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  • Mary Katherine L

Mythbusting: The Problem Isn't Communication

One of the most common explanations a couple will give for coming to therapy is their communication. They may report that they don't know how to communicate, that they're bad at communicating, or that they just don't communicate at all.


It's time to bust the myth: The problem isn't actually communication.


Well, the main problem usually isn't communication.


But, if communication isn't the main problem, why do couples think it is?


A couple often comes to therapy when, regardless of how well or poorly they communicate, they can no longer hear each other. If one partner says "X," the other partner hears "Y." The assumptions they've built -- whether assumptions about each other, about the situation, or whatever -- make it such that what is spoken or how it's spoken doesn't really matter.


All of that being said, when I discussed the idea for this post with a fellow therapist, her first questions was, "What do you think is the problem, then?" I should have anticipated this question, but somehow I didn't. And, I didn't actually have an answer. So, I started asking myself why this question hadn't even occurred to me. After awhile, I figured it out: every couple is too unique. The main problem can only be discovered through directly interacting with them.


That's part of the reason why therapy is so important. During therapy, the therapist doesn't just become familiar with the problem, they become familiar with you!


As the therapist gets to know you both, you both get to know each other. Too and again. In that way, therapy doesn't just teach communication, it also teaches understanding.


For example, a therapist may help a husband see that his wife isn't refusing his help because she doesn't trust him; she is refusing his help because she has worked really hard to feel strong, so now accepting help is scary because it makes her feel weak again. Now, knowing her better, her husband can actually hear her when she says "I've got this covered."

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