By Dr. Debra Rezendes, HMT Resident in Marriage and Family Therapy
Many couples seek out couples therapy because they are finding communication difficult. In the world of couples interventions, communication skills training and “I” statements are popular. While these skills may provide short-term gains, I often see them failing to provide the real, substantive change that couples long for in their relationships. Why?
There is a strong desire in us to feel seen and heard by our partner.
We also have a strong yearning for them to provide us a safe place to land when the stresses of the world become too loud. The reality is that we really don’t have to get it perfect to feel in sync with our partner. When we feel valued, loved, and connected to our partner, we can see the heart of their intentions and the missteps feel small in comparison. We can weather the hurts together, repair them more easily, and come out feeling closer.
The truth is that emotionally intimate communication needs emotional safety.
We need the emotional safety to turn to our partners when we feel disconnected and the vulnerability to repair the ways we miss each other. We need to know that we can bare the hurt and trust that our partner can see our raw parts and love us more deeply because of them. When we miss understanding, recognizing, and acknowledging these deeper longings, we miss the bonding that is at the heart of communication.
Understand your communication challenges.
It may seem like a tall order but we can begin to understand our communication challenges better by understanding what we do when we feel disconnected from our partner. Do you emotionally shut down? Do you push and push for a solution? Do you and your partner throw verbal daggers and bullets at each other? By beginning to peel back the layers of how we show up and how our partner responds, we begin to understand the cycle that entraps us in communication patterns that make us feel distressed and alone in our hurt.
Debra has over ten years of community and clinical work with individuals, children, parents, and families and has been published in the Journal of Happiness Studies and Autism Research and Treatment. She received her doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy from Eastern University and has gained specialized, intensive training in emotionally focused therapy (EFT) and Theraplay. She also has skills in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), strengths-based therapies, self-compassion training, attachment-based therapies, play therapy, and solution-focused therapy.
Dr. Debra Rezendes is a Resident in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working towards licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist in Virginia. She works under the supervision of Marianne S. Coad, MAMFC, LMFT, LPC-S. In the event that clients have any questions or concerns about Debra’s work, her supervisor can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, (703) 657-9721, or 10379-B Democracy Lane, Fairfax, VA 22030.