Relationship and Marriage Communication Counseling

RELATIONSHIP COMMUNICATION COUNSELING

Relationships are complicated, and at Acuity we don’t pretend that communication will fix all your problems. Instead we choose not to focus on the issue at hand that leads to an argument, but we focus on the deeper meanings and connection.

Communication: A Key Relationship Skill

You are probably asking yourself one of these questions day in and day out. Communication issues are rarely a one time thing, but tend to happen over and over, wearing you out:

“We don’t talk anymore.”

“I can’t talk to my husband, he is always: getting mad, shutting down, ignoring me, etc.”

“Why can’t we communicate?”

If you feel that you can’t communicate with your partner, then you may be on the path to feeling like you are living alone or with a stonewalling roommate. The feelings associated with not being able to talk with your partner range from anger to loneliness. 

In daily life, poor communication can mean that when you come home with a new brand of ice cream and ask if this one is okay, you get a one word reply: “Sure.” It could also be even more glaring. For example say you got a new job or promotion, but when you tell your partner excitedly they just nod a bit and continue what they were doing. 

Your main desire now is likely: “If we could just talk.” For other people the underlying feeling is “If I could just feel connected to my partner and understood.” If you have just started having this feeling, act now! Communication issues are some of the earliest signs of relationship distress, and can be much more easily fixed early on. Most couples come to therapy years after the point that they can most benefit from it (we estimate 6 years too late). Just as your car requires maintenance, your relationship does as well. As soon as that check engine light of “poor communication” comes on, you should talk with someone who can help.  


Note: Relationship issues are similar across all relationship types. When we use terms like “couple” we don’t intend to exclude any groups from our advice. Non-monogomous or polyamorous couples can benefit as much from our relationship counseling as any other normative couple. In fact many of the common obstacles that such relationship arrangements bring can be best navigated with the help of a relationship advisor.

We offer Couples Counseling for:


Intimacy and Sexual Concerns »


Infidelity Repair or Loss of Trust »


Communication and Conflict Resolution »


Family Counseling/Parental Challeges »


Our Clinicians also help with:

  • Preparing for Partnership & Premarital Counseling
  • Life Transitions (beginning, ending or changing your relationship status)
  • Marriage Counseling
  • Relationship Discernment Counseling

Contact us to schedule an appointment or ask a question:

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Relationships Thrive on Communication

Communication is the number one issue that couples name when they talk about the biggest challenges in their relationship. Just under 60% of couples state that communication is a main reason for them to seek therapy. [1] This was tied with intimacy/emotional neglect as the top reason to seek therapy across all couples. 

This makes sense, especially when you think about relationships the way we do. Relationships at their core are unions of two completely different viewpoints and realities. If we can’t communicate with our partner about how we understand certain situations and problems, we can’t understand their perspective and act as a unit. 

A major reason why couples face issues with communication is that we all learn how to communicate differently. We learn how to communicate when we are children (mostly from parents) and so we often use the same skills throughout our lives even when they don’t help us. This extends beyond romantic relationships as well. If you saw a parent bully their friends, you may take away the same lessons as you grow without even knowing it. So in a relationship, even if you see exactly the same problem or situation as your partner you will communicate in  different ways and complications may ensue. 

Fixing communication isn’t as simple as using a talking stick so that we each get a chance to hear each other, but instead is about re-learning how we understand our partner and our behaviors surrounding how we communicate.

What You Never Knew About Communication in Marriage and Relationships

Verbal communication is just the tip of the iceberg.

If you imagine communication as an iceberg, only the top 10% verbal. The bulk of communication is under the water and involves our underlying meanings, beliefs, motions, intontations, actions, and emotions.

Communication is mostly non-verbal

It’s almost impossible to say just how much of our daily communication is non-verbal, but nonetheless, nonverbal communication remains a major aspect of our daily lives. In many cases it is not what we say, but how we say it. In the example above, if you get a nod or an “okay” from a partner or even a flat/sarcastic “that’s amazing,” you can’t help but be frustrated. The message is technically fine, but the tone completely ruins the expectations that you had. Small moments like this define a relationship.

This means that communication is open to interpretation. If your partner hates attention and praise, maybe a subdued response is what they prefer so that’s what they give. If you gave your partner the same exact reply in the same way, it’s possible that they would have a completely different reaction.

In reality what drives communication is our core values, values like our sense of self, our beliefs about what to prioritize. If your partner has low self-esteem and reacts negatively to praise, understanding that root belief is key to learning how to communicate comfortably with your partner.

This is why at Acuity, we choose not to focus on the issue at hand that leads to an argument, but we focus on the deeper meanings in the relationship. Oftentimes it isn’t simply the point of contention: dishwasher, job, chores, kids, etc. but about feeling like your opinion matters and your partner cares about what you think.

Communication can be a sign of something deeper

Beyond not feeling listened to, poor communication is often our underlying emotions showing through. Maybe you just moved in with a partner and now she isn’t communicating as easily. Perhaps she is tense about the idea of a long term commitment, but doesn’t want to talk about it because it may bother you. Here resolving the “communication issue” means coming to terms with the emotions and beliefs at play.

