An East Asian couple are on a charcoal colour couch gazing happily at each other while holding hands.  Person on the right has their head in the other person’s lap, they are wearing black shirt and pants.  The person on the left has short black hair and is gazing down at the person in their lap.  They are wearing a black top and light blue jeans.

The Skills - Couples

These are the skills you need to connect authentically in your relationship.

These are the skills you need to connect authentically in your relationship.

Known when/how the connections break down.

To break out of a miscommunication pattern, you need to know the steps that got you here.

Where you may slip up:

You may not even know how exactly you end up in this situation.

How I can help:

I will ask both you and your partner to tell me about a conflict. I will observe how step by step, your communication falls apart, and describe it to you.

Have your partner hear what you feel

To further understand why you can’t communicate, you need to be able to say out loud to your partner what you are feeling in times of miscommunication.

Where you may slip up:

You may judge yourself for what you feel or fear your partner’s judgement.

How I can help:

I will moderate the space so you get the air time you need. I will also ask you questions to broaden your story.

Hear what your partner feels

You need to be able to hear your partner’s feelings, even if it is different from yours.

This is an important skill to build in breaking the stuckness — that you can listen to your partner, disagree, and not jump to reaction.

Where you may slip up:

You may have many difficult emotions come up when listening to your partner.

Or want to interrupt them to defend yourself.

How I can help you:

I will give your partner the air space they need to tell their story.

This allows you to hear multiple times what your partner is saying, and help you practice listening without reacting right away.

Stay calm when your partner is talking

Staying grounded while your partner says something that triggers you is an important step in breaking the stuck pattern.

Where you may slip up:

You may be tempted to correct the version of your partner’s reality.

You may be triggered and stop paying attention to what they’re saying.

How I can help you:

I will give you both equal space to speak about your version of the story.

I will also teach you how to stay grounded when you feel triggered by your partner’s comments.

Share with your partner your wants and needs.

To build understanding, you also need to share with your partner from a heartfelt place. This looks like you being able to share your needs and wants.

Where you may slip up:

You may not know what you need based on your feelings. Or it may be too scary to share and ask this with your partner. Or you don’t know how to as you have repressed the needs for so long.

How I can help:

I will offer you help on generating some possible answers to what you may need. I will guide you to practice speaking your needs and wants in beginner steps that feel doable.

Hear your partner’s wants and needs.

To understand your partner, you also need to be able to hear their wants and needs.

Where you may slip up:

You may feel mixed feelings in hearing what your partner wants. What they say may make you want to back away or criticize them.

How I can help:

I will pay attention to you and support you to stay grounded so you can hear your partner. In times when you do want to back away or jab at them, I will help you understand what happened for you, as this allows us to further understand what gets you stuck.

Respond to your partner’s wants and needs from a kind place.

Unhelpful communication happens when partners react to each other’s wants/needs/feelings from a triggered place. To connect, you need to respond to your partner kindly.

Where you may slip up:

You might not know what to say to your partner. You may not know how to meet their need, and not knowing how to say that kindly.

How I can help:

I will help you start doing this in a beginner’s way. For example, you may not know what to say to your partner’s needs. I may suggest that you kindly speak your truth, such as telling them you appreciate them telling you, and that you need time to respond. In doing so, you learn the skill of honouring each other’s needs, even when you can’t meet them right away.

Keep practicing this process.

To really learn the dance moves of expressing yourselves to each other, you need to practice.

Where you may slip up:

At any step in the process, it is possible for you to feel overwhelmed, triggered, frustrated, and revert to familiar but stuck way of interacting.

This is very human.

How I can help:

I will point out when you are getting stuck, and help you understand why. This deepens your understanding of how you get stuck. I will also support you to practice the newer way of interacting even when old ways of being show up.

What you can expect from me:

My role is to help you practice together.

Therapy is a space where you can both learn more about yourself and each other. You will also try ways of asking for what you need, and every trial and error is a chance to learn more about what you each want and value. In practicing, you learn how to communicate your similarities and differences in a healthy way, and allow them to exist without sinking your relationship.

I have helped stuck clients practice their way into a healthier relationship where they are hopeful to plan for the future.

I want to do the same for you.

The above steps are based on Emotion Focused Therapy by Dr. Sue Johnson, an evidenced-based approach in couples therapy.

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