One of the keys to a successful marriage is having good forms of communication with your spouse. To help understand common communication mistakes married couples make and for tips on improving communication with your spouse, I have interviewed psychotherapist Mary B. Mattis, LCSW.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I grew up in a family where there were lots of debates. Not that we got mad at each other or anything, but my parents were both law professors. Dinner table conversation would center on legal issues and how current events related to the law. Naturally, there was lots of debate. I was the youngest, so I just listened a lot. No surprise that I ended up becoming a therapist. I got good at listening. I also learned a lot about debate. When it came time for college, I earned a BA in Philosophy, and went on to earn a Masters degree in Social Work. In 1996 I became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and started practicing individual counseling. I did lots of training in couples counseling along the way and started couples counseling too.”
What are common communication mistakes married couples make?
“The most common communication mistake couples make is that they neglect to listen to one another. Communication within a couple is most critical when there is an argument or disagreement about something, and yet this is when the members of a couple become most likely to turn off their listening skills. When things start to get heated, each person becomes passionate about getting his or her point across. Instead of listening to his or her partner, each person is busy looking for a way to contradict him or her. You can’t genuinely hear your partner when s/he is talking if you are too busy thinking about what you are going to say next. Most arguments can be avoided if each member of the couple genuinely tries to understand where the other person is coming from whenever there is a dispute. Satisfactory resolution to a problem can only come about when there is genuine understanding of what the problem is – from both sides of the debate.”
What type of impact do those communication mistakes have on the marriage?
“Failure to listen with a genuine desire to understand one another creates emotional distance between two people. In the short term, it can lead to repeated disagreements about the same topic over and over. Nothing is resolved during an argument or dispute when neither person really hears the other’s point of view. When nothing is resolved during an argument, the same argument is bound to crop up again in similar circumstances.”
What tips can you give for improving communication in marriage?
“Many cultures around the world include some type of pre-marital training or counseling as part of the institution of marriage. This includes communication training. I have done some pre-marital counseling and communication training with young couples and have noticed that it makes a world of difference in how they get along. I’ve also done this sort of training with couples who have been in embattle for years. It is far more difficult for these couples to get back on solid ground. Once a pattern of communication is established (or rather a pattern of non-communication) it can be very difficult to break. If that pattern includes lots of arguing, anger and frustration, a couple can build a lot of resentment and animosity that takes a long time and lot’s of patience to get past. Pre-marital counseling can go a long way in improving communication in marriage, thereby improving marriage. Even if already married, a couple would do well to seek help at the first sign of trouble, rather than waiting for it to build to the breaking point before seeking help.”
What type of professional help is available for a married couple that has a hard time communicating?
“Some professionals offer marriage retreats, which include all kinds of training about communication. Many religious institutions offer help for embattled couples, such as Pastoral counseling. And of course couples counseling is offered by many counselors or psychotherapists (Clinical Social Workers, or Marriage and Family Therapists). I would recommend a couple that is having problems communicating seek help as soon as the problem is noticed. This will make counseling process easier and it will take less time to get on track. Before engaging in any kind of professional counseling, the couple should be sure the professional has the necessary training and experience in working with couples.”
Thank you Mary for doing the interview on tips for improving communication you’re your spouse. For more information on Mary B. Mattis or her work you can check out her website at http://www.marymattis.com.
Recommended Readings:http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/6087142/successfully_communicating_in_your.html?cat=5″>Successfully Communicating in Your Relationship
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/6085348/successfully_communicating_with_your.html?cat=25″>Successfully Communicating with Your Adopted Teen
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/6005540/how_to_improve_communication_in_your.html?cat=5″>How to Improve Communication in Your Marriage