Emotional intimacy is often an underlying issue of communication problems in couples and must be addressed to change behavior and improve relationships. [2] Read more about our emotionally focused work and intimacy.

How to Communicate Better in a Relationship

Step 1: Build a healthy communication environment

Therapy works well because it recreates a safe environment for difficult issues to be talked about. In our day to day relationship we can get lost in our immediate needs and find it difficult to pull back and look at the big picture (even us therapists fail at this at times). This means that couples need an open mind when it comes to communication. You may need to rethink how and what you talk about, and being in a new therapy environment can help with this.

Step 2: Understand who you are

We come into relationships with all kinds of beliefs, thoughts, feelings and habits. If we never examine these it can lead to mishaps during the relationship. Many states have mandated premarital therapy so that these can be explored before any contracts signed.

Understanding yourself is the first step to a successful relationship. Some people find it best to talk about their inner life directly with their partner, while others prefer to work separately with a counselor for a session or two. In either case, you will learn more about yourself and any red flags (negative thoughts, behaviors, etc.) to look out for in later therapy sessions.

Step 3: Understand your partner

If you think of a relationship like a bridge, there are two riverbanks that the bridge is built into and both have to be stable for lasting connection. Those banks of the bridge are the personalities and beliefs of each partner.

In therapy, whether your partner is sharing more about their attitudes towards relationships and communication with you in the room or not, you will learn more about how they see the relationship through their eyes. Sharing is strongly encouraged in sessions, and the answers we get from partners are certainly worth hearing.

Step 4: Understand the Relationship

There are many aspects of a relationship that it helps to explicitly talk about with your partner. Much of the time when we are dating we ignore the important long term questions to ask, and when we are committed we are too comfortable to ask them. 

Many couples find benefit in redefining boundaries. For example, if you are constantly spending time with each other (perhaps due to a pandemic) you may be in conflict more. How much “me time” or “free time” do you each need to be happy? It’s easy for many couples (especially newlyweds) to smother each other with time. 

Similarly, discussing your roles and responsibilities in the relationship and around the house can be important to do up front to minimize conflicts down the road. Perhaps this means discussing roles when it comes to intimacy. How can you reduce stress during the day to make intimacy possible? Who should initiate what and when? Do you need to make it an explicit priority to have a happy relationship? All of these are questions we should consider. 

Step 5: Build New Communication Skills

Some couples find benefit in practical skills like active listening when learning how to better communicate with their partner. They can also try starting conflicts with an“I” statement: “I feel…”, instead of starting a conversation where the other partner feels defensive right away. There are dozens of techniques and games that we teach couples to improve their specific communication issue.

Frequently Asked Questions for Couples Communication Counseling

Should we come in separately?

If you feel that you are the one in the relationship that is always pushing for communication and your partner is the main issue, then why should you come into therapy together? Well to start you can’t be sure that your own communication is perfect (you may be oversharing or overbearing for one), but also know that a relationship is a system. How one partner acts and reacts changes how the other partner acts in the relationship and vice versa. You have to work on the system as a whole and not piecemeal.

Will you take sides?

Generally no. We understand that both couples need to be challenged in a relationship. While sometimes one partner can contribute more to relationship issues, the solution takes work from both sides. At times we may ask more of one partner to reconcile for a past wrong, but we work hard to keep our counseling simultaneously challenging and unbiased.

Is raising your voice during arguments significant in any way?

While arguments are common in many relationships, if it escalates to threats, shouting or violence, it has passed the point of being constructive. If you find that you or your partner are yelling during an argument, you should work on that. Yelling is often a sign of contempt or other negative emotions that will affect other aspects of the relationship. Contempt for example is referred to as one of the red flags of a failed relationship as it denotes lack of emotional intimacy and empathy. Read more about intimacy and emotion here.

If we fix our communication will the relationship be fixed?

While fixing communication is an important step in building a healthy relationship for the long term, it isn’t the only thing that matters. In fact, as we mention, many marriage counselors focus too much on communication at the expense of other important aspects of marriage. Relationships are emotional, so while communication can reduce harm, if underlying emotions are stained that needs to be a major point of focus.

Should we go to a marriage retreat to learn this skill?

While a marriage retreat can teach you a lot of the basics of couples communication and help you develop other skills, too often we have seen couples come back from these expensive experiences frustrated. The truth is that relearning behaviors, emotions and skills takes time. They are best developed in daily life. You can learn some communication skills and have conversations in therapy but until you can implement it when discussing bills (for example) it’s an abstract idea. Lasting changes means making a cycle between education and implementation.

Which therapist is right for us?

Let us help you find the right therapist. Many of our therapists specialize in anxiety, so view our profiles online to learn more about specific counselors specializing in anxiety treatment or speak with our Client Care Coordinator, who can help you with a personalized match to the right therapist for your needs. 

Finding the RIGHT therapist is the most important piece of reaching your goals.

How long does Therapy take?

Counseling works best within the framework of a safe and trusted therapeutic alliance. Since it takes time to build this relationship with your therapist, we recommend committing to weekly sessions for at least 8 weeks. Research shows that consistency adds to the positive outcomes of therapy. Once you reach your 8-week goal, you and your therapist can discuss a frequency of sessions that will support your continued success.

