Are you and your spouse having problems communicating? Do you feel that your spouse is not listening to you and issues are not getting resolved? If so you and your spouse are not alone when it comes to communication problems. A lack of effective communication is the number one reason most couples can’t get along. To help understand common mistakes couples make when communicating and how you can effectively communicate with your spouse, I have interviewed therapist Barbara Peters.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a licensed professional counselor, author and a registered nurse. I have worked in many mental health settings such as psychiatric hospitals, employee assistance firms and managed care organizations. I actually decided to go into counseling at an early age but didn’t pursue it until I moved from New York to Georgia where I attended Georgia State to obtain my masters in community counseling. I live in North Georgia currently and have been in the Atlanta area for 24 years. I still sound like a New Yorker to most but my accent is not nearly as strong as when I go home to visit family and friends. I love animals and have a Shih Tzu who often accompanies me to work. She makes quite a statement and my clients tend to ask for her on follow up sessions. My passion is working with couples to help them see the benefit in preserving their marriage or relationship for the long haul. I guess you could say I have a more traditional approach to marriage and still believe in the vows that are taken. I work with couples in a positive manner focusing on what works and how to keep it working forever.”
What are common mistakes that couples make when communicating?
In my book, The Gift of a Lifetime, Building a Marriage That Lasts I refer to communication as being the glue that holds a marriage together. Without effective communication, relationships have a poor prognosis for success. Some of the more common problems with communication are: Not listening to what the other spouse is saying. Formulating a response before one actually gets sufficient information to answer appropriately. Using words that the other does not understand. Inappropriate vocal features, such as tone of voice, volume and inflection. Displaying unfriendly body language or facial expressions. Inappropriate timing when it comes to talking about significant issues. Failure to make sure the other person understands what is being conveyed. Of course, communication is further compromised due to the differences people bring from their families of origin.”
What type of impact do those communication mistakes have on the marriage?
“The impact that poor communication has on a marriage is significant. In my practice most of the couples that come see me all cite communication as one of their problems. Without meaningful communication, couples become disengaged; tend to look for other people to talk to about the things they can’t talk about with their spouse, or just keep things inside due to an inadequate safe place to verbally express their feelings. Needs do not get met. Depression and other emotional states are easy to take over. You may have heard the expression: “My husband/wife just doesn’t understand me,” or better yet, doesn’t take the time to try. Someone else may eagerly show willingness to listen and understand. Affairs often get started this way, seemingly innocent in nature. Part of being human is the desire to share feeling and thoughts with another. When this is neglected, all sorts of problems appear.”
What are some tips for effectively communicating with your spouse?
“There are several tips for effective communication circulating within the profession. I often use a technique called “mirroring” or “reflecting listening”. It is a process where the sender reflects or paraphrases back to the recipient a phrase containing the meaning of what he or she heard. It sounds like this: “What I hear you saying is……….” This gives the recipient a chance to validate or negate the message, until an understanding is reached of the exact message intended. Then the dialogue can continue with a good probability of resolution. Some other tips of effective communication are: Clearly state your point or opinion, without filters. Deliver the point in a loving manner. Be open to answer questions. Choose an appropriate time to dialogue. Use a common language that your spouse understands. Show open body language, and encouraging facial expressions. Allow your spouse/significant other ample time to respond.”
What can a couple do if they continue to have issues with effective communication?
“Of course if a couple cannot resolve their communication issues alone it is a good idea to find an objective person, such as a counselor to help them. There are also numerous self-help books available to explore. But the most important thing to remember is to do something. Doing nothing will only exacerbate the problem, cause further disengagement and and may even cause a marriage to fail.”
Thank you Barbara for giving tips on how someone can effectively communicate with his or her spouse. For more information on Barbara Peters check out her website on www.bjpcounseling.com or www.thegiftofalifetime.net.
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