Communication Therapy For Couples

Feeling unheard, misunderstood, or dismissed can lead you to consider the fate of your relationship. Communication therapy is foundational to every Marriage Quest® Retreat, and our goal is to help you and your spouse both feel heard, understood, and respected. There are many barriers to effective communication, and the most common is when one spouse becomes triggered and then lashes out or avoids further conversation.

What Are The Signs Of Bad Communication In A Marriage?

There are many signs of bad communication in a marriage, and it’s more difficult to recognize them when you are living in the situation. It can feel overwhelming and stressful with anything from miscommunications and bickering to full out fighting with name calling and violence. It’s not always clear in the moment what is a potential red flag, so here are some examples of situations or feelings that might indicate it’s time to work on your communication as a couple:

married couple with a communication breakdown caused by resentment which created emotional and physical distance

Lack Of Effective Communication In Marriages

When communication breaks down in a marriage, couples often start to build resentment, create more emotional or physical distance, or try to get those needs met outside the marriage. It is very common for affairs to start when there is poor communication between the couple. Most couples only seek communication therapy after struggling for years. Unfortunately, those difficult years often lead to personal health issues, substance abuse, infidelity, depression or anxiety, or significantly impact the wellbeing of the kids both in and outside the home.

Whether you have spent years struggling or you just entered a marital crisis, the good news is that positive change can happen quickly. More than half of our couples report poor communication as their #1 complaint. Some couples claim to communicate too much which usually means they are “brutally honest”!

Negative communication is when you talk about what you don’t like or taking your partner’s inventory. Positive communication focuses on what you want or would like from your partner in order to feel closer and good about yourself and your relationship.

Many Issues Are Affected By Poor Communication

Regardless of the specific issue or issues that you may be dealing with, bad communication will probably make everything worse and good communication can improve your situation and feelings towards each other. Our goal is to teach you a process of positive, assertive, and pro-active communication so that you can deal with any issue that may arise in your relationship in the future. While the two of you may not agree on all situations, you can learn to be kind and respectful in how you navigate the conversation and how you make decisions.

Obviously, it is useful to have some common goals and values in your marriage, but it is not realistic to think that the two of you will always agree on everything that you want and on everything that is important to each of you. Compromise is needed, and patience and tolerance are valuable when dealing with different priorities.

Below are some of the issues we deal with that are greatly impacted by stressed communication and are improved with effective communication. We have dealt with a wide variety of other situations as well. Feel free to contact us about your specific communication challenges and issues.

Resentment

Resentment in marriage usually builds up over time from unresolved conflicts. Failure to develop closure around disagreements, traumatic experiences, and other tense moments in your relationship tend to fester and become worse with time.

Sexless Marriage

Most sexless marriages start with an emotional disconnection. So in order to not only survive a sexless marriage but to actually thrive, you and your partner need to have a deep conversation about your desires and fantasies both directly related and adjacent to your sex life.

Infidelity

Regardless of the reasons and context of an affair, it hurts and trust is significantly broken. Unfortunately, while divorce feels like a solution, about 80% of couples who separate due to an emotional affair eventually regret that decision.

Considering Divorce

Many couples considering divorce believe they are no longer compatible with each other. This is a painful thought, but the reality is that you probably are compatible and just have to develop the skills to repair what has been hurt.

How Important Is Communication In A Marriage?

Communication is very important in marriage. It is the basis for a successful intimate relationship along with compatibility and the ability to negotiate feelings and reactions. A good communicator knows what they are feeling and thinking, and even what they would like at any given moment. This is an important skill if you are to have any mastery over self-regulation. Emotions help us to organize our inner world. Real change comes when we learn to shift our emotions into a more positive place. That requires exploring our thinking, our assumptions, and our emotions.

Trust And Communication

One of the most common goals of couples who come to see us is the desire to rebuild trust. Learning how to communicate better with your spouse almost always includes learning how to be vulnerable. This requires trust. Speaking your truth is only possible when you trust that it will be received appropriately and compassionately.

Trust can be broken for many reasons, sometimes it is a one-time event like an affair and sometimes it breaks down over years of miscommunication, an angry atmosphere, and building resentments.

