Enhancing communication and intimacy in marraige

Even in the strongest of relationships, there will be times when small irritations can cause mountains to grow out of molehills, so it’s important to keep striving for better communication. Good communication involves both partners being aware of their own thoughts and feelings and expressing them in an open, clear way. When a person communicates effectively, there is congruence between their inner experience and their outward expression.
As the essence of relationships, communication has a great impact on every aspect of life. Yet the channels of communication can sometimes become blocked, even among people who care deeply for each other. It’s often difficult to put our feelings into words or concentrate fully when our partner speaks. Unhelpful silences or verbal attacks can arise and drive us further apart.
Common barriers to communication include: threatening or unpleasant behavior such as criticism and bossiness; only hearing what we want to hear; getting bored or distracted; and not expressing our point clearly. Fortunately, working on our communication skills helps us to break through this sort of impasse. So follow these tried and tested tips to stop you reaching for the expletives and reach an understanding instead.
No matter what else is going on, try to make time for your partner on a day-to-day basis. Good communication is about deepening your understanding of each other, not simply avoiding arguments. Easier said than done, of course, but making time to talk is worth the effort. All being well, these occasions will be enjoyable and bring great rewards, so make a dinner date, share a bath or go for a walk together and let the conversation flow.
Secondly, remember the importance of intimate, non-sexual contact. Hugs and kisses are the glue which holds a relationship together, and consider activities such as sport to reconnect non-verbally. Psychologists believe the vast majority of communication takes place without words through body language.
Do you believe you know everything there is to know about your partner? It may be worth checking this out by asking them questions to reveal more about themselves. To deepen the communication and understanding between you, try talking about the times when you feel happiest or your hopes and dreams for the future. Don’t assume that your partner feels the same way you do.
This could bring up relationship ‘hot spots’ – work, money, childcare – which can then be dealt with openly. Experts suggest setting up reciprocal arrangements in which you both agree to take on an equal number of tasks and chores.
Arguments and disagreements between husbands and wives are normal. However, prolonged anger, frustration and resentment are not healthy for the relationship. What couples should engage in is arguing positively whenever conflicts in the marriage arise.
Edit the Argument
Refrain from saying out loud every single angry thought during an argument. Sometimes, talking about sensitive topics can turn really ugly if everything is let out. Couples who edit their arguments are consistently much happier than those who don’t.
Start Argument Gently
Stay positive. Bring up problems gently instead of in an accusing and sarcastic tone. Don’t start the argument as if you are preparing yourself for a big battle. When the tone is non-confrontational and the starting point has been given a lot of thoughts, the chances of the other person listening positively also increase.
Set High Standards in the Relationship
Successful married couples usually practice zero tolerance for hurtful behavior from each other, even when they were newly married. The lower the tolerance level for bad behavior in the early stages of the relationship, the happier the couple will be later on.
End the Argument Constructively
It’s common to see couples shouting at each other and ending the quarrel without any real solution, leaving both parties feeling drained and resentful. This can be prevented by learning to repair and exit the argument.
For instance, before the argument goes completely out of hand, change the subject, use humor, make caring and considerate remarks or show that you are both on the same side. If it’s too heated, call for a time-out. Agree to talk about the issue at another time.
Stay Positive
Happily married couples make at least five times as many positive remarks to and about each other as negative ones whenever they discuss an issue. So focus on the good side instead of the bad. In the heat of the moment, try to stay calm and accentuate the positive. See the other’s point of view while showing respect, and then look for a compromise that you can both accept. Listen carefully, give empathy and positive responses, and overlook the insults. Respond to criticism as useful information, if at all possible! Remember, the objective is not to stop every argument but to stop the escalating bitterness.
Give each other chance to constructively talk
Often couple either using emotions or anger do not allow the other to talk. This further adds to frustration. Give space for the other to talk and empathize by repeating the same sentence using the key words of what the spouse has said.

Accept Influence
To succeed in a marriage, a husband needs to be able to accept influence from his wife. Most women have no problem accepting influence from their husbands but for most men, this is something they need to learn.. A real partnership exists only when both husband and wife can influence one another in the same manner.
