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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and have lived in and around Palo Alto since 1969. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in Silicon Valley for 15 years before becoming a therapist. My background i...  (More)

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The Call for Couples or Marriage Counseling? Communication

Uploaded: Feb 23, 2017
Communication is the most frequent topic of calls for couples or marriage counseling.

My husband/wife doesn’t:
- Listen
- Understand
- Make me a priority
- Cherish me
- Love me how I want it
- Have my back
- Want to spend time with me
- Want to have sex with me
- Etc.

My husband/wife:
- Spends all the time/focus/energy with kids and not me
- Pays too much attention to his/her parents (over me)
- Works too much
- Drinks too much
- Shuts down
- Doesn’t talk to me
- Yells at me
- Fights with me
- Etc.

Communication in couple relationships and marriage is critically important. It’s likely you communicated well in the beginning of your relationship; otherwise you wouldn’t have come this far.

Now you may be wondering how come you could talk so much and be close before, and now it’s getting harder? The more intimate a relationship becomes (and I don’t mean sex, I mean closeness and sharing of your authentic self – warts, strengths and all – otherwise known as vulnerability), the scarier it gets to most people.

New challenges arise as you go further in your relationship as well:
- Each others’ parents and family (perhaps multiple cultural issues)
- Financial goals and how to reach them
- How messy the house can or can’t be (and what means to each of you)
- How you share responsibilities (in and outside the home)
- Children (huge topic in and of itself). Having kids is a joy over the long term, and a ton of work day-to-day, no matter how much you both do
- Caring for aging parents
- Etc.

Communication styles are created and ingrained in you from your family growing up. Did your family talk things through? Did they go off and be alone for a while and then come back to talk? Did they yell and get over it quickly? Did they yell and get over it slowly? Did they not talk about it all?

Whatever is familiar to you about communication from growing up is likely to be how you communicate now. It’s like taking the same route to work every day. None of it is wrong, per se. The question is: Does it work for the two of you? In some cases, you pick a partner that has a different communication style from yours, or you eventually realize s/he’s “just like my mother/father” in communication style.

Being set in stone in your communication is not going to help your marriage or relationship. Just because you grew up seeing that style doesn’t mean it is serving you now, as an adult in a couple’s relationship.

The greatest news is that the brain has the capacity to grow and change until the day you die. The more you behave in different ways, you change your brain. In other words, you can drive a different route to a different communication style in your marriage.
Be patient with yourself and each other as you work on this. Remember, you’re in each others’ care and in it together.


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