Failure to communicate

Heritage Health offers family counseling services

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Communication is the key to marriage

Roughly half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce, but many are saved from dissolution thanks to individual counseling, commitment and communication.

However, there are no quick fixes.

“Relationships take a lot of work to sustain,” said Jodi Smith, Heritage Health Clinic's Director of Family Support Services. “We've all heard, and many have said, 'Love will carry us through.' While having love for one another is a key element to the survival of a relationship, communication is every bit as key.”

Through the course of a marriage, couples' communication skills can erode, and they fail to express their feelings to each other. A downward spiral ensues.

“For some reason, we assume our significant other has become a mind reader, or that they should know what we are thinking,” Smith said. “The problem with this assumption is that it can lead to inaccurate interpretations of actions and words, which can lead to confusion, frustration, arguments, and ultimately, resentment on the part of one or both. As patterns of unhealthy communication are developed, they become more and more difficult to change.”

According to Smith, couples tend to believe that “He always does this” or “She always says that,” assuming that what he's done or she's said is meant with intention to be hurtful.

“We forget that most people do not intentionally engage in behaviors to hurt others,” Smith said. “While all behaviors do have an intent and purpose, they are usually acted upon due to an unmet need.

“Here's a simple and quite common example: When one partner is hungry and makes themselves a sandwich, and the other gets mad because they didn't make them one. How would the partner making the sandwich know the other was hungry unless some communication took place?”

Since every relationship is different and a person's ability to function within one is based on their own experiences, such as parental role models, a  mental health professional or counselor can be a valuable asset.

“When one partner goes to counseling, they learn new skills and strategies that should assist them to decrease the discomfort that brought them to ask for help. As this partner learns new strategies and begins to incorporate them, the other can begin to feel threatened, as the dynamics of the relationship have changed,” Smith said. “Simply put, one is changing while the other is staying the same. It's important for both partners to learn those new skills and strategies.”

Last year, Heritage Health had 20,000 patient visits through its Family Support Service program, which includes individual and family counseling, community-based rehabilitation programs and educational classes.

Health insurance policies vary, so individuals should check with their provider to see what's covered before scheduling an appointment.

For more information call (208) 769-4222 http://www.myheritagehealth.org/

-Written by Marc Stewart, Director of Sponsored Content

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