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Maintaining healthy relationships can be a challenge in this day and age, but more often than not, it is communication or lack of it that can make or break a relationship.
Muktesh Chibber

21 Mar 2017 - 2:40 PM  UPDATED 21 Mar 2017 - 5:05 PM

It is not unusual for family members to seek professional assistance when stressful situations compound and challenge a marital relationship. In my career as a therapist who works with families, there is one prominent theme, that presents itself over and over again: and that is ‘a breakdown of communication.’ Rebuilding and strengthening any relationship relies on your ability to start communicating positively and respectfully

Mutual understanding:

It is a known fact that couples are emotionally invested in their marriage. Then how and why does the vision of the ‘fairy tale relationship’ turn into a battleground? While unravelling the communication patterns of couples, it becomes more apparent that there is actually very little that unhappy partners know and understand about each other. The image of a happy married life which I refer to in a ‘fairy tale relationship’ has to be worked upon by both partners. So the onus lies with both partners to build a mutual understanding.

I consider communication to be the main key that sustains or breaks a relationship. However, I am a firm believer, and greatly value the concept of ‘understanding each other’ which enables an ongoing connectedness in a respectful marriage. This can be developed by couples regularly sharing their thoughts and feelings with each other.

Respectful communication is the key:

The concept of understanding each other is a pre-requisite to building predictability in marriage, which in turn reduces turmoil in the relationship.  I encourage couples and family members to be in touch with their own, and with their partner’s emotional journey. This requires for partners to be ‘mindful’ and focus on the tone of communication. It is important to spend quality time to understand each other's beliefs, attitudes, opinions and visions. How difficult is it for couples to spend 15-20 minutes a day, to hear each other out? To spend some time with each other, to understand their life partners’ emotions and to comfort them?

Conflict is inevitable:

It is paramount, for each partner to respectfully accept this fact:  not everything is likely to go your way and that, one must have the ability to reach a mutual agreement. Conflict or difference of opinions is inevitable. However maintaining the partnership and working with each other during the course of arguments is an effective way of positively resolving conflict, rather working against each other. It all comes down to the art of communication and the language used. Most importantly, both partners must believe in the approach that conflicts can be resolved in a healthy manner.

Couples must remember that effective communication involves:

  • The right of each partner to be able to express themselves freely and respectfully. 
  • The ability to work together as a team, while respecting each others’ personal goals.
  • Partners not to overshadow each other or put the other person down.
  • By choosing words carefully, speaking respectfully in a non-blaming language.
  • Listening with empathy, and sharing their emotions with each other.
  •  Positive patterns of communications for constant negotiations.

Listening is a significant skill and active listening is pronounced when partners

  • Paraphrase what is being said and confirm that both partners have understood correctly.
  • Have an approach of understanding the other, and not an attitude of defence
  • Seeking clarification to enhance understanding of what is being said.
  • Listen to understand each other rather than to react.

During therapy, I encourage partners to create a culture of “positive dialogue” among themselves, which involves open and transparent communication and responding in a neutral language. Couples need to adopt a cooperative and collaborative approach rather than working against each other. Remember, maintaining respectful and healthy relationships is a joint responsibility. It requires the ability to recognise each other and cultivate an environment in building positive moments.  Couples plan their marriage to create a safe haven for themselves then,’ why not work with each other instead of against each other?’


Muktesh Chibber works as a Couple & Family Therapist at Relationships Australia. She is also the founder of Indian Family Relationship Services.