OCS quick links

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Couples Communication and Relationship Tips

Learning how to communicate is important for all of our relationships, especially with our partners. When we state our needs in a way that can be clearly understood, there is a higher likelihood of our needs being met. Fine-tuning our communication skills can enhance our relationships, learning how to overcome unproductive patterns of communication and interaction can help to move beyond unresolved relationship issues.

Communication Styles

One of the biggest problems in marriage and relationships is poor communication. There can often be quite a lot of emotional history and baggage. Both people have individual thoughts, feelings and needs that can cloud the situation, so it’s easy to miss each other's point. It’s important to understand three distinct communication styles and how they can hinder or help our ability to connect with each other.

The Doormat
The name says it all: an individual with a doormat style of communication often gets trampled on or simply allow others to lead. They typically favour peace over any type of conflict, so they’ll often be passive or give silent treatment when things get difficult. This can lead to problems, as those assuming the doormat style have their relationship needs chronically neglected and do not take a stand for themselves. Resent can also build up.

The Sword
The sword is the opposite: those with this style are often very aggressive, defensive and on edge. They may verbally lash out or blame others. For them, self-preservation is achieved through emotional manipulation or violence, but the relationship suffers the damage.

The Lantern
The lantern type of communication is illuminating, it invites all into the light to see different perspectives and experiences. It is firm and secure, yet not overbearing. The lantern is a more mature style of communication, as it rises above the tendency to be either a sword or a doormat.

You may find that you mainly use the lantern style of communication, but at times use the sword or doormat style depending on the situation. It may be helpful for you to explore your communication styles and consider which need improving.

Conscious Relationships

Healthy communication can help us to develop conscious relationships. If we are unconscious to our unresolved trauma we may seek partners to save us and fill the void that exists within us, this may stem from emotional abandonment during childhood.

In an unconscious relationship, you may feel the need to leave. At times, it's not the relationship you need to shed but the fear-based mindset you have carried into it from past experiences. Abandonment trauma for example, in some cases, can lead us to sabotage our relationships as a way to affirm our fears.

Developing a conscious relationship allows us to stop placing pressure on another adult to meet all of our needs. It can teach us to stop thinking people should "just know" what we are feeling and what our needs are, especially when we have not communicated them in a healthy way.

Conscious relationships assist us to understand that our emotional reactivity, in the present, may hold pain from our past or be linked to it. Relationships that are conscious allow us to evolve and re-learn how to trust and communicate better. They help us to give our partner the freedom to be themselves and the freedom to be ourselves around them.

Conscious relationships have the awareness that:
• We repeat childhood patterns and relationship dynamics
• We may choose partners who have the familiar traits of our parental figures
• We may project the unhealed wounding of a conflicted parent figure onto our partners
• We may have inner child wounding from the past that is brought into the present
• Communication is very important in creating and maintaining a healthy union
• A partner is not a parent and we're not a parent figure to our partner.

Your relationship may need help if:

 • Communication between the partners often take on a negative tone and result in hostility or antagonistic encounters
 • Communication is so bad that most talks about marriage problems end up in arguments
• Apologies are never said or followed with changed behaviour
• Marriage problems have led to violent outbursts or physical fighting
 • Marital troubles cause Depression, Anxiety, insecurities, loss of Self-Esteem or withdrawal
 • One or both partners avoid or withdraws from the other, or develops a lifestyle that leaves out the other 
• There are sexual problems in the relationship and the sexual problems cause negative feelings or frustration
 • Either partner has been unfaithful or is seriously considering having an affair
• A couple agrees together that they have problems and don't know how to change things or solve their differences
• A partner acts out feelings with actions that are mean, hateful or resentful
• If you are unable to develop a conscious relationship
• The couple are staying together "for the sake of the children."

12 Reasons why we may stay in an Unhealthy Relationship

1. Fear of loss and loneliness
2. Guilt about leaving someone who "needs" you, about hurting them, about how it will affect children, etc. 
3. A sense of failure
4. A difficulty facing future uncertainty
5. We are already so invested - emotionally, financially, etc.
6. Lack of resources and nowhere to go
7. Hope that things will change
8. Comfort with the familiar
9. Shame, embarrassment, low self-esteem and self-worth
10. Lack of support
11. Family, cultural or religious influences
12. Due to abuse and control

Relationship Tips for Couples

Maintaining Respect
One of the most important factors in a relationship is respect for your partner. There may be times when you are angry or frustrated in your relationship. As long as you can continue to respect your partner as a person, you will manage to get through these feelings.

