Communication for Couples: Focusing on Solvable Problems
Couples Therapy / Marriage Counseling in Philadelphia: ways for couples to communicate about solvable problems. This is for the couple that communicates fairly well most of the time but would like some help negotiating those nagging differences that cause arguments and hurt feelings. For example, imagine a difference in cleanliness. It seems like a small issue, but it can cause frequent arguments. Every couple needs to effectively learn how to track, solve, and compromise on these small issues.
Talk to your partner and decide what issue you would like to work on in your own private couples therapy exercise. Make sure it is not a large issue. Also, pick an issue that is not heated and that is not particularly emotional for either of you. So for example, something that you find annoying versus something that you find absolutely infuriating. Pick something like cleanliness, household chores, etc. Before you have the discussion, individually write down your answers to the following questions:
- What happens that I find annoying about this issue? What is my ideal solution/expectations of this issue? How would I like things to be? For example, with cleanliness, maybe your ideal solution is that the house be cleaned on a daily basis and that everything is always put away. What is my bottom-line level of acceptance or the minimum that I would be willing to accept? Also ask yourself where these expectations come from, such as from your family background, previous living situations, previous relationships etc. These ideas and expectations came from somewhere.
- What are your needs for this issue versus your wants? Maybe you need to have the laundry done every few days and you need to have the dishes done every night because it is a necessity. Wants would be things that you would like to see such as the vacuuming done every day and the desk cleaned up every day but that it is not necessary. Include the emotional pieces behind your wants and needs too. For example, if there are a pile of dishes in the sink, maybe you find it hard to relax and enjoy a meal because you know that there are so many dishes to do. Maybe if your house is cleaned regularly, you feel much cleaner and put together when you leave to go to work. Or, maybe if the house is too clean and picked up, you feel like you can’t relax because you would mess things up. These emotional values are very important to know about yourself so that you can better communicate these things to your partner. Your partner might be more understanding and willing to compromise if you explain, for example, that you feel more relaxed when your house is clean versus saying that it has to be that way or it’s the right way to be.
- Next, try to answer these questions from your partner’s perspective. It helps you to begin understanding where your partner is coming from. Maybe you find that you have no idea how your partner would answer these questions. When you come together to talk about it, you will find out how much you actually understand about his or her own expectations, needs, emotional pieces, etc.
Next, share your answers with your partner. At this point, take turns reading each answer. Do not respond but just listen to what your partner is saying. Now answer these questions together:
1. What are our common goals?
2. How can we accomplish those goals?
This is the compromising part of couples therapy / marriage counseling. How could you achieve your common goal by comprising? In your compromise remember to include the emotional needs or yourself and of your partner. Don’t try to convince your partner why your way is better, more desirable, efficient, makes more sense etc. Try to hear your partner’s ideas and consider how they could work. Then, agree to give the compromise a try to see how it goes, knowing that you can talk about it again if you need to.
Sometimes talking about these small problems can trigger bigger issues in counseling. Was there a time during the conversation where you were tempted to bring up a bigger issue or even got sidetracked and into an argument about a bigger issue? For example, maybe you felt like your partner was not listening to you and that is a bigger issue in your relationship. Try not to get focused on the bigger issues, but to stay with solving the small one for now.
After you reach a compromise with your partner, have a discussion about what each of you saw as hard or easy with this process. Try to identify other problems that you make be able to solve using this framework. All relationships have these small issues and it is useful to have a way to address and solve them.
Do all your problems feel large? and / or Unsolvable? The Center for Growth / Couples Therapy / Marriage Counseling in Philadelphia can help. Call a couples counselor today 267-324-9564.