Communication Strategies

There are many communication strategies that can help improve your relationship. Active listening is a common technique that helps keep the listener engaged in the conversation so that the speaker feels more heard and validated. Our job during your Marriage Retreat is to teach you communication exercises for married couples that will ultimately help you increase intimacy and build a stronger connection.

Communication Is Key

There is a well researched ratio by the Gottman Institute that happy couples have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. The majority of interactions are verbal, therefore working on improving your communication skills is necessary to maintain a positive ratio. In addition to considering verbal communication, we also help couples improve their non-verbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, and overall tone within a conversation. Effective communication in your relationship will help you to:

image of couple with heart symbol above symbolizing how asking for what one wants in bed improves sex life

Improve Your Sex Life

Asking for what you want in bed can be embarrassing or scary. We can assist in finding the right way to communicate your needs and put a smile on your face.

image of couple hugging, signifying how good communication can prevent a marital affair

Prevent Affairs

Affairs often occur after years of poor communication and unmet needs. It might seem easier to talk to someone other than your spouse, but without fixing the underlying issues in your communication those mistakes will repeat themselves later on.

image of happy married couple who coparent effectively by finding common ground in parenting styles

Coparent Together

Raising kids is challenging, and it requires two adults to act like a team. Disagreement in parenting styles are normal, and communication is the key to finding common ground for the benefit of your children.

image of clasped hands signifying how trust is built by sharing truth, vulnerability and communication in a marriage

Build Trust

Speaking your truth requires vulnerability and effective communication strategies. Empathy with your partner will build trust over time and lead to more meaningful conversations in your relationship.

image of couple with heart and plus signs signifying increased emotional intimacy & marital bond from long conversations

Increase Emotional Intimacy

Couples who report feeling in love years into their marriage often cite long conversations that have built emotional intimacy between them as part of the reason for their strong bond.

married couple with light bulb above signifying successful problem solving by sharing thoughts and feelings

Successfully Problem Solve

It's easy to get defensive when trying to find the best solution to a problem. Good communication can help you see your partner's perspective while also sharing your own thoughts and feelings.

couple in bed about to experience improved intimacy due to better communication and daily interactions

Increase Attraction And Desire

Intimacy and lust are highly related to daily interactions with each other. Every communication is an opportunity to increase attraction and desire.

image of happy married couple who experienced increased personal fulfillment after marriage retreat

Increase Personal Life Fulfillment

Happily married couples often live longer and more fulfilled lives. The marriage should be a sanctuary that allows you to thrive in all other personal endeavors.

What Is The Goal Of Communication Therapy

The goal of communication therapy is help you communicate in a way that builds an emotional connection, repairs past hurts, and generally improves overall intimacy. We help couples to understand that what they see as an obstacle is actually a catalyst for deeper intimacy. Because our nervous systems are more sensitive to negative experiences (hence the 5:1 ratio mentioned above), this means that unpleasant emotions have more potential power than pleasant ones.

Think of negative emotions like a nuclear energy: you can use that potential to create an energy facility that nurtures connection, or you can create a bomb that causes disconnection and chaos. Most couples creates bombs, and our goal is to help you create a lifelong facility of connection. Reliable and permanent change does not have to take long. Good communication, like neuropathways, can change in the blink of an eye. Just as a car crash can change your life for the worse in a moment, so can a personal catharsis change your marriage for the better in a heart beat.

Communication Exercises For Couples

Our couples therapy exercises are designed to help you and your spouse learn a lifetime of healthy communication skills. As we guide you through meaningful conversations, you will be breaking bad habits and training yourself so that you can replicate it long after your intensive counseling retreat. Many couples are shocked at how their bad communication has affected so many areas in their relationship together and their family system. Even if you have been suffering for years, learning how to communicate better with your spouse can transform your relationship in a short period of time.

Build Stronger Communication Skills

Communication counseling for couples has proven to be a valuable tool in turning a stressed marriage into a more peaceful marriage. It is a way to control angry outbursts, apply fair fighting skills, and as a result it is team building in your marital relationship. Teaching couples how to build a stronger connection in their marriage through healthier communication skills is our goal.

Build Stronger Communication Skills Through A Marriage Retreat

Communication therapy is one of the foundational pillars of a Marriage Quest Retreat, and it works. The reason it works is because we are going to stop the conversation and redirect you when the fighting or avoidance starts. 

