At the Colorado Center for Healing and Change., we provide Couples Counseling that focuses on the four pillars of a healthy relationship. These four pillars include: Effective Communication Skills , Building Empathy and Emotional Safety, Learning how to Fight Fair, and addressing Sexual Needs and Struggles. For a lot of couples, destructive communication comes out of a desire for honest communication. I will often hear things like, “Well, shouldn’t I be honest with her?” Or “He needs to know how I feel, I can’t keep it all bottled in!” In John Ghottmans book, A Guide to Communication he illustrates four constructive and destructive ways of working through conflict. Conflict is inevitable in marriage; however how a couple goes about the conflicting can either move the couple towards healing or destruction. Here are four destructive methods of dealing with conflicts that are seen frequently in couples and the alternatives to these to try in your own relationship.
1. Character assassination: Attributing bad or insulting characteristics or qualities to your spouse. For example “you are lazy, you are an insensitive person!” Instead of this, talk specifically about the behavior hat you want changed.” Honey, I would like you to ask me for my opinion on where we should eat dinner” or “Honey, could you help me clean up the house for 15 minutes a night before we go to bed.”
2. Insults: Here one partner calls the other partner different names that hurt his or her feeling such as “you are a failure” or “you are selfish!” Instead of this state specifically what your spouse does, in which specific situations, and how it makes you feel such as “Honey, when you don’t wear a shirt at the table I feel like you don’t think I am special”.
3. Kitchen Sinking: Here, one partner uses complaints on many issues all at once to express their total exasperation. Example- “I’m upset about your laziness, your job situation, our sex life, and you selfishness with the kids.” This is counterproductive because there in no solution to all of these problems. Instead of complaining about all topics at once the individual must pick ONE topic at a time to address and work at solving.
4. Cross-Complaining: This is where both couples go back and fourth and do not truly listen to what the other person is saying. They are not listening; they are just waiting for their turn and building up mental ammunition in their head to launch back at their partner when they are done.
So, with these in mind, please try the alternatives this week. The alternatives will lead to more open communication, healthier conflict, and a renewed sense of closeness in the relationship. If you could benefit from Communication Counseling please call the center for healing and change at 720-204-8747. We look forward to working with you!