Archive for communication

Let’s have a good row

Couples coming to counselling will usually describe communication problems as one of the main reasons for seeking outside help.
A magnetic twosome that starts in a glowing bubble of love, fuelled by a powerful cocktail of chemical reaction is likely to have some disappointing moments as realism and disappointments begin to sneak up on the happy couple.
Psychologists describe this first stage in the passage of a relationship as the Romance Stage which generally lasts around 18 months to 2 years before life cruelly pushes us into the Power Struggle stage. 
Often, the higher the hope the deeper the disappointment when our ‘other’ transpires to be just that … No longer our twin soul, but another who just doesn’t see things the right way (that is, the way we see them)
This is where couples endeavour to point out to each other, often not with much gentleness, exactly where the other one is going so very wrong.
The partner who had seemed so kind and understanding can often become an enemy who just doesn’t get us at all.
Now, when momentarily disenchanted with our beloved, all we see are the flaws and the differences instead of those glowing attributes and understandings that seemed to blind us at the start.
The power struggle is a hard system to shift, but when I ask in a first session how a couple argues, it’s the answer ” O, we never row” that makes me know the work will probably be long and hard.
It is often the ability to have a creative row that can lead a couple to some better understanding of each other and show there is passion in the dynamic between them.
There is, however, a big difference between abusive anger which is unsustainable and cruel, and a good barney which often leads to repair and an affectionate re-entry into the safety of the loving side of our partner.
Here are some tips for A Good Row.

1. Pick your battles 
It’s pointless to keep moaning about unloading the dishwasher (aka ‘nagging’) unless you can recognise what is really being said. Are you actually asking for more help around the house, or maybe it’s about just feeling generally unheard and unimportant. Think it through and try to explain your feelings. Behind most power struggles is fear.

2. Avoid accusatory language
This one is easy. So when describing some issue of contentiousness, don’t use the ‘you’ word, as in ‘you always..’ Or ‘you never…’ And instead, own the feeling that it evokes in you.
‘When X happens, it can make me feel …..’  (Fill in your own reaction)

3. The impact of childhood 
Ingrained issues often come from past experiences. Think of where you may have felt this way before you ever met your partner. Ask how anger was dealt with in their family. Conflict averse families don’t help kids to learn how to process difficult feelings. Critical parents can breed critical children – often they grow up to be hard on themselves and will dole it out because they can’t bear their own feelings of not being right.

4. Try to listen
This one is tricky in the middle of heightened emotions. But do try to think about what is being said rather than just waiting to speak. If people feel heard, they are more likely to listen to your point.

5. Not in front of children
Sounds so obvious, but often doesn’t happen. Children can be really scared by continual rows. Never include them or confide in them. Sometimes gripes are bound to become public, but make sure they also see you hugging and close so they grow up seeing that anger isn’t a deal breaker, but can be successfully and lovingly negotiated.

6. Keep it clean
However bruised we feel it’s important to keep to the relevant issue and not allow anger to take over and become a character assassin. Hurting because we feel hurt can only cause deeper pains that take a long time to heal.

7. Don’t use sulking as a weapon
Sometimes confused feelings cause people to withdraw. It’s ok to discuss this at a quiet moment and explain that we need a period of quiet time to regroup. This is so different to doling out The Silent Treatment, which is borne out of inability to express feelings and is tantamount to withholding and over-harshly punishing the other.

Now for the good news, overcoming the worst of the Power Struggle Stage can lead to a healthier Commitment Stage and a far stronger and successfully tested relationship.
Here’s Huey Lewis to explain.

Christina Fraser

 

A question of communication.

When I was watching the ‘A word’ on TV the other night I was struck by one particular interchange. As it happened it had nothing to do with autism but it did have a great deal to do with communication (or rather, non-communication). The mother of the young boy appeared to be asking for her brother-in-law’s opinion on whether they should get a second opinion about her son’s condition. But she wasn’t actually asking, as he was quick to point out – rather she was telling him what she had already decided but wanted his affirmation of her decision.

All of which set me thinking. How often do all of us seem to be asking something when in fact we are just using the form of a question to tell a person what we have decided in any case. Most of the time that doesn’t cause much of a problem between couples but at other times it can result in irritation – or worse.

Here at Coupleworks we know very well how important good communication is for any partnership. And really good communication requires each person to be open about what they are saying and to give the space to their partner to agree or disagree with them.

‘Where shall we go this Christmas? Your family or mine?’ Can be a genuinely open ended question, or it may be said in such a way that only one answer is, in effect, being allowed. If that sort of non-question continues time and again then the net result will be to make a person feel that they are being treated as though their opinion does not matter, and that they are being continuously belittled.

So what is the answer?

1. Learn to ask genuine questions.
2. If you have a preference then be open and honest about it. Check with yourself whether you are really asking for an opinion or whether you are hoping that your partner will agree with you.
3. Listen to your partner and encourage them to be honest too.
4. Don’t be afraid of disagreement or difference – such things lie at the centre of any healthy relationship.
5. When you catch yourself asking a non-question (or when it’s pointed out that that’s what you are doing) don’t be afraid to acknowledge it- and to laugh at yourself.

Clear, honest and accurate communication is essential to healthy relationships.

Sarah Fletcher

Technology and Humans.

