The number one reason that couples cite as their motivation for seeking couples therapy retreats in Harrisburg is communication problems in their relationship. From my own years of experience, I don’t believe the problem is that couples don’t talk or can’t talk. In fact, in my initial couples therapy session, I ask a diagnostically-apt question to help couples see that they have no problem talking or listening to each other: “What are your spouse’s top complaints about you?”
Most partners can answer this question pretty easily, proving that communicating isn’t the problem. They know what their partner’s complaint is, so they are talking to each other. It’s a slight detail in this communicating piece that couples skimp on. This most basic missing communication piece is one of the biggest issues that I observe: the details. Heck, it’s the reason I am writing this article, because it just happened in my relationship.
It is demonstrated, again and again, that details in communication are paramount.
This past week, we got a good bit of snow. I am not able to shovel snow because a significant accident eliminated this option for me. An invisible wound. I can swim, run, and bike, but I cannot shovel or paint, owing to these physical issues. Weird, I know. I have tried again and again, only to be sidelined for days.
My wife knows this and has seen it firsthand. However, we do have a mini snow blower (one that has an electric cord and is pretty terrible in anything significant), so with the snow gathered on our property, I decided that I would give that mini snow blower a shot. To mine and my wife’s surprise, I can now help when it snows! Right?! Wrong.
That day, I had done 75% or more of our driveway when she came out to help after work. Here comes the missing detail: just because the conditions were perfect for my snow blower and I was able to clear some snow, does not mean my physical limitations were gone and I could help without suffering painful consequences. Working with this contraption, I still ended up with a shovel in hand to break up the piles and push the snow blower, and I had shooting pains down my back.
The missing ingredient?! I didn’t tell her these details. She should know them! HA.
The next morning, she went out to shovel. She told me she was going. I didn’t say I wasn’t coming. I ASSUMED that was a given. I went out to the garage to grab a smaller shovel to clear a spot for the dog out back (which, by the way, killed my back again in 2 minutes).
After I took the dog out, I went out front to offer moral support and my wife said, “I thought you were coming out to help.” Feeling accused, I shot back angrily that I can’t shovel! The anger is part defense because I HATE that I cannot shovel. She said something like, “Well, I heard you get a shovel and I assumed you were coming to help.” After we fired back a few more angry exchanges, I went inside and began to think about what had just gone wrong.
Damn! It is that tricky little detail thing I forget! I have to spell things out and not assume my partner knows the details. My mistake was not clarifying the situation before she went out. Had I, it might have sounded something like this: “Hey, so you are going out to shovel and you know I can’t help, right? Yesterday was a fluke. I can take the dog out and try to scratch out a little patch for her.”
So, the basic ingredients for effective communication is: don’t skimp on the details and don’t assume.
I can’t tell you how many fights I hear about from couples that start off with, “I thought she/he knew…” or “I thought they were going to”… They say the devil is in the details. I think the devil of a fight is actually kicked off by making faulty assumptions and skimping on providing those key details.
If you don’t even know where or how to start bringing up details in your conversations with your partner, let alone start a conversation, you might want to consider my intensive couples therapy in Harrisburg. Designed to foster effective results for couples in a condensed amount of time, these full-day couple therapy retreats are akin to 3 months in couples therapy.
Do you want to learn how to improve your relationship now? Learn more about marriage and couples relationship coaching.