3 steps to communicate better in your marriage and relationship


Most couples i see have the same concern about their relationship. They feel like they are not communicating well. The challenge many couples face is how to communicate effectively in a relationship.

In his book SHORT TERM COUPLES THERAPY, THE IMAGO MODEL IN ACTION, Luquet (2007) describes a three steps process to learning how to communicate in a relationship.

Mirroring: the receiving partner repeats back almost verbatim what their partner said. It prevents the receiving partner from responding defensively because they need to be able to focus entirely on what their partner is saying to be able to say it back to them. It also ensures that the sending partner feels completely heard as they hear the exact words they said “mirrored” back to them.

Validating: is a process in which the receiving partner acknowledges that validity of their partner’s view points from their partner’s perspective. That is to say, it is acknowledging that if they saw things like their partner did, they would think the same things their partner is communicating to them. The receiving partner may not agree at all with the though, and that is not the point. The point is to allow the receiving partner enough time listening to recognize that what their partner is saying makes perfect sense to them, even if they don’t agree with it. It is a process of one partner putting themselves in their partner’s shoes for a moment and seeing things through their eyes, and acknowledging the validity of their views from their perspective. The aim is to get the two partners to recognize that they both have different views and none of their views is wrong per se.

Empathizing: empathizing is a process in which the receiving partner tries to guess the emotions and feeling of their partner, regarding the issue they just validated them on. It is an attempt to guess how their partner may be feeling about what they have just communicated to them. Because it is only a guess, it can never be wrong. If the receiving partner’s guess was not accurate, the sending partner will correct them, and the couple can engage in the complete dialogue process again (mirroring and validating), until the receiving partner can get an accurate read on how their partner is feeling about the issue being discussed.

These three ways to communicate in a relationship works with couples because it eliminates the need to be defensive and focuses the attention of the receiver on the content of the message. This in turn leads the sending partner to feel fully heard, and therefore reduces anxiety and allows for a better dialogue. Validating what the partner said further helps the sending partner to feel heard and understood, while at the same time giving the receiving partner the chance to put themselves in their partner’s shoes and see things their way. The receiving partner may then be better able to empathize with their partner, and if they can accurately guess what their partner may be feeling in the empathizing stage, they would feel closer to their partner (because they gained a new and accurate understanding of how their partner is thinking and feeling), while their partner will feel heard, validated and empathized with.

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About Sam Nabil

Sam Nabil is the founder of Naya Clinics and is a Cincinnati therapist and a Cincinnati Marriage Counselor.

Sam offers therapy in Cincinnati and Cincinnati Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety.

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