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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
Does this mean that unhappy couples are doomed to be miserable forever? Hardly. But the solution is never as quick and easy as the  popular magazines suggest.   What determines success in couples counseling? Here's a brief list:

   1. Each party must be willing to learn what it is they are asking for and why. This can be complicated. Often wishes and needs have deep familial/historical roots, and are all but invisible except to a therapist. For example: "I asked you to do the dishes, and you didn't do them" may bear the emotional weight of: "You don't listen to me, no one has ever listened to me--I don't know if I have ever had a place in anyone's life." And the slightly sarcastic reply, "I'm sorry, I forgot" may bear the emotional weight of "These are your wishes, your needs.  What about me? Who, in my life, ever paid attention to me and what I wanted?"

   2. Each party must learn to understand and take responsibility for the hidden messages they are sending. People must recognize that they may be saying the "right thing," but sending contradictory messages that better reflect longstanding historical wishes/needs/feelings.

   3. Each party must be willing to share what they discover about themselves (painful personal histories, unfulfilled childhood needs, the ways they protect themselves) and encourage the other to do likewise. 

   4. Each party must be willing to continue all of the above after counseling ends.


From this list, one can see that couples counseling requires commitment, toleration, and respect for one's partner.  Above all it takes patience.  A better marriage requires more than improved communication:  it takes genuine insight.  Meaningful changes do not occur overnight because discoveries about self take time.  But the outcome of couples counseling is well worth the effort.  There is no better way to know your partner, to be known, and to deepen a relationship.
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