It’s alright to argue every now and then in a marriage. In fact, arguments help keep the marital relationship strong and healthy. The trick is to argue positively and constructively. Editing the anger, starting arguments gently, refusing to accept bad behavior towards each other, exiting the argument properly, focusing on positive statements and accepting influence from each other are strategies that smart couples use to stay happily married amidst arguments.
Accept responsibility of your emotions and thoughts
If you find yourself slipping into an argument, there are many ways to keep the row healthy. Most importantly, own your emotions by using “I” statements. For example, rather than “You make me angry,” or “This is all your fault,” try saying, “I feel concerned/upset…”. This keeps things calmer and makes it easier to compromise, as your partner will not become so defensive. Then keep to the point rather than slipping into attack and counter-attack, or emotional withdrawal. But talking this way is only possible if you are aware of your own feelings. For this, you must recognize them, be accepting of them, and able to express them. We each have our own way of dealing with conflicts – your style may be to avoid the issue, give in, or blame the other person. Being aware of your style and that of your partner will help you resolve the situation.
If either partner gets beyond the point of being civil and rational, ask for a “time-out” to calm down. But be sure to agree on continuing the discussion when you have had time to think about it.
Bear in mind that one of the secrets of happy couples is learning to tolerate or accept the other person’s faults. So-called “perfect relationships” do not exist, therefore small faults need to be accepted. Couples counseling encourages reaching an acceptance of one another through compassion and empathy, so you both come to truly understand the other person and become able to share your own feelings in depth. Then you can see the underlying reasons for their criticism or silence, perhaps they are really feeling unloved, rejected or hurt.
Having awareness of these techniques and skills is only half the battle – you need to develop them through practice until they become second nature. It will be an effort to change long-standing habits, but improving communication in your relationship is worth doing, as poor communication is one of the top causes of unhappy relationships.



Rima was a 5.5 year old ASD child when on gentle persuasion by a day care teacher her parents approached us for play therapy. Rima’s parents although both were paramedics, struggled to accept that their child was not normal. Initially they blamed themselves for the lack of time and hoped that their love and attention would reverse her ‘odd’ behaviours. The mother especially blamed her work hours or their decision to have another child (a normal 3 year old son) so soon for Rimas developmental issues.
When they first came to discuss Rima, they thought that the only issue with the child was that she was not very verbal. They claimed that although she was better than before after the day care center teacher spent extra time with her, they were worried how she would react to the big school which she would join in the 1st grade, next year. But as they talked they realized that the problem was far more complex and interlinked. They were able to identify other issues such as her hyperactivity, non communicative behaviour, usually preferring to play on her own, petrified of loud noises and animals, asocial by nature and find it difficult to share things. She also was easily irritated and was often teased and bullied by her cousins to whom she reacted by either crying or reacting violently. She loved to play in sand and go to the beach but didn’t much play with other toys. She was also at times mean and violent with the younger brother. She didn’t demand much, even in food and would be quite passive most of the times. She enjoyed watching television ads, and listened to religious mantras. She seemed to have an unusually bright memory in remembering lyrics of the songs / advertisement / mantras. Her favourite game with her father was to climb on him holding his hand and then throw herself backward head down. Although she does this regularly, the parents were very worried about this as she could seriously injure herself. They had tried to change this behaviour a number of times, but she would not pay heed to their warnings. Infact they thought that her risky behaviours such as this had increased and now she would take every opportunity to jump of the table or even fling herself suddenly at the opposite person, uncaring of how badly she might get hurt or hurt the other person. If shouted at or stopped, she showed an unusually strong temper and become very obstinate. Thus discipline and obedience or boundary setting were major issues with her. She would still wet the bed in the night although not regularly and at times soil her panties. The mother mentioned that Rima was very fond of sand; therefore they had made a sand pit in the balcony for her to play in. But her play in sand was pretty unusual. Instead of making something out of sand, she spent hours just sifting through sand humming to herself a tune. As we talked, the mother recognized other behaviours which although she had noticed, never paid much attention to it. Rima’s inability to generalize learnt behaviours to other similar situations, her inability to focus on two or more things at a time, her insistence of ritualistic actions, her inability to substitute one toy for another similar toy. She also realized that all these behaviours together indicated Autism, a neurologically based life long and severe condition and not merely a late developmental issue or an emotional problem.
