In any type of relationship, communication is crucial. However, this is true nowhere more than in marriage. You and your spouse will avoid countless marital problems by simply learning to communicate clearly and effectively. These communication skills don’t happen overnight, though. On the contrary, it takes plenty of thought, hard work, and, in many cases, the professional intervention of the right therapist to foster the strong relationship you’re working towards, both with your spouse and with other family members.
One of the most effective ways to make this happen is with the help of a couples therapist or counselor. Through the process of counseling, you and your spouse will learn how to navigate relationship conflict and marital harmony alike. Of course, couples counseling won’t just benefit you and the other member of the couple. You’ll find that you’re better able to communicate with friends, family members, and the others you encounter in your day-to-day life. Seek out the right type of therapy for you and your spouse, whether that’s the well-known Gottman Method, narrative therapy, behavioral couples therapy (BCT), or another method, and talk to your clinician about how communication skills can transform your marriage.
Be it on your own or through intervention like BCT or another type of therapy, effective communication can be taught and learned. When you set out to master these skills, though, there are a few things you must keep in mind before applying them to your marriage outside of BCT therapy sessions.
1. Learn enhanced communication skills.
As you set out to improve communication with your spouse, you will naturally want to start improving your communication methods. Fortunately, there are many methods you can master to accomplish this. Even the experts at Psychology Today recognize the crucial role of verbal communication. From focusing your full attention on your spouse to working on ways to show affection more clearly, you can take steps towards a healthy relationship and greater relationship satisfaction overall. A couples counselor can help you hone this specialty as you implement the lessons from your previous week’s therapy sessions and develop your communication abilities and, by extension, your marriage as you work to implement all you learned last time to ensure your marriage continues to be a good fit.
For instance, consider spending more time talking face-to-face with your spouse and discussing the little things that make up your life together. Of course, you could work on this skill in marriage or family therapy. But you don’t need to be in a therapist’s office to master this art of conveyance. Even a podcast or YouTube video can get you started! Relationship issues will fall to the wayside when you’re focused on increasing the strength of your relationship and its intimacy and other positive feelings.
2. Communicate your needs.
As you master new levels of communication, you must use your newfound power for good. In this case, that’s most applied to expressing both your and your partner’s needs. If you are taking advantage of couple’s therapy as part of your efforts, this is sure to be an essential part of the process. From a particular urge in the bedroom to a better way for your partner to express affection on a daily basis, the ability to communicate these needs clearly and openly offers a direct path to greater relationship satisfaction for you both.
In cases of more severe relationship problems, such as substance abuse, domestic violence, or active infidelity, it’s a good idea to put in far more effort than improving your communication skills in an attempt to strengthen your relationship—it can take much more to get past drinking, drug abuse, physical or psychological abuse, and other severe issues. For instance, relationship experts O’Farrell and Fals-Stewart wrote in favor of the use of BCT sessions to increase relationship satisfaction amidst drug use or substance abuse, a point on which any recent study would agree.
However, when you’re looking to build a stronger relationship upon an already healthy marriage or in addition to a continuing recovery plan, you and your partner can use communication as a pillar of your couples therapy sessions or self-help meetings, particularly by warding off relationship or family problems by communicating your needs in both directions.
3. Become multilingual.
As you learn to better communicate in your romantic relationship or other connections, you’ll develop a more apt understanding of verbal connections, like what to say to ensure your partner feels your love and affection. But, as crucial as talking to your partner may be, you can’t let it become a distraction from the other forms of communication that reinforce your relationship.
As you set out to improve communication with your spouse, you will naturally want to start improving your communication methods. Fortunately, there are many methods you can master to accomplish this. A marriage or family therapist can help guide a patient’s efforts toward specific problems or negative feelings. Still, mental health professionals aren’t the only ones who can help you help you and your partner through this learning experience. Simply being more aware of these types of nonverbal communication and keeping an open mind where they’re concerned can help support both you and your spouse, with or without a licensed therapist or professional counselor.
4. Develop a willingness to face the dark sides of marriage.
When it comes to the real-life struggles of severe relationship distress or the nuances of simple disagreements, you know you have to understand your partner’s point of view to develop stronger communication and conflict resolution skills. It’s just as important, though, that you’re open to uncovering the dark side of your marriage as well as developing the happier moments. Whether you’ve struggled with the constant cohabitation brought on by COVID-19 or you’re worried that your partner may use drugs or other substances in an unhealthy way, every marriage has elements we’d rather overlook. Nevertheless, these are some of the most common reasons married couples turn to couples counseling in the first place.
For instance, any counselor or psychologist will tell you to express appreciation for your partner in tangible ways, like exact words and regular date nights and quality time. Still, they won’t shy away from the less enjoyable aspects of crafting a successful marriage. Whether it’s working towards genuine forgiveness and empathy for a partner’s past substance abuse or understanding your own weaknesses that stand in the way of a healthy marriage, the best advice that any therapist can give you is to put in hard work through the good and the bad alike without guilt trips, contempt, or resentment. As psychologist Dr. Gottman proposes, partners must turn towards one another rather than away, even when the going gets tough.
Tough times are simply part of the contract you enter into with marriage, but becoming a good communicator can help you move through even the hard times with mutual respect and newfound ease. Relationship experts agree that the best marriage advice for most married couples is to knock bad habits out of play in the first place, well before they hold you back from a truly happy marriage. To make this happen, any couples counselor would tell you that communication skills are critical.
Couples therapy or counseling is a great tool for developing better communication and a stronger relationship between you and your spouse. In some cases, like a relapse of substance use or the case of alcoholic patients, individual therapy may play a key role in improving communication skills and creating a happy marriage. However, for those who aren’t seeking individual treatment, couples counseling or family therapy may be all the intervention a married couple needs to get things back on track.
No matter your sexual orientation, relationship dynamic, or family system, improved communication can help a couple to better express gratitude for one another, increase intimacy in couples’ relationships, and even take control of their own life in the process. Whether that’s through individual counseling, the use of BCT or the Gottman Method with a couples counselor, or individual efforts and hard work with practices like EFT, a married couple can transform their marriage by developing and enhancing their communication skills. From New York to San Diego and well beyond the United States, a good match with a BCT counselor and some time and effort on your part can be the intervention your marriage needs for stand-up lovers to become lifelong partners.