating your daily schedule.
First Session Within 72 Hours of Calling
We book you an appointment within 24 hours of contacting us (usually less) and make sure your first appointment is soon after.
Call our office to schedule your appointment, or for any changes regarding scheduling.
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LifeStance Washington Locations
Tacoma Meadow Park
12900 NE 180th St, Suite 160
Bothell, WA 98011
Plaza 600 Building
600 Stewart St, Suite 1228
Seattle WA 98101
–Coming Fall 2021–
221 N Wall St.
Spokane WA 99201
5909 Orchard Street West
Tacoma, WA 98467
2420 S. Union Ave, Suite 100
Tacoma, WA 98405
5201 Olympic Drive, Suite 210
Gig Harbor, WA 98335
21727 76th Ave West, Suite C
Edmonds, WA 98026