There are many couples that struggle with communication and this may lead them down a negative path. It is important to seek help to solve a preventable problem, one form of help can be seen in the form of Couples Counseling. Many couples may believe that their issues are way larger than a communication problem but taking that step, as small as it may seem can help to save a marriage. Using the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, these are some of the errors in communication that couples can work on to help improve their marriage.
There are a couple of issues that can affect the way a couple communicates with each other. I will simplify it in this article for the purpose of understanding it better, however, having someone guide you through these communication skills may be most appropriate.
The first communication error that I would like to review is criticism. Criticism can be detrimental to a marriage. It is important to be able to find trust and be able to communicate with your partner about the good and negative aspects of the relationship and for this reason, it is better to offer a complaint, than to criticize. A criticism can be described as a personal attack against the partner, or making a negative statement about the partner. A complaint is a comment about the partner’s behaviors, and not their person. One example of a complaint is saying “I noticed that the trash is getting very full. I know that this is a chore that you have agreed to complete, can you please take out the trash by today.” This is an example of a complaint regarding the partner’s behavior. A criticism would be “Back when we decided on chores you agreed to take out the trash and it has not been done. I feel like I could never count on you because you are so lazy.” This is a criticism against the other person and it is not helpful at all. Also, this can cause the partner to become defensive and fuel an argument. This is something that you can further practice in couple counseling.
The second communication error is contempt. Gottman describes contempt as the most destructive in a marriage. Contempt invovles feelings of resentment, disrespect, and hostility towards the partner. Some people use condescending humor as a form of contempt. This error involves one of the partners discounting the good things the other does for them as “their responsibility” and easily forgets the good that is done. However, when the partner does something negative, this is held on to and not easily forgotten, which is then communicates as resentment. According to Gottman, the best way to reduce contempt is to create appreciation in the marriage and focusing on the positive the partner does in order to reduce contempt.
The third error in communication with couples is Defensiveness. Gottman believes that in every argument, each member of the couple is responsible for atleast 30% of the argument. Using this thought, it is important for both people involved in an argument to take their part of the responsibility and truly listen to their partner instead of offering defensive statements. Using defensive statements usually worsens the situation instead of helping the couple resolve their issues. Therefore, it is important to truly listen and sometimes just trying to understand the other person, without offering a defensive statement, can be enough to end an argument.
The fourth and last error in communication that I will be describing is Stonewalling. This is when one of the partners decides not to respond at all or walking away. This is usually done with good intention but it usually does not end well. Another way that this can happen is by not offering complaints about something that is angering a person and this just builds up and makes the situation worse in the long run. Some people believe that by not talking about something it will just go away but that is usually not the case. It may be a good idea to calm yourself before continuing the conversation but it is important to always come back and talk about the situation that is causing problems in the couple.
These tend to be the harshest mistakes that a couple can make, avoiding these errors in communication can be the start to improving your relationship. Speaking to each other with love and respect is the most effective form of communication in a couple. It is understandable that there may be issues that prevent this from happening and one or both people may need to heal their past wounds to decrease resentment and other neegative feelings that contribute to errors in communication. There are other forms of communication that can be most helpful as well as provide a means for the couple to grow in their love and respect towads each other. These will be discussed in future articles but in the meantime you can seek couples counseling to help you heal and grow as a couple.
As mentioned above, this article was not intended to solve all your marital problems but instead, these are just a few of the errors in communication that people tend to make and it may be the most helpful to have someone guide the couple through these changes because it is very difficult to change old habits. There is nothing wrong with seeking professional help to save your marriage, click here for more information about counseling services available.
Wendy Salazar is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the city of Burbank. Please contact with furhter questions or to schedule an appointmentcontact me.