This process allows us to quickly identify the negative cycles and triggers that cause poor communication, but then more importantly it allows us to coach you on how to talk to each other in a manner that rebuilds trust, creates good habits, and nurtures a healthy marital team so that you can continue to apply these skills long after the retreat ends.

Create Good Habits

Many couples looking for communication therapy need to break old habits. You will get better at what you practice, which means that most couples who contact us for support are masters at arguing together or avoiding conversations.

The only way you are going to have effective conversations with your spouse is to practice good communication with each other, thereby improving your ability to connect with each other in more positive ways. During the retreat, we are going to observe, coach, and redirect the conversation to help you form good habits.

After your retreat we will suggest that you have regular conversations together; some should be deep and meaningful to clear the air and connect better and some should be fun conversations to keep the spark of playfulness alive.

Rebuild Trust

Many couples who attend a Marriage Quest Retreat are dealing with a break in trust either from an affair, past gaslighting, or other breakdowns in the relationship. Effective communication should help both partners feel heard and validated so they can become vulnerable with each other and trust that the other person is safe and will take care of them. 

Extreme stressful emotions or beliefs that came into your life during a childhood trauma like bullying or into your adult life like finding out about an affair, was all there to protect you. These “parts” of your inner self need to talk to each other at some point. They need to learn to adapt and to serve you in a positive way by mediating the parts. 

Richard Schwartz, developer of Internal Family Systems, talks about the 8C’s: courage, connectedness, creativity, compassion, clarity, calm, curious, and confident. We have found the 8 C’s helpful in rebuilding trust in one’s self and in the marriage.

Marital Team Building

During your retreat, we are your lifeline. We are going to hold you accountable, provide direction and insight, and teach you how to have an effective conversation. We will teach you how successful couples negotiate challenging conversations as well as how to negotiate problem solving for big issues.

Before the retreat ends, we are going to instruct you and your partner in how to be a team and support each other in continuing to grow and apply these skills after leaving us. Learning how to coach your partner is essential for long term success.

Frequently Asked Questions

Gently encourage them. Don’t push or ask a bunch of questions. Be a good role model by being open and vulnerable, not critical and judgmental. Listen and be curious about what he or she says to you. It also helps to appear interested by using open body language such as having your arms uncrossed and showing a gentle smile with attentive eyes.

Are you willing to share your thoughts, feelings, dreams, and life goals with your partner? Do you avoid conversations, especially ones that might be conflictual? Maybe ask a close friend or two what they think about your emotional vulnerability.

When you check out completely. Some call this an emotional cutoff. When someone is truly cut-off from their marriage it is difficult for them to rekindle and be close again. Sometimes people think that they are cut off or have abandoned the marriage emotionally and there is no turning back, but that is not true. Sometimes they can find their way back to their spouse and marriage. We call those miracles, and we have seen that happen many times.
Stonewalling is when someone refuses to talk, communicate, or share their emotions. They are completely shut down and unwilling to open up at all. This usually happens during an argument when someone does not feel safe enough to be vulnerable. They are usually avoiding an uncomfortable conversation or argument. If this continues for a long time, the result is an emotional cut off. Actual complete cut offs are usually irreparable, but fortunately are very rare.

It’s easy to blame your partner as intentionally trying to sabotage you, however the truth is usually more complex. Gaslighting is when you feel manipulated by your partner because of a perceived attempt to undermine your confidence in your beliefs and experiences. This often leads to self-doubt, confusion, or increased emotional distress. Gaslighting can be conscious or unconscious, and fixing it requires clear communication as well as an understanding of what is being triggered between each of you.

A Marriage Counseling Retreat Is Your Solution

Struggling to communicate effectively with your spouse can feel extremely frustrating and lead to many negative outcomes in the relationship. If you are ready to finally learn the right tools, repair from past hurts, and increase your overall emotional intimacy, sexually fulfillment, and trust in your marriage, then learn how a Marriage Quest Retreat can help jump start your progress in only a few days.

Let's Plan Your Couples Retreat

Contact one of our well trained therapists today to make sure we are a good fit for your relationship and marriage goals. You can send us an email or schedule a free 20-minute phone consultation to answer your questions and provide information on available dates and pricing.