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A Caring Approach offers couples counseling and marriage counseling in Reston, VA, Washington, DC, and Bethesda, MD.

Our ability to communicate is essential for creating and sustaining a satisfying relationship. Often, the style of communication is more of a problem than the problem you are communicating about. Under stress, people use defensive communication styles that alienate their partners. In a placating style, for example, the person does not want to rock the boat; he or she feels apologetic and is afraid to express anger and entitlement. Yet, in its positive manifestation, this style holds our capacity for empathy, caring, and the desire for our partner to be happy.

Good communication requires both listening and expressive skills. Through respectful and empathic listening, a partner can learn to be aware of the other’s needs, wants and expectations; by putting yourself in your partner’s shoes and seeing things from your partner’s perspective, you can attend to “how things are for your partner”, rather than just picking up only on those things that have a direct bearing on yourself. Through gentle inquiry you can avoid the misunderstanding that comes from mind reading and making faulty assumptions about your partner. This approach allows for a deeper understanding of the other that was not previously possible.

Constructive self-expression skills allow for communicating your feelings without destroying love. Making use of “I statements” lets your partner know your needs and expectations. On the other hand, “you statements” (“you always…, you make me…”) that make use of attacks such as name-calling, sarcasm and playing the victim, etc., destroy communication and intimacy. Better understanding of oneself is essential for developing a better relationship. It is not uncommon to behave in ways that attract the opposite of what we want. Someone may express a desire for something important, for example, support and care, and yet behave in ways that pushes it away when is offered by their partner.

Effective communication forms the foundation for the development of conflict resolution skills that allows a couple to resolve problems and attain mutually agreeable solutions within a win/win context, rather than attempting to control and misuse power to negotiate a solution that will cause relationship distress, distrust and possibly separation. Through good communication and conflict resolution skills, couples can engage in the exploration and clarification of expectations, decisions, and assumptions (conscious and unconscious) about pertinent concerns to the relationship such as love, trust, intimacy, money, etc., in order to create a mutually pleasurable contract.

Within a context of safety, respect, care, and trust, partners can gain a deeper level of understanding and affection for themselves, each other, and their relationship –the strengths, qualities, wounds, and limitations. From this context, the relationship acts as a crucible for healing from which the deeper capacities of the individuals and the couple can emerge.

To read more about relationships go to the blog and click intimacy/relationship category.

Dr. Durana offers couples counseling and marriage counseling in Reston, VA, Bethesda, MD, and Washington, DC.