Communication is key in any relationship. Expressing yourself is usually a positive, it is just the way in which it is done that can be harmful. We need to learn to not only share the wide range of problems that we face from day to day but also try to share the good news – the fun things that happen, the pleasant surprises that we experience so that our partners see both sides of life in us. The positive energy can rub off on them!

Be Tolerant
At times one partner will have different views or maybe different values. The aim is to work together to understand and accept differences rather than struggle to change your partner.

Be Supportive 
As we develop as individuals we need our partner’s support rather than criticism. Finding ways to ask for and give support can be challenging at times, but we are guaranteed to produce more productive outcomes if we are supportive, rather than being critical or always complaining. It can be of great benefit to uplift and support each other when we are struggling or thriving.

Adapt to Change
So many things happen in our lives, changing jobs, buying a home or moving house, having children, coping with sick parents, illness – We need to adjust to each of these milestones both as individuals and as one half of the couple. The easier we can adapt, the easier it will be on the relationship. Change is growth!

Most long-term relationships may have included the raising of children. While children are a positive addition to the couple's relationship, it is important not to make them the only reason for your relationship. They should enhance the relationship, not consume it! Otherwise, when the children leave, what is going to happen? What will be left of your relationship? Children are a blessing, they also deserve to be raised in a positive, secure and loving environment, If you heal your relationship as a couple, you increase life chances for your children.

Spend time apart
To remain an individual as well as a partner in a relationship, it is important to have time away to “be oneself” – this doesn’t mean having to be apart for days, or even a night – it could just be a walk on your own or a room to sit alone in now and then. At times we need our own personal space to reflect on ourselves.

Spend time together
Sometimes couples may settle into relationship life and take part in less of the fun and interesting things they once did. It is important to set time aside, to "keep the spark alive", do things together, enjoy each other's company as friends and as partners. Share quality time, no matter how short can make a huge difference to any relationship.

Be equal 
Holding each other to the same standards and making decisions together can help both people feel equal in the relationship. Neither partner needs to feel like the others needs, desires, role or input is more important than the other.

Important to remember
A relationship should do more to improve the quality of your life together, rather than compromise it. It’s good to compromise, but that should not involve losing the essence of what makes you who you are. Couples Counselling can assist you to nurture your relationship but still develop the beauty of who you are.

Can Couples Counselling improve my Relationship?

Couples Counselling can help you to:
• Understand your communication style and improve it
• Understand and resolve conflicts
• Improve the relationship emotionally and sexually
• Learn to communicate better
• Negotiate differences
• Problem-solve
• Learn to disagree in a healthier way
* Decide whether separating or parting ways is a healthy option

Conflict Resolution
is an area where Couples Counselling can help to resolve ongoing disagreements. In all relationships, conflict and struggle are inherent. It's unrealistic to think you are going to be in one with no obstacles. Effective conflict resolution is a key component of relationship longevity. By learning how to successfully negotiate conflicts, both parties tend to feel more satisfied with the relationship. Conflict resolution in Couples Counselling is a specialised intervention that aims to help both people feel that they are being heard and their needs are being met.

Couples Counselling can improve intimacy by developing strategies to maintain and strengthen the relationship commitment, revitalise the intimate bond between partners and improve the overall quality of the relationship. This is often the area where sexual differences come into play and where intimacy and sexuality may need to be redefined.

Co-parenting Counselling
is a specialisation within the field of Couples Therapy. Parents who are no longer in an intimate relationship seek Counselling to improve their ability to work together to raise their children. Co-parenting Therapy can help things go smoother and reduce difficulties in child-rearing.

You don't have to have Counselling as a pair. Individual sessions are beneficial too

Many people benefit from having Therapy on their own. Your sessions will provide you with space to be seen and heard. The individual Counselling process can help you learn how to communicate and resolve your conflicts in a healthy, life-affirming way. It will also promote understanding and compassion when interacting with your partner. 

Anyone concerned about their relationship can seek support, whether married, living together, in a same-sex relationship, separated or single. The relationship might have been in the past or you may have concerns about the future. Perhaps you want to be a better partner. Maybe you're unsure whether to stay or leave your relationship and need to explore this with someone who is outside of your life.

Individual Counselling for Relationship issues is available

Therapy sessions provide space for you to open up about your relationships issues. Whatever your situation, talking about it with a trained listener might be just what you need.

If you'd like to have a session with one of our experienced Relationship Counsellors, get in touch. We would be happy to help you to sort through your problem. We're currently offering Counselling for individuals via Email, Instant Messenger, Skype or WhatsApp Calling and Telephone.