Learning Communication Skills Instead Of Professional Marriage Counseling
There are agreements and skills couples can learn that can absolutely help their relationship thrive and grow. Unfortunately, many couples seeking professional counseling are not taught these agreements and skills thoroughly BEFORE beginning longer term marriage therapy.
Is there an alternative to expensive professional marriage counseling out there? Learning how to communicate better
with each other costs far less than going to therapists. As Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.” My experience with hundreds of couples demonstrates to me that simply making certain agreements and learning how to express and respond to anger constructively was enough to help make tremendous changes in so many of these couples.
How do you know when to see a therapist and when to go to a seminar, buy a book, or find a relationship coach? That’s a tricky question, because there are problems of relationship that most certainly deserve immediate help by a licensed professional. For instance, if there is physical, emotional or verbal violence occurring, then no class, seminar or home study course will likely be enough to address these problems. Also, when there is alcoholism, prescription or other drug abuse, sex addiction, gambling, or other addiction; then these are primary problems, that need to be addressed right away. It’s very important that you seek help from professionals who have been trained and are experienced in violence or addictions.
Now, for those of you that the issues above are not significantly present, let’s try to outline an approach to improving the communication and the emotional tone of your relationships. As a professional and a relationship coach, I’ve seen similar core themes and dynamics of communication conflict within couples. I’ve developed the Communicate With Power & Compassion Course that covers the skills and agreements below.
|1||Listening without interrupting, postpone defending myself and to reflect what I’ve heard. Take turns speaking and listening. Respect the rules of the Listening Exchange.|
|2||Diminish or cease blaming, criticizing and withdrawal behaviors. Use the Respect Agreement.|
|3||Learn to express vulnerable thoughts and feelings that are underneath harsh and critical ones. To speak in ‘I think’ or ‘I feel’ messages.|
|4||Being responsible for what I say or do and to acknowledge how that affects my partner. If I’ve been hurtful, then I make amends and try to be mindful of my mistake.|
|5||Asking directly for understanding of my experience and to make specific requests for changes.|
|6||Make a mutually binding agreement on HOW to leave the room for less than an hour, when arguing escalates with too much emotional intensity. And, have a method for how both partners reconnect by taking some responsibility for the problem and showing some empathy for the other partner’s experience.|
|7||Agreeing on a method of how to deal with moments when either partner feels hurt, dismissed, or disrespected.|
|8||Having a specific plan on what I will do if I cannot reasonably keep my agreements.|
While it’s good to say what the goals are, it’s even better when a couple makes the exact same agreement with each other. When it comes to how to express and respond to anger, it’s helpful if both partners are working from the same script to find an ending to a conflict.
There’s nothing wrong with people being angry or frustrated. Being upset is a part of the emotional communication between intimate partners. People act aggressively or withdraw because they don’t know what else to do. There’s a line somewhere however, when that anger becomes hostile shaming, negativity, or avoidance, and withdrawal. When a couple learns where that line is, and what can be done about it, then it’s possible to decide to change.
When you know better, do better!
Download the ‘8 Ways To Make Your Relationship To Thrive’ here.
My Realhope.com website and blog contain some of these specific agreements and skills. I’m happy to receive comments on any of my materials at Marc@RealHope.com
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