When most couples have struggled long enough in their marriages to decide to seek help in marriage and family therapy, their most frequent complaint in their initial intake interview is problems with communication.
Sometimes, communication is the actual problem. For example, some men are the strong silent type, which has some appeal to some women; however, more women would like their husbands to be very open with them, describing their feelings, vulnerabilities, and intimate emotions about the marriage.
Other times, communication is how other problems are manifest in the marriage. For example, if neither the husband or the wife are listening attentively to the other, then neither feel heard or respected. Both want to be known and understood, and feel hurt and disrespected when their words seem unimportant to their spouses.
A lot of marriages have communication that is out of bounds, like verbal abuse when talking too loudly or contemptuously. Or interrupting when the listener should be patient to hear what the speaker is saying.
If couples state initially their problem is communication, later during their counseling, the communication turns out to be a problem only in certain situations. For example, if he comes home drunk or she spends too much at the casino, the yelling is poor communication, but the bigger problem is the subject of the yelling.
Communication is a skill we were supposed to learn as children, just like we learned to walk and talk, or use manners at the table or in school. Many children don’t learn by what they were taught, but by what they have caught, like hearing their parents screaming and wanting their own way.
Usually during dating, couples enjoy talking to and listening to each other. As the relationship grows, problems naturally occur. To communicate about those problems effectively requires both partners to speak like they would like to be spoken to, and listen like they would like to be heard.
God is a great listener: always available with unlimited time and complete, unconditional love. Husbands and wives lack some of God’s capacity, but can mature as speakers and listeners, like Jesus did with the woman at the well.
For hurting couples, Healthy Counseling Center offers workshops, intensives, and counseling. Please call for more information about getting the help you want; call Jennifer at (509) 466-6632.
Dr. Ray Smith is the most sought-after counselor and relationship coach for physicians in Spokane. After graduating with a Doctor of Ministry from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, he worked with doctors in Galveston, Houston, San Antonio, Spokane, and Memphis, where he earned a second doctorate, in counseling. His background in parish ministry led to pastoral counseling and coaching for Christian MDs and the creation of physicianscoaching.com to help G.P.s and specialists deal with their unique stresses in medicine.
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