Communications & Couple Therapy
Every couple is unique and therapy must be adjusted to their situation, and good therapy is expensive at about $125.00 per therapeutic hour. A good therapist will not attempt to problem-solve, but will teach the clients to communicate with each other and find solutions as they go along. Eventually the old anger and resentments will dissipate. It sounds so simple, but some couples harbour and nourish, or refuse to forgive and forget old arguments.
Sexual dysfunctions such as "pre orgasmia", painful sex, premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction all respond to good sex therapy while medical conditions such as ovarian cysts, endometriosis etc. require medical intervention. Prescriptions for depression etc. may need to be changed.
BASIC COMMUNICATION SKILLS
We learned our communication style from watching and listening to our parents, not necessarily good examples of how to relate to others. And as children we learned to manipulate, whine, cajole and basically blame everybody else to "cover our butt" if we get into trouble. We carry these skills into our loving relationships and then wonder why they don't produce the desired results.
Relationship counseling will primarily focus on developing "EFFECTIVE LISTENING SKILLS". Here is a quick simplified rundown of empathic listening:
1. Use "I" terms, I feel, I get upset, I am angry, I am scared. Here you are not blaming your partner, you are simply saying how their behavior is affecting you. Now your partner knows how and why you are upset, now they can explain their actions, or they can decide to change their behavior because it upsets you. The next step is for your partner to paraphrase what you just said, so you know you were heard, or, you can correct their interpretation.
2. Never blame your partner for the problem, never accuse your partner, never say "you always do that". Killer communications.
3. Avoid jumping to conclusions, over reacting, or attacking your partner. Analyse your reactions, be honest, what is your goal? And will this get you there? Probably not.
4. Be aware of your body language. Is it closed, your arms crossed across your chest, legs crossed, fingers clenched? Open body indicates you are receptive to listening, relaxed, not ready to "go for the gonads". Maintain gentle "eye-to-eye" contact, not glaring, not staring in disbelief, just look at them. Don't gaze out the window, glance at the clock, or watch TV over their shoulder.
5. Paraphrase what your partner just said using your own words. Suddenly your partner realizes that you are really listening, not developing arguments in your head, but trying to understand.
6. If the kids or your in-laws are coming for supper, this is not the time to argue. You simply say, "Can we talk about this later on. Let's go for a walk, alone, tomorrow after lunch, O.K?" Then a gentle reminder the next morning and make sure you go for that walk together.
7. Once it is settled or a compromise has been reached, let it go. It is done, finished, over with. If you backslide, admit it, apologize and commit to doing better. If partner does not follow through, gently say; "I thought we talked about this and agreed".
Many couple relationships do not problem solve as they go along, so the anger, resentment and hostility builds up and collects like a big green garbage bag in the middle of the kitchen floor. I call it the "SCARBAGE BAG". Eventually this explodes in a big mess and working your way through it to clean it up is really difficult.
There are some excellent books on enhancing relationships. Some are glitzy and shallow; some are really helpful if you implement their recommendations. Look at our recommended reading list.