I’ve never done therapy before...What can I expect in my sessions?

The unknown of anything new can make it scary. Especially if you’ve never been to counseling before. Let us show you the “roadmap” so you know what to expect:

1st Session:
This first meeting is an introduction for both you and your counselor. Your therapist will explain the therapy process and go over the specifics of informed consent. From there, your therapist will gather additional information about your history, current circumstances, as well as struggles and personal strengths, which will help them to define a treatment plan that aligns with your goals. 

This is also the chance for you to learn more about your therapist. We encourage you to ask questions and get to know them; the relationship you build with your therapist will be the most important part of your work together. 

2nd Session and Future sessions:
In your weekly sessions, you and your therapist will use evidenced based therapies such as CBT, Mindfulness or ACT, to help you address your symptoms of worry, stress and anxiety. For anxiety rooted in trauma, or related to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), your therapist may recommend treatment with EMDR.

Closing Sessions:
Our goal is for you to find relief from your anxiety and be ready to “graduate” from therapy. In the last few sessions with your therapist, you will review your initial goals, the progress you have made, and solidify your new skills for managing anxiety in your life. At your last meeting together, you’ll have the time for the meaningful goodbye with your therapist.

How much does Counseling cost?

We strive to create access to high quality mental healthcare for everyone. Our therapists’ rates vary by experience and specialized training. We will make every effort to find the right therapist for you. 

Acuity Counseling also accepts health insurance and offers both in-network and out-of-network coverage. 

We are in-network partners with: 

Aetna

Cigna

First Choice

Premera Blue Cross

* We do not participate in EAP plans

Why don’t you only use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

While we use CBT as an aspect of our therapeutic approaches, we know that every individual is different. No one responds to any method perfectly, so by employing many techniques we are able to provide the most personalized support. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is talked about in relation to mental health so often because it has a large body of research behind it and is easy to replicate across all cases. This is why you may hear it called “evidence based,” which it certainly is. However, we use other evidence based therapies in conjunction with CBT in our therapies.

How can I evaluate whether therapy is working?

Acuity is unique because we use research backed questionnaires to assess your mood, goals and progress. From time to time we may share with you your progress on these reports, “you report being angry 30% less days than when you started therapy,” and then ask what your goals for the future may be. We have found that by having clients set their own goals and following up regularly we can achieve better results.

Is medication used in conjunction with your therapy?

Some conditions for some people are best treated with the help of medication. If we find it necessary after our initial assessments, we will discuss types of medication, your comfort with it, and the pros and cons of medication with you. If you so choose, we can refer you to the appropriate psychopharmacologist in the area. If you are already on medication, we will coordinate treatment with your primary provider.

How long does therapy take?

Counseling works best within the framework of a safe and trusted therapeutic alliance. Since it takes time to build this relationship with your therapist, we recommend committing to weekly sessions for at least 8 weeks. Research shows that consistency adds to the positive outcomes of therapy. Once you reach your 8-week goal, you and your therapist can discuss a frequency of sessions that will support your continued success.

Break-free and begin your journey to

Your best
YOU.

There is a future life where trauma does not control your day. Imagine yourself feeling calm, confident and ready to handle new situations with ease. The tools to living the life you have always envisioned are here, at your fingertips.

Acuity Counseling can help.

 

Schedule your therapy session online

Reach out directly to our Client Care Coordinator for questions, matching, and scheduling:

Online Counseling

Our services are also available online through Zoom. Telehealth/Online counseling gives you the opportunity to explore your challenges in life without complicating your daily schedule.

GET STARTED

If you have questions and would like to talk about any of our counseling services, please reach out for a complimentary phone consultation or send us an email.

First Session Within 72 Hours of Calling

We book you an appointment within 24 hours of contacting us (usually less) and make sure your first appointment is soon after.

Seattle: 206-922-2376

Bellevue: 425-549-3242

Bothell/Woodinville: 206-910-9476

info@acuitycounseling.net

for Billing questions call:
206-922-2298

SCHEDULING

Use our Online Scheduling Tool or call our office to schedule your appointment, or for any changes regarding scheduling.

Schedule by phone: 206-910-9476

INSURANCE

Counseling services are often covered in full or in part by your health insurance company. Acuity Counseling proudly accepts most major health insurance plans.

Aetna

First Choice

HMA

Lifewise

Meritain

Cigna

GEHA

Kaiser Core/PPO

Sound Health & Wellness

Premera Blue Cross

We do not participate
in EAP Plans

Acuity Counseling Locations

Seattle

Bellevue

Bothell/Woodinville

BELLEVUE, WA
Cascade Place II
12729 Northup Way, Suite 6
Bellevue WA 98005
(206) 910-9476

SEATTLE, WA
Plaza 600 Building
600 Stewart St, Suite 1228
Seattle WA 98101
(206) 910-9476

BOTHELL/WOODINVILLE
Falcon View
12900 NE 180th St, Suite 160
Bothell, WA 98011
(206) 910-9476

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