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Couples Counseling:  Is Better Communication Enough?
Copyright 2009 by Richard A. Grossman, Ph.D.    All Rights reserved    E-Mail: ragrossman@voicelessness.com
"What we have here is a failure to communicate."

You may remember (if you are at least middle-aged) this signature line from the movie "Cool Hand Luke."

And if you've been in couples counseling, you've probably heard it spoken in some form or fashion by your counselor.

The problem is: for most couples, the line is a myth.

Forgive the pop culture blasphemy.  But truth be said, couples are communicating all the time. They use "hidden messages."  Hidden messages are the "between-the-lines" communications that fly back and forth in a relationship. They are often more powerful than messages directly spoken. To the trained ear, they are most revealing.

O.K., you say, "What we have here is a failure to communicate--directly! We're talking about a semantic difference..."

Nope. There is a delightfully romantic notion (often seen in movies) that if people only spoke their minds and hearts directly, all would be well. I have treated many couples, and I have almost never found this to be true. If unhappy couples were able to speak their minds and hearts directly (i.e., made the hidden messages clear), each party would know where the other stands, but neither would necessarily be happier. Indeed, we learn to communicate indirectly in order to hide the true feelings that might be seen as socially inappropriate or destructive. We are all, more or less, politicians when it comes to relating to people, even those closest to us.

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