As we approach the holidays and the year end, we may be wondering how to improve communication with our partner. Perhaps there have been more arguments – ones that seem to start from nowhere and escalate quickly, or ones that have been simmering for some time. Perhaps you are unable to get through to your partner, as they seem to shut down whenever you try to discuss something with them. Or perhaps you feel like shutting down whenever your partner touches on a thorny subject.
Many of us reach a point in the relationship when it has become increasingly difficult to communicate openly. What happens over time is that you and your partner begin to rely on your own coping mechanisms – one might jump to conclusions and throw out criticism while the other withdraws from any confrontation. This may lead to a buildup of resentment on both sides. Gradually, this may lead either or both parties to experience feelings of frustration, dissatisfaction, loneliness, or even contempt in the relationship.
Each client’s journey is their own, and no path is the same. Some may have been struggling with communication for years, while others may have felt a change in a shorter time frame (for example if there was a regrettable incident or an extramarital affair). What led you to this juncture is in the past and of course can be discussed during therapy, but we need to be able to take responsibility for our actions and have a mutual desire to take constructive action together.
If this is where you and your partner are at, consider couples counselling. Could it be that you have grown apart, or even lost respect for one another? We are here to help both of you better understand what lies at the root of your conflict, by rebuilding your lines of communication and enabling both of you to fundamentally hear and better understand each other’s point of view, in a safe and non-judgmental setting.
In couples counselling, the first session is with both partners and we will go through some questions to better understand you and your relationship. Some clients may come expecting the counsellor to take their side. Couples counselling is not about determining who is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but rather providing the platform to enable you to hear and understand each other. The Gottman Method notes that approximately two-thirds of relationship issues tend to be ‘perpetual problems’ – problems that couples will repeatedly argue over but where there is no ‘solution’. For this, counselling will help open up each other’s perspectives, especially when there has been gridlock.
We all need human connection. So when the relationship with our partner – which for many is our key relationship – is struggling and the connection becomes strained, it is no wonder that our mental health struggles. You are not alone, and we are here to help.
In the meantime, if you want to improve communications with your partner try the following tips:
Regular daily conversations – aim for 15 minutes (or more!) of conversation at a time that suits the both of you. If possible, try talking when the house is quiet in the evening.
Actively listen to your partner – this means clear the distractions, put your phones away. Make them a priority, do not interrupt, and mindfully engage in what they have to say.
Repair your lines of communications – avoid always focusing on the problems. If you have been arguing lately, take a break from discussing highly contentious issues. Talk about something else, such as focusing on some positive experiences or things that you are grateful for in your day.
Go for a walk – aim to do this once a week together (just the two of you). Sometimes it is nice to walk together and enjoy the sound of nature, other times you may want to talk about what is on your mind. This is also a great way to explore some of the beautiful hiking trails that Hong Kong has to offer!