The therapist helped them understand how play therapy can benefit an autistic child and how an autistic child’s play differs from that of other children. She also went on to explain how play is a complex phenomenon that occurs naturally for most children and how they move through the various stages of play development and are able to add complexity, imagination, and creativity to their thought processes and actions. However, for many children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) various stages of play never truly develop or develop in a fragmented fashion. These skills which a ‘normal’ person takes so much for granted is actually an uphill task for an ASD child. An ASD child suffers at all three levels of understanding and mastering the skills, cognitive social and behavioural.
Initially it was believed that play therapy is not effective treatment for ASD, recent research has convincingly proved that it is one of the most effective forms of treatment when used at times in a structured manner and especially if it is taught to parents and incorporated in the daily routine by the parents. Extensive opportunities in play therapy for social skills and emotional development help the child by increasing his awareness of other people’s mental states and their intentions. Play therapy then becomes a safe practice zone for the development of these skills.
These play therapy skills can also be taught to the parent / care taker who can incorporate it as a part of the daily routine. Treatment of ASD is highly specialized and a life time task, therefore often very expensive. Play way parenting equips parents to incorporate these play sessions in daily routine of the child and drastically reduces the cost. Parents are also encouraged to introduce it to the rest of the family so that it becomes another support for the ASD child to learn and master the skills. It also indirectly helps the other family members cope with their emotions with regards to the ASD child in a constructive manner.
Play therapy provides ample of opportunities to develop following skills in ASD children, necessary for their learning:
1. Imitation: imitation is a skill that is learnt very early in childhood. But the most crucial aspect of imitation is the ability to generalize these imitative behaviours to other situations. For example a child through imitation learns to smile and then uses cognitive and social skills to generalize smiling behaviour to situations requiring it. But ASD child find it difficult to generalize this to other situations. During play therapy, puppets, role enactment, make believe situations etc are used to increase the generalizations of these imitative responses.
2. Object exploration: children suffering from ASD find it difficult to initiate an exploratory play. This is because they get over whelmed with multiple stimuli and over a period of time, due to past experiences they learn to be socially reserved. In play therapy, the sensitive manner in which the therapist approaches the child establishes a safe and trusting environment for the child to attempt to explore. Then when the therapist incorporates some specific techniques such as restricting the space during play and giving them toy one by one the child finds it easier to learn them. A combination of skills and emotional support substantially increases these initiative responses in the child. It also helps to increase the child’s self confidence and self esteem.
3. Exploratory and Experimentation with play: Play therapy is often one of the first experiences of play without any target response goals for an ASD child. Being socially withdrawn they rarely take any initiatives to play on their own. Since play sessions are directed towards play only, it provides them with an opportunity to experiment and explore with play in a safe and trusting environment. Manipulation of toys in play session helps them to practice varying characteristics of toys, classification of toys such as sorting and matching, establish causal relationship between events and how to influence the world around them.
4. Communication skill: Communication skills such as expressing emotions, expressing specific needs, using gestures and joint attention are mastered during play sessions. Play therapists create surprise events during play sessions, using visual information to communicate verbally something that the child wants. This provides the child with ample opportunities to practice putting their emotions into gestures and words and thus reduces their frustration about not being able to get their needs met. It also reminds ASD children that communication and play involves another person and acts as a bridge toward more complicated or symbolic communication using words assessing not only their emotions and needs but also to match it with the other person. This is especially a difficult area for an ASD child as these skills are highly dependent also on social skills, both a problem area for the child. This skill can be taught using substitution of the play object (such as dolls), role enactment using various toys (puppets), recreating real life situations with numerous alternatives, helping the child to elaborate on intentions (involving verbal communication), helping the child to master ideas / themes, discussing with the child abstract themes and using obstacles to generate alternative solutions.
5. Signing or acting: Play sessions provide ample of opportunities to use a combination of gestures supported by verbal communication. This helps in the transition from no communication to gestures and then to verbal communication. This also helps to reduce the child’s frustration with people, usually strangers who are unable to understand their sign language. It thus increases their confidence socially and also boosts their self