Ways to Grow in the Art of Communication

When couples therapy is the goal and two people are sitting in front of me attempting to save their relationship, this question frequently arises. The simplest approach to explain how couples therapy works is to emphasize that a large portion of it involves assisting the two clients in the office in hearing and understanding one another.

“What I hear her/him saying is X,” and “When you do/say that, it pushes a button in her/him and he/she can’t be in the moment anymore or hear what you are really trying to say,” are phrases I use frequently.

An actual example

Before getting married, a couple once came to see me to work on some communication problems. It took me a few sessions before I understood that the reason he complained that she appeared as demanding, pushy, and occasionally even bullying was because English wasn’t her first language. Her speech and manner frequently had a staccato, direct, and matter-of-fact tone.

Although she thought she was asking a straightforward inquiry, “Can you take out the trash?” it sounded more like “CAN YOU TAKE. OUT. THE. TRASH! “He was able to understand that perhaps she wasn’t trying to control him but was simply speaking in a particular manner regardless of what she was saying by contrasting the cadence of her speech with her partner’s softer tones and laid-back demeanor. She learned to be more subdued and he learned to hear her message more clearly. I can empathize with someone whose tone of voice could give the impression of hostility or bossiness when none existed because we Brooklynites are loud and direct.

There are numerous points where a marriage’s communication can break down.

Because we are constantly considering what we want to say next, regardless of what our partners are saying, we don’t always listen to each other as well as we should. We think we understand the underlying motives of our partner. Even us professionals, who so calmly assist others in solving their difficulties, have the capacity to contribute to the breakdown in communication when we return home and quarrel with our spouses about sometimes trivial issues.

Here are some suggestions for improving marital communication that could help stop the all-too-common habit of fighting about the same issues repeatedly:


This is so obvious, but it should be noted. We frequently ignore what our partners have to say. We interpret what people say, give their words meaning, don’t accept what they say at face value, and bring our own preconceived notions—the tapestries that define us—to the conversation. When we don’t listen when we need to, we could react to what we believe someone is saying rather than what they actually mean.

This occurs when a husband expresses concern that his wife is working too much and she interprets it as neediness on his part, wanting her around more rather than concern that she is exhausted, or when a wife asks a husband to communicate his weekend plans and he interprets it as being mothered because it harkens back to childhood nagging about his whereabouts. If we don’t listen, we won’t be able to truly hear the message.

Don’t allow the conversational tension spiral out of control.

I ask you if you are overreacting to the fact that your husband neglected to get milk. Is the milk actually the topic of discussion? If so, then take a deep breath. It’s difficult to have a meaningful conversation about marital problems when someone is overreacting. If there is a pattern that is upsetting you, then address that, but don’t shout over the milk. Address the broader issue if there is one; otherwise, ranting about forgotten milk will just make the other person defensive because the reaction is excessive for the “crime.”

Make sure to talk to your partner frequently about your relationship.

Place them in unbiased locations. And don’t have them during a heated dispute; instead, have them at odd times. When two people are conversing while walking or doing household chores, it’s often a good moment to add, “You know that argument we had the other day, well, what was really bothering me, I realized, was X, but I don’t think I was able to communicate that at the time. “If you can talk about the matter when no one is enraged, you might find that your opinions on the matter are pretty similar but that you weren’t making your points clear.

Don’t stress about becoming furious before bed.

This notion that you shouldn’t go to bed angry in order to have a successful marriage has never made sense to me. Go to bed if you’ve had a disagreement that hasn’t been settled and you’re exhausted.The likelihood is that much of the rage and stress will have subsided by morning, and occasionally a fresh perspective will enable you to properly communicate what you were upset about in the first place. It’s common for fights to not be resolved immediately away, and it’s acceptable to leave the room, go to bed, put the matter on hold, or do whatever else is necessary to break the loop of pointing fingers and arguing about things that won’t be handled right now.

Stay away from “always” and “never” statements.

When something occurs, it’s so simple to generalize our rage, as in “You ALWAYS forget the milk,” with the underlying implication that “you don’t care about my needs and wants. “For example, “You NEVER pick your clothes up off the floor” (probably untrue). When we start making assertions like “always” and “never,” our partners become hostile. Would you not? The times you picked up every item on the list would be forgotten if someone claimed you ALWAYS forget the milk. The argument then turns ludicrous as you compare how many times you forgot the milk to how many times you didn’t.

Be self-aware

Being conscious of our own triggers and moods is crucial in a marriage, perhaps even more so than anything else. Is it true that I’m upset with my husband for not doing something, or is it more likely that I’m overworked and feeling overburdened by an oversight? My wife asked me what I had planned for the weekend; am I truly feeling smothered or is that just a reflex from my youth? Is it worthwhile to argue with my partner about this, or am I just crankier today because my headache and long day have me feeling irritable?

Most couples will occasionally fight.

Because they let issues fester and fail to voice their displeasure when appropriate, research have shown that couples who don’t dispute are more likely to get divorced. Of course, there will be instances when the disagreements are pointless; whether you live with someone, whether they be your spouse, parent, sister, or roommate, you will occasionally wind up fighting over insignificant issues. However, if you can reduce the small talk and even use comedy to diffuse the situation before it escalates into a fight, you’ll be on the right track to improving communication.