Communication (or the breakdown of communication) is the most common issue that people want to address when they come for couples therapy.
In the early days of a romantic relationship, couples usually hang on every word the other person says. They find talking to each other comes easy. They enjoy how the other person is interested in what they have to say. They are eager to hear about their partner’s interests, opinions, thoughts and experiences. They enjoy the easy, comfortable body language they share.
As time passes, the busyness of life can compromise that easy communication. The couple’s relationship gets moved down the priority list. Work, children, finances and other out-of-home commitments take up increasing amounts of time, and the couple find themselves taking each other for granted.
We at Reconnect Couples Therapy can help you understand what may be going on.
Appreciating Communication Style
Discovering and appreciating your own and your partner’s communication style can provide valuable insight.
Some people may talk a lot and process their thoughts as they speak. Other people may prefer to process quietly and then speak.
When people are together for a while they can often feel that they know what the other person is thinking, and they second guess how they are going to respond to them. Sometimes this may well be the case, but it is usually a good idea to check in with other person that you are understanding them correctly or look for clarification.
Emotion and its communication are at the heart of relationships. Relationships cannot grow without effective communication. Couples benefit from having courageous conversations, from approaching things they feel they don’t know how to talk about, or don’t have the words or vocabulary to talk about.
When couples take the step of seeking help and therapy for their relationship, they are sending out a clear communication. They may be identifying that they feel in a stuck state, that they don’t know what to do, that they really want things to be better. They are longing for connection and want to be heard and understood by each other.
Money & Finances
Financial stress is considered one of the three main areas of disharmony for couples (along with communication and conflict). It can be a major reason for arguments and even relationship breakdown. There are usually deeper emotional reasons that contribute to the conflict. When couples explore these areas they often find a way of working together to handle the issues more harmoniously. People often have different value systems around finances. These can be brought forward from their parents’ and families’ views on spending or saving. Sometimes people have very strongly held views on how they manage their money and find it difficult to see how it can be done any other way. This can create conflict and criticism within a relationship.
More often than not it is more important how couples discuss money matters than the financial situation itself. You don’t necessarily have to be in debt for money to come between you. Learning how to listen respectfully to the other person’s opinions about money management and finances is essential in order to work together in a creative way. Finding ways that allow both people to feel validated and important in the decision-making process is a desirable outcome for most couples.
Honest & Open Communication
Bringing your financial conflicts and upsetting feelings to us here at Reconnect Couples Therapy is a positive move. We can help you gain clarity and perspective on these issues. As one couple said, the cost per week of couples counselling can seem quite expensive, but not when compared with the financial and emotional cost of the breakdown of a relationship and family.
We are not financial advisers, but we can help you explore your relationship with money and each other in order for you be more harmonious in your money matters. Honesty and open communication are essential for a good relationship, and so too with money. Having regular “money dates” can be a useful way of seeing how the money is doing and also create space to connect. Chatting with each other and setting short and long-term goals can also help put a shape on what your shared money arrangements might be. It’s good to talk and dream together.
Conflict can be a healthy source of insight and relational growth. In couples therapy the function of conflict is to seize the opportunity to create healing, growth and greater connection. Conflict is inevitable, it alerts the couple to the presence of hurt and vulnerability. When marriage/relationships fail, it is not increasing conflict that is the cause, it is decreasing affection and emotional responsiveness. Conflict can put a halt to emotional growth, leaving couples feeling devastated, or it can be a window into intimacy and reconnection.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there” Rumi
It’s not unusual for couples to arrive into therapy soon after an argument, or having maintained a hostile silence for many days. Some couples turn up worn out and distraught from their conflict. The constant bickering and disharmony in their relationship is exhausting. Couples can become very entrenched in their negative cycles of conflict. An example of this is a couple with a “Demand-Withdrawal” pattern. Demand is experienced as criticism and attack, while withdrawal is experienced as avoidance and not responding. Some couples attempt to bury conflict and deny its existence. For other couples, the conflict escalates, which can lead to emotional recklessness and regrettable negative behaviours (such as criticism, put downs, insults, not listening, name calling, or intimidation).
Unresolved conflict festers like an untreated wound and keeps you distanced from the one that matters most. Instead of turning towards each other you turn away from each other. When couples fight they get defensive and critical of each other and don’t recognise what core feelings are fuelling the argument.
The word intimacy can mean different things to different people. In a couples context, it can often be a word that is misunderstood, and each partner may put a different emphasis on what intimacy means to them. Some may see it as a close companionship or a shared emotional bond, whereas others may primarily think of sexual intimacy. Intimacy is sharing our innermost being with another (into-me-you-see). Intimacy is about connection, about seeing, hearing, feeling, and comfortably being, with another.
The Ripple Effect
The importance of intimacy in a loving relationship cannot be overstated. The ability to comfortably communicate each other’s personal understanding of intimacy, each partner’s needs and wants, in a supportive and nurturing way, can greatly enhance a loving relationship. When people lose intimacy in a relationship they lose connection. We at Reconnect are all about helping people find their way back to each other. Intimacy is where people get to heal each other’s wounds.
Sexual intimacy is what sets a couple’s relationship apart from other types of relationship (for example, friendships or familial relationships). Sexual intimacy is much more than the act of having sex, and encompasses matters of trust, vulnerability and exclusivity. Opening yourself up to the needs of a partner whilst simultaneously having you own needs truly felt.
The ripple effect of good intimacy in a couple relationship spreads out to all areas of one’s life. People find that their relationships with family, friends and work colleagues improve when they have found a truly good emotional bond with their partner.