For many years I have been struck by the similarities between technical frustrations and difficulties which can arise in a couple.

If we look at the comparison of a computer’s hard drive and a human’s unconscious, we can see an example:  If you put the wrong software into an incompatible computer it will act out by throwing up windows full of incomprehensible jargon and probably shut itself down.

This is similar to pressing the wrong button in your partner and igniting an inexplicable reaction, far outweighing the nature of the trigger.  The human may well shut down and become an alien to the offender, just as a computer does.

With a couple, various scenarios may occur.  Anger, hurt, detachment, withdrawal from intimacy and a rift, hopefully temporary between the bemused offender and the withdrawn or furious reactor.

What follows with a computer shut down is further frustration, anquish and stress when ringing a call centre operative for help. This person, who within a brief of 10 questions and answers, tries to help. Temperatures rise, solutions don’t help and in the end a supervisor is found who helps to calm things down and get the computer working again.

With human breakdown in communication there is a similarity.  A number of accusations and denials, familiar to the couple, are hurled to and fro till in the end one or the other suggests that a couple counsellor needs to be found.  The result often being that things are calmed down and a different way of managing these communication breakdowns is found.

Technology and human interaction are, of course, not the same thing at all but technological hard and software both need human insertion in order to work,  thus it is not surprising that reactions in both cases are similar.  Coupleworks can help with human misunderstandings when couples have tried everyway known to them without success.  In the same way a supervisor has to be sent for as a solution to the computer break down.

Rapidly developing technology requires change  A sketchy knowledge of a multitude of different professions is now a necessary feature of couple and family life.  Travel agent, flight booker, medical knowledge and decisions about personal health, banking, user names and passwords crowding a human brain along with daily life.

Coupleworks listens to couples and treats their dilemmas with respect. Together they try to unravel the difficulties encountered in their individual stories.

Clare Ireland

Keeping Close

Couples, when first in a romantic bubble, have no trouble protecting themselves. It’s instinctive. But as time goes on and life gets busier with work and children – that’s when priorities can change.    Every relationship needs some effort to stay healthy and close.

Communication is key. We all need to feel special at times and our partner is also our audience. Let your significant other into your thoughts and fears. There’s no need to fix a problem, most of the time we need to just feel heard and understood. Listen without judgement.

Prioritise your partner and set aside times to really talk. Switch off those phones and turn off the screens. This way you will not be distracted and you can make real eye contact.  Eat, chat and find reasons to really engage again.

Playfulness should not be forgotten. Remember those first heady months? Keep fun alive. Join a salsa class, learn to bake bread together, or take a train to a mystery destination. From time to time just do something new as a couple.

Touching is a basic need. Hugging and kissing releases oxytocin and it just feels good. Remember to give that goodbye kiss in the morning and a hug when you get home. It shows care and affection.

Appreciation is easily forgotten. A thanks for the small gestures, the cup of tea, the lift to the station or just noticing when your partner wears something new. Always acknowledge the chores that easily get taken for granted.

5  TOP TIPS

TIME – make this for each other

WORDS – of kindness and appreciation

ACTIONS – make a meal, put out the bins

GIFTS – a tiny gesture. A flower or a favourite sweet treat

TOUCH – an unexpected hug or kiss

Christina Fraser

Moving house can be a positive step for a relationship

Statistics tell us that moving house can be one of the most stressful experiences alongside divorce and bereavement. Certainly at Coupleworks we often see clients who are facing a move into a different area or who may be considering relocating to a different country. This is often where communication breaks down and can be seen as a negative experience. This can raise unresolved issues between a couple at a crucial time of change and interferes with the feelings of joy and connection with starting somewhere new.

Having just been through the experience of moving out of a home shared for 32 years with a partner who has always been very reluctant to move, I appreciate how stressful it can be especially as we only had 4 weeks to do it in, which in our case probably was the best thing, as there wasn’t much time to process anything except start packing!!

I was rather anxious how we would cope knowing that moving house can put a strain on even the most solid of relationships. Here are some of the thoughts I had along the journey:

Moving house can be an incredible rollercoaster. Change can be scary for one and exciting for the other. Home was always comfortable and familiar. Going someplace else is new and very unfamiliar. Despite the stress and tensions, it is surprising how beneficial it can be if treated in the right way and if we take advantage of opportunities open to us. Managed well, far from straining a relationship, it can often strengthen it and breathe new life into it.

Here are a few tips to help reduce anxiety and ensure your move progresses as smoothly as possible.

• Delegation of responsibilities. You know what your strengths and weaknesses are. Discuss and work out who is going to do what and when and keep check lists.
• Discuss what you need to take with you, what you need to leave, what you need to dispose of and what you may wish to give to charity
• Give yourselves time to talk about the things you might miss about your old home. Remember the happy and sad times spent there, the neighbours, the familiarity, the views. Acknowledging all the losses and expressing sadness is a positive step
• Don’t be afraid to express your fears of the unknown – the what if’s…
Moving from where you know to where you don’t can bring on anxiety for most people. However change can be very exciting and can bring new life to a relationship so go and grab it and make the most of it.

Counsellors at Coupleworks specialise in helping clients resolve any difficulties that might make moving house easier to manage. This can be via face to face, telephone, or if you don’t have time to attend in person through our Skype counselling service. Please do contact us at Coupleworks

Dawn Kaffel