In the book, "If You're In My Office, It's Already Too Late", divorce attorney James J. Sexton highlights the importance of communicating difficult material with your partner. According to Sexton, many couples find themselves at the brink of divorce when they have failed to share what has bothered them in their marriage.
As a marriage counselor and couples therapist, I too see communication problems among couples as one primary struggle that can lead to conflict. It can be challenging for couples to share difficult information that causes them hurt or frustration.
This difficult information can include the following:
Something one partner has done to hurt the other
Something a partner has failed to do in a relationship
A controversial clash of values (e.g., finances, religion, etc.)
The list could go on. Everyone in a relationship has issues that come up that sting and threaten to dismantle the relationship.
One strategy I see in couples therapy is couples attempt to use is to not bring it up and hope it goes away. This strategy tends to build incident upon incident until there is a blow up that brings all the frustration to the forefront.
Marriage counseling and couples therapy can teach a couple how to communicate more effectively. Taking what you are already doing well and building upon that can make the difference between a great relationship and a struggling one.
What Sexton has found and something I have observed as a couples therapist is that not addressing the hard issues straight on only results in greater problems down the road. Learning how to address difficulties, communicate them effectively and timely makes all the difference.
Sexton advises partners to hit send now! This phrase is a way to describe the importance of timely and frequent communication
Is there something that is bothering you about your partner?
Are you disturbed by something in your relationship?
Are you finding it difficult to express what you feel and what is on your mind?
Here are some ideas on how to communicate with your partner instead of remaining silent.
3 Tips on How to Communicate Difficult Topics With Your Partner or Spouse
There are numerous ways to build on the strengths of your communication and how to communicate challenging topics effectively. The goal is to reduce defensiveness so that communication can be effective. Once the wall of defensiveness is erected, communicating effectively can be very challenging.
1. A Soft Start
Some people don't share what's bothering them because they are not sure how to bring it up. John Gottman argues that you can improve how you bring up a difficult subject. If you soften the delivery of the difficult news, your partner will be more receptive to what you have to say.
2. Complain Without Blaming
If you come at your partner with a criticism or accusation chances are they will shut down. To ensure they receive what you say, bring up the complaint without making it a personal attack.
Blaming your partner would sound like this, "You said you would clean the dishes and they are still stacked in the sink! You never help out!"
A softer complaint would sound like, "We agreed you would clean the dishes. They are still there. They're starting to bother me. Can you please take care of them?"
3. "I" Statements Vs. "You" Statements
Try to bring up a complaint using "I" statements instead of "you" statements. This ensures the issue at hand is having a negative impact on your feelings.
The goal is not to point fingers but to resolve an issue. How do you communicate to your partner that they are not spending enough time with you:
"You" Statement: You never spend time with me! You're so selfish and inconsiderate.
"I" Statement: I feel disconnected lately. I've wanted to spend more time together. Spending time together is very important to me.
Help Hitting the Send Button
Many of us need help hitting the send button. It can be hard to talk to our partners about sensitive topics like sex, finances, or changes in values.
If you're worried you don't have the tools to communicate effectively with your partner you are not alone. Many of us have a difficult time with this. As a marriage counselor and in marriage counseling, we often start with strengthening communication. This is a common area that most couples struggle in.
Couples counseling is a helpful way to express what you want to say to your partner in a neutral and safe environment. A marriage therapist can coach you on what to bring up and how to present the issue.
Scheduling a few sessions with a couples therapist can help you express what you've been needing to say for months. Unlike the title of Mr. Sexton's book, if you're in my office, it's not too late. Marriage counseling and couples therapy can be very effective if both partners are willing to look at themselves and each make small changes.
Begin Marriage Counseling or Couples Therapy at Katy Teen & Family Counseling: Katy, Tx & Houston
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, our marriage therapists and couples counselors can help. Marriage counseling or couples therapy can help you strengthen your communication by building on the strengths you already have in your communication style.
If you are ready to start your journey in couples counseling or marriage therapy, Katy Teen & Family Counseling can help. All you need to do is follow these three simple steps:
Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling
Let us help you strengthen your communication foundation in your relationship!
Other Therapy and Counseling Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling: Serving Katy, Tx & Houston
Below are a few of the other counseling services we provide for teens, families, and young adults in Katy, Tx and Houston:
Board Certified Neurofeedback Therapy
Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)
Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
About the Author
Quique Autrey is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and an experienced couples therapist and marriage counselor.
Quique also has a passion for helping teens, young adults, and adults who may be on the Autism Spectrum. He has a talent for connecting with and helping people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
If you're ready to start your healing journey in marriage counseling or couples therapy, you can call us at 346-202-4662 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.