Many Couples Seek Couples Therapy For Communication, But That’s Often Not The Problem
Well over fifty percent of new couples that come into my couples therapy practice insist they need help with communication. Couples can be really invested in their definition of “the problem,” and often spend a lot of energy in therapy trying to convince me to get onboard with what they think they need. While it’s hard to argue that a couple’s relationship wouldn’t benefit from improved communication, communication is also often the thing that’s usually causing the least amount of stress.
Instead Of Communication, Couples Are Often Struggling With Something Tougher To Raise
Couples who say they need help improving their communication are often struggling with something that is more difficult to articulate. Relationships can offer safety, even if it’s only perceived, and it can be destabilizing and intimidating to bring concerns to light that feel unresolvable. Long-standing issues like fear of vulnerability, ambivalence about the relationship, and not knowing how to be a team are common yet deeply scary realities that drive couples into therapy, even if they aren’t aware of it.
When your relationship already feels like it’s on the rocks, it can seem unwise or reckless to raise topics that create instability and doubt. For example, telling your partner that he or she needs to stop being so nasty is a million times easier than talking about the possibility that the relationship isn’t fundamentally viable. But, that’s exactly what’s needed.
Couples In Therapy Can Do More Than Learn Communication Tools, They Can Get To The Root Of The Relationship’s Distress
With couples that insist they need support with communication, it can be tempting for a therapist to address huge blow-out arguments by teaching patients to take timeouts, how to monitor tone of voice, or setting fair fighting rules. These tools can be very helpful, but they don’t necessarily address the root of what’s causing the distress in the relationship in the first place.
Couples in therapy have an opportunity to not only learn better communication skills and repair past hurts, but also confront old habits and assumptions. Truly working toward lasting change requires couples to show courage and honesty–and a therapist who isn’t afraid of a little confrontation in order to help them develop a new understanding of the problem.