Why Can't We Talk Anymore

How couples can start to listen and hear each other again
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Why Can’t We Talk Anymore, Why Are We So Distant?

Well, you are communicating, but likely on a level that triggers and reinforces feelings of conflict, hurt and rejection.

When individual needs are not recognised or met within a relationship then over an extended period of time this can lead to distance, sadness and resentment. This often when a couple first start thinking about relationship counselling.

As the couple continues to criticise, ignore, shout down, interrupt, whinge or discount each other without outside professional help then the relationship is likely on a course to fail.

Destructive Cycles

Awareness and understanding of what is happening is an important part of couples counselling. This can help interrupt the destructive cycle either one or more likely both of you have fallen into by doing something different.

To help gain awareness and insight I use Transactional Analysis. This is a form of psychotherapy that uses a model of personality recognising three states of being that we rapidly move in and out of.  We have an inner Parent, Adult and Child (note the Capital letter to denote the state from a physical person) with each state of mind having a specific set of characteristics that are repeated and observable to self and others.

Parent Adult Child Diagram

The Parent – P

In the Parent state are held our judgments, rules, values as well as our prejudices. It is a social construct learnt from parents and caregivers how we should be. It is very much about authority, tradition, control, order, protection, punishment.

Our inner rules also apply to how we parent our children, are we strict, attentive or unresponsive. It directs formal social interactions such as work, meeting strangers, interacting with authority figures.

It is the language of ‘you should, you ought and you must’.

The Child – C

The Child state holds our wants and desires and well as what we don’t want. It is that part of us that works out how to get what we want and how to avoid punishment. Here is creativity, spontaneity, cooperation and vulnerability.

It also a place of over adaption to others, being scared and submissive where life isn’t fair through to declaring It’s mine, being rebellious and moody

It is the language of I and of excitement – Wow, ouch through to I want, I don’t want, I wish, I love/hate you and It’s not fair!

The Adult -A

This part of use is our logical and emotionally balanced self. Reasonable and appropriate weighing up pros and cons in the moment.

It is a measured response that acts as referee between the should of the Parent and the wants of the Child inner states. Our grown-up self that acts accordingly to the situation, thinking through the outcome and taking action that supports beneficial growth and development.

We all move in and out of these states rapidly reacting and responding to things that happen around us and to us.

Getting Stuck

When a painful or threatening situation keeps on occurring it impacts on our wellbeing. We can get stuck so that we find ourselves continually interacting from a negative Parent and negative Child position.

Because we react so quickly to our partners comments and perceived attack/put downs we often don’t recognise what part we are playing in that interaction.

Couples counselling enables individuals to see not only what their partner is doing but also to see what they are doing and how they are influencing the ongoing situation.

Image of Transactions

Getting Unstuck

Rather than simply blaming the other and feeling bad which is disempowering. By engaging with couples counselling, you can learn to change how and what you communicate in the relationship.

Instead of communicating hurt and pain from the negative Parent and Child we can use our Adult to convey the feelings in a way that isn’t about attacking the other.

Doing this requires you to slow down and not just react in the moment. Rather to think about what you want the other person to hear including what the impacts are on you and those feelings.

When we feel attacked, we feel compelled to defend ourself. When not feeling attacked we can listen.

Image of Adult Communication

Talking and Listening

When a couple can share their feelings about themselves rather than making it all about the other then they can start to see each other’s point of view. We might not agree with that position instead we can listen calmly to that view that is different from ours.

Unmet needs and wants then can surface and be shared. Communication for couples in relationship is about sharing thoughts and feeling which manifest in the act of listening.

Couples counselling deescalates the situation and allows the expression of vulnerability without diminishing or attacking the other. When we feel better about ourself we can feel better about our partner.