The Here and Now in Marriage

Why is it that when couples are facing stress, either from within the relationship or from the outside, they often find ways to make things worse? For example, they bring up things from the past, or they begin attacking each other rather than the problem. Furthermore, they compound the problem by bringing in other people to take their side—not physically of course, but metaphorically. The wife might say, “I talked to my sister and she agrees with me that you’re a real heel.” Or the husband might say, “John thinks you’re being unreasonable in this issue.” The problem is that neither partner empathizes with the other, and they both seem to think that if they could just learn to communicate better, everything would be resolved. These type of misconceptions can easily be worked through with the help of a Tulsa marriage and relationship counselor.

The How of Communication in Relationships

Communication is important, but learning how to communicate and learning the important things to communicate are two separate matters. For example, learning to contribute active listening and using “I” statements are ways that let the communicator know you are listening and understand what is being communicated. These techniques, however, do very little to bring to light the subtle nuances that are under the surface of communication. More importantly, couples need to talk about is about what is happening in the relationship right now. Being able to step back and discuss what is currently happening will help identify the emotions, gestures, and tone of voice in the relationship as it is happening.

Communication Exercise

One exercise I use in my Tulsa counseling sessions with couples to help facilitate this discussion is what I call the “15-minute exercise.” In this exercise, I ask couples to sit down for 15 minutes a day with no distractions. This means no cell phones, no laptops, TV, or iPads, and yes, no kids present. The couple can then only talk about their relationship (no kids or job can be discussed). If they are having trouble listening or one partner feels the conversation is being dominated by the other, they can use a talking stick. This can be any item (I once used a shoe on the floor) such as a pen, paperclip, or newspaper. The idea is that whoever has the talking stick gets to do the talking. The other person has to listen, and not interrupt. After a period of time, they pass the talking stick and the other person gets to respond while the one who previously spoke must now listen. It’s important in this exercise to start with 15 minutes a day. After a period of time, the couple can lengthen or shorten it as needed.

Talking about our relationships in the here and now allows us to bring those thoughts and feelings you feel in the moment to the surface, and identifying the triggers that cause us to be angry, hurt, or resentful before circumstances escalate to an unhealthy level.

Communication in Every Day Life

Communication takes practice, and the best place to learn what to communicate and how to do it is in a Tulsa counseling appointment at Stonebridge Family Therapy. Tom Philp is a licensed family therapist in Tulsa, specializing in marriage and relationship counseling. If you take the relationship with your partner seriously, then make an appointment with a caring Tulsa family therapist today by requesting a counseling appointment online or by calling our office at 918-398-7678. We look forward to hearing from you!

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