Marriage counseling for improving communication 

Marriage counseling for improving communication 

Marital conflict can arise when one partner struggles to express their emotions and needs, often assuming that their partner can intuitively understand them. However, it is crucial to make an effort to comprehend the thoughts and feelings of the other person without relying solely on implicit communication. This can be challenging, particularly when one partner resorts to blame or criticism, using phrases like “you always” or “you never.” Such behavior can be detrimental to the relationship.

In reality, couples aspire to establish a communication style that promotes healthiness and openness. The initial step involves engaging in honest and non-defensive communication. By doing so, they can gain insights into the reasons behind each other’s choices and behaviors. Additionally, it is vital to express frustrations in a compassionate and constructive manner while remaining mindful of the impact their actions have on each other in daily life. This concerted effort fosters the development of a stronger and more robust relationship.

Dr. John Gottman, a marriage therapist, devised the Soft Startups technique, which has been proven to decrease defensiveness and contempt within relationships.

This technique comprises the following elements:

Choosing an appropriate moment for discussion:

It is advisable to avoid engaging in conversations when either party is angry, tired, or stressed. It is best to interact when both you and your partner are alone and free from distractions.

Employing gentle body language and tone of voice:

Negative body language, such as eye-rolling, mocking, scowling, and raising one’s voice, along with engaging in arguments or placing blame, should be avoided. Instead, adopt a calm and gentle approach when speaking.

Utilizing “I” statements:

Rather than assigning blame, it is important to focus on expressing how a problem affects you personally. For instance, instead of saying, “You make me feel so angry,” you could rephrase it as “I feel so angry when you…” Similarly, instead of saying, “We should go to the cinema,” you could say “I would like to go to the cinema.” This encourages each partner to take responsibility for their own feelings and preferences, fostering improved communication between them.

Clearly describing the problem:

It is advisable to refrain from discussing multiple issues at once and instead address one topic at a time. By doing so, clarity and focus can be maintained during the conversation.

Demonstrating respect:

Instead of making demands, it is better to make polite requests. Express gratitude for your partner’s willingness to listen and address the issue.

By practicing these techniques, Communication issues in marriage can be resolved and unhelpful patterns in a relationship can be replaced with healthier ones, resulting in reduced blame and negativity between partners.

During the therapy session, these skills are taught through various methods such as instruction, modeling, behavioral rehearsal, written handouts, and feedback. Clients are encouraged to directly express their desires rather than suppressing such expressions. They are also discouraged from using extreme terms like “always” or “never.” Positive behaviors are acknowledged, and the focus is kept on the present, avoiding guilt-inducing messages. Additional supportive behaviors like eye contact and head nods are recommended.

When teaching these skills, it is advisable to start with neutral and non-emotive topics. Once couples have mastered using the skills in such situations, they can progress further. They can be encouraged to set aside a dedicated half-hour period, three times a week, where they can discuss topics like the day’s events, favorite movies, trips, environmental issues, or political matters. Gradually, they can also incorporate an appreciation period where they express positive feelings and behaviors towards each other.

Conclusion: Marriage counseling for improving communication 

Marriage counseling for overcoming communication barriers ensures a conflict-free environment, partners agree not to argue during this designated period. Instead, they can assertively express their frustrations or other negative feelings without the fear of immediate conflict. The therapist can support clients in practicing these skills during treatment sessions, assisting them in communicating constructively and non-hostilely, while emphasizing the use of personal pronouns.

Source: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert, Gottman, J. M. (2015).  


Book: Cognitive Behavioural Marital Therapy, Baucom, D, H., & Epstein, N. (1990).


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