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Marriage Counseling
Conflict & Communication

Listening, talking, communicating, resolving problems, making joint decisions... these are requirements for a successful marriage or partnership. Without good communication skills and quality time dedicated to communicating, relationships soon flounder and fail, especially among couples with the stress of two careers and a full family life.

The first place to start is to actually make time to communicate with your partner/spouse. Make time for personal, marital, family and work communication. Give each equal time or at least what they need. Don’t leave this to when you have the time. Make it part of your daily and weekly routine. Informing and clarifying with each other on a daily basis is vital in our crazy, fast-paced lives. Memos and e-mails are OK, but a good face-to-face conversation does more than convey the facts; it keeps the good feelings alive.

Second, practice good communication skills. It wouldn’t hurt to take a class, or read a book on communication. Here are some tips for effective communication:

  • LOOK FOR THE MEANING BEHIND THE WORDS
    The first place to start if you want to be heard is to listen yourself. This is easier said than done. However, once you become good at listening, half the current misunderstandings will disappear. One simple way to begin your education at becoming a better listener is to ask yourself "Why is he or she telling me this?" In other words, you are looking for the meaning behind the words. People have good intentions. But often their words don't reflect the inner meaning. To be able to respond to this inner meaning, you must put yourself in his or her shoes and ask yourself what is the meaning behind these words or behavior?
  • INTERPRETING THE HIDDEN MESSAGE
    Another step in becoming a good listener, is to realize that people cannot not communicate with you. That is, they are always sending you meaningful (meaningful to them) messages if you can only learn to interpret them. So even if you think you are getting resistance from someone, realize that this individual is telling you something that is important to them. After practicing nothing but listening for a few weeks, you should be getting pretty good at figuring out the other person's reality.
  • UNDERSTANDING THEIR "MAP OF REALITY"
    Remember, we all live in our "maps" of reality. Your interpretation of reality is not necessarily superior to any other person's. Maps are just a convenient way to structure our lives. In figuring out another person's map of reality and responding to it, you begin to let the other person feel respected, appreciated, even loved. In order to respond to another person, it is necessary to put your own ego aside and look at things the way they do.
  • SPEAK THEIR LANGUAGE
    Listen, observe and learn the "language" of the other person. Once you begin to speak their language, you will be surprised how much they want to learn yours. In other words, the real key to learning to talk so that others will listen is to learn the art of drawing people to you. By developing your creative listening skills, others will want to talk with and listen to you too!

Third, be comfortable with conflict and confrontation. Many couples don’t talk because they are avoiding conflict and confrontation. There is a common misconception that conflict and confrontation are bad. One of the major reasons couples have problems is their failure to confront issues head-on. They may fight openly or quietly seethe, but they have a terrible time confronting the real conflict respectfully and honestly. It’s as if confrontation and conflict are impolite. However, conflict and confrontation are natural and healthy components of any relationship. You are neither bad nor wrong for causing a conflict or identifying one. Conflict is an opportunity to open up communication on a difficult subject. Conflicts are inevitable and actually a sign of growth. Therefore, avoiding conflict is not the goal. Rather you want to develop the tools to "lean into" conflicts and resolve them early on, so that you can reorganize your lives to include the new learning.

Take the time now to evaluate your communication skills. Invest in the time to develop a meaningful, loving relationship with your spouse. You might need to seek the guidance of a marriage counselor to help you improve your communication skills.

Dr. Kathy Marshack can help you. She is accepting new clients and has two office locations for your convenience. If you live in the Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington area (or can drive to these locations) please call to set up your first appointment. See Therapy FAQs for more information. Please give us a call at (360) 256-0448 or (503) 222-6678 or email us at info@kmarshack.com.