Almost every couple attending relationship counselling reports some level of communication breakdown. This may be happening all the time or it may be specific to a certain topic such as sex, money, kids, in-laws etc.

It is very common for couples to get ‘stuck’ over certain issues – or, indeed, at particular stages of their relationship where they feel they just can’t get through to each other effectively. This often happens when strong emotions arise and partners can become what is known as ‘flooded’ by emotion.

This describes a common situation where a person may not be able to think straight when in the middle of a conflict. It also accounts for the other common experience: afterthoughts such as ‘why didn’t I say X’, or ‘if only I’d thought about Y’. Or, worse: ‘I didn’t mean that – I don’t even know why I said it!’

This capacity to reflect on what was or wasn’t said, and the wish we could change things, usually happens when we have ‘cooled down’. In other words, our emotions have subsided, we can think more clearly again and we see how we may have contributed to the breakdown.

Despite their best efforts and a real determination not to let communication be derailed in this way, couples return to these patterns with a frustrating frequency that can be really painful and disheartening.

It is advisable to seek assistance with this sooner rather than later as, when there is a breakdown in communication, the individuals in the couple tend to feel hurt and misunderstood. Unassisted, this frequently leads to a negative cycle which exacerbates the problem rather than easing it and the sooner it is addressed the easier life becomes and the relationship can deepen and strengthen in the process. Too many couples fall apart unnecessarily when this happens.

Relatively simply frameworks and skills can have astounding results in the quality of a couple’s relationship when some guidelines and structures are implemented to help them through the tricky conversations. This forms the basis of a positive cycle of relating, one that is constructive rather than destructive.

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