Many Couples Primarily Want Help with Communication
Communication is a vital part of any romantic relationship. Given that, it's not surprising how many couples want to focus on improving communication. Many communication issues may be symptoms of other problems with different root causes. For example, the Gottman method has many interventions to improve communication. Some of them work really well for a lot of couples. But some of the interventions may not work so well until the root cause of the communication difficulties is uncovered.
There Can Be Deeper Issues Causing Problems with Communication
Sometimes there are differences in love languages. Chapman and Campbell (2016) describe the importance of understanding how the individual and their partner best communicate romantically. One partner may need affirming words, while another needs acts of service. Sometimes, a history of verbal abuse leads to any voice-raising triggering a strong adverse reaction. Differences in assertiveness can lead one partner to find their partner passive or passive-aggressive.
In contrast, the other may find their partner aggressive. Parental models of dealing with conflict can set the stage for potentially unhealthy communication patterns. I've seen instances in which conditions such as autism or social anxiety can make communication difficult for a couple. Differences in personality or ways of understanding the world can also make communication between two people difficult.
In their book “Nonviolent Communication,” Rosenberg and Chopra (2015) talk about the importance of empathy, collaboration, authenticity, and freedom. While the phrase “nonviolent communication” may suggest the alternative is violence, it is really more about collaborative and healthy communication than communication that is not helpful. This book does offer several suggestions for how to communicate compassionately and effectively. It can be a useful resource once the root causes of communication issues have been addressed.
A Combination of Specific Communication Strategies and Understanding Root Causes May be Best
The moral of the story is that communication issues are prevalent in relationships. The deeper consideration is that many potential root causes may need to be addressed before diving into communication tactics. Communication improvement tactics may also serve as a band-aid until the root causes have been resolved. Once this has occurred, addressing root causes complemented with more generic communication strategies can lead to happier couples.
Chapman, G., & Campbell, R. (2016). The 5 love languages. Moody Publishers.
Rosenberg, M. B., & Chopra, D. (2015). Nonviolent communication: A language of life: Life-changing tools for healthy relationships. PuddleDancer Press.
Aaron Engel is a professional counselor in Columbus, OH. He works primarily with couples and individuals wanting help with depression, anxiety, and career concerns. As a private practice owner, Aaron strives to provide excellent care with every aspect of the counseling experience. Learn more about him and the services he provides at https://cardinalpointcounseling.com