The most common request I hear from couples in my work as a marriage therapist in Montreal is to help them improve communication. People spend a lot of time frustrated because despite their best efforts to express their point they feel that the partner just doesn’t get them. So what happens next? They try harder and harder, become even more annoyed and sometimes even feel hopeless because they get the impression that no matter what they say they will remain unheard or misunderstood. Learning the art of communication is really important for every couple. If poor communication dominates their interactions both partners tend to feel like “nobody is listening so what’s the point, anyway?” More arguments or quiet days ensue and the problems remain unresolved slowly eroding the sense of connection and intimacy. Luckily, you can learn how to communicate better and reverse the damage.
In fact, just because you both find yourselves frustrated with the way you communicate that doesn’t mean your relationship is in big trouble. Arguing is not a sign of a hopeless relationship, but how you handle yourself during those arguments is an indicator of the health of the relationship.
If you and your partner are frustrated with one another, here are some tips to help you communicate better:
- Be Direct
Indirect communication leads to a lot of guessing and nobody can be expected to read minds and always get it right. It also leaves one or both parties very confused and disappointed. “He should know me enough to know what I want from him!” or “After all this time, do I really need to spell it out for her every time?” are the types of desperate phrases I often hear in my practice. Don’t beat around the bush when you have something to say or when you want to share with your partner why you are frustrated with them. If it is your partner who has initiated the conversation, don’t try to evade it and switch topics, face it head-on. It takes clarity to problem solve.
- Talk, Don’t Blame
How you speak to your partner is key during times of frustration. You want to be clear and direct, but you never want to point the finger. Doing so will only cause your partner to become defensive and the conversation will go off the rails.
For instance, if you are frustrated with your girlfriend who tends to be jealous when you innocently talk to other women, you wouldn’t want to say something like, “You are totally out of your mind!” That will only invite defensiveness.
Instead, try using “I statements” and pair them with “behavior descriptions.” This is a constructive strategy because I statements focus on how you feel, without blaming your partner, and behavior descriptions focus on a specific behavior your partner is engaging in rather than a character flaw.
So, for example, you might say something like, “I get frustrated when you think I am flirting with someone when the conversation is completely innocent.” This allows you to be clear and direct without drawing your partner’s character into the line of fire.
- Stay Focused
A constructive discussion will demand both partners’ full attention. By this I mean it’s important to stick to the issue at hand and not drag other frustrations and resentments into the conversation. Try to solve one relationship issue at a time.
If both of you have been keeping your frustrations pent up and now can barely speak to one another without completely blowing your top, you may want to consider seeking the help of a couple’s therapist. They will be able to help guide the conversation, keeping it loving and constructive.
Interested in exploring treatment options? Get in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.