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Dr Miller's Secrets to Couples Communication

Successful relationships are not cultivated by perfect partners; they are created by two people who are working on their individual and relational challenges, yet are committed to a shared vision. Healthy relationships do not look like a state of eternal bliss. Instead, they are a space where we feel seen, heard, valued, trusted, and validated. Yet, many times, couples will report that the main struggle in their relationship is their communication.

Couples who love each other very much can sometimes make mistakes in how they communicate with each other. These mistakes can deteriorate the connection and safety in a relationship. We all want to feel listened to and be heard by our loved ones. If you feel like you and your partner could benefit from improving your couples communication skills with each other, couples therapy may be a good place to start. Couples therapy can provide a safe space to begin practicing your communication skills. Below are some of Dr. Miller’s most successful tips for effective communication between couples:

“To be human is to need others, and this is no flaw or weakness” - Dr. Sue Johnson
couples communication tools

Validate and hear each other’s perspectives (this is an important skill for more than just couples communication)

We all have our own opinions and views. Yet, when working with your partner, it’s important to remember that their opinions and experiences may differ from your own. Successful partners can practice acceptance for these differences while still feeling close to their partner. One way to do this is by recognizing that your partner has their own emotional experience, and you may not always need to know why they feel the way they do. Don’t get too caught up on the facts. Instead, practice a mindful acceptance of your partner having their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences that may be different from yours.

Instead of doing this: Focusing on the facts to get to one right answer.
Try this: Allow your partner to have their own inner experience, even if it may differ from yours.

Reach out for support from your partner BEFORE trying couples therapy

It can be tough to ask for help. Especially if we have felt that people who were supposed to meet our needs may have fallen short. However, in adulthood, we get to choose our partners and co-create the relationships we want in our lives. This is a sometimes scary—yet also empowering—opportunity to lean on your partner for support. When you are feeling worried or are in need of someone to listen to you, or you are feeling insecure about something that was said by your partner, the best route to take is to refrain from keeping your emotions bottled up inside, and to reach out to your partner instead. Share with them your concerns, really naming the emotions you are feeling and what you need to feel better. While we welcome you to come in for couples therapy, practicing a policy of open communication with your partner can be an important long-term skill for your relationship. Begin the conversation with them first, before bringing in a therapist specializing in couples therapy and communication and having that be the first time they hear of your dissatisfaction.

Instead of doing this: Keeping your true feelings to yourself because you don’t want to upset or annoy your partner.
Try this: Ask your partner if there is a good time to talk so you can share your feelings with them while they have the space and time to listen.

Give space while maintaining connection

We’ve all heard that absence makes the heart grow fonder. While this is true, we also want to maintain connection with our partners. There have been several studies about how we maintain secure attachments with our loved ones, and most of them will describe how we want to have a sense of “object permanence.” Object permanence is the idea that we know something still exists even when we don’t see it. In early development, this recognition begins with physical objects and of course, also expands to include emotional attachments to people.

In healthy relationships, we are able to maintain strong connections with our partners even when they are away from us. We are able to find time outside of our relationship for our own hobbies, friendships, and personal growth. We know that our partner cannot meet all of our needs and they have their own set of weaknesses and strengths. However, their human imperfections don’t diminish the validity of our own needs. We are able to grow with our individual interests and challenges outside of our relationship, knowing that our growth won’t compromise our or our partner’s commitment to one another.

Instead of doing this: Relying on your partner to fulfill all your needs.
Try this: Create a support system outside your life with your partner for other parts of yourself to flourish and grow as well.

improving communication in relationship

Set ground rules for difficult conversations

There is a metaphor often used to describe the impact of regretful words that slip out in the middle of an argument. When we take a piece of paper and crinkle it up, we may be able to smooth out the lines but it is never the same again. Similarly, there are opportunities for repair in our relationships, but some ruptures leave bigger marks than others. In tough conversations with partners, it’s a good idea to set some ground rules before delving into a heated topic. These may include, “no name calling,” “no raising your voice,” “we need to eat first,” or “we need to spend 3 minutes in physical touch before and after we have this conversation.” Some couples also may come up with a code word for when they need to set aside time to talk or when they need a break from a serious conversation.

If these tips feel helpful for your relationship, you may want to try out couples therapy at Aspire Neuropsychological Services in Walnut Creek, CA. Connect with one of our team members today to begin improving your couples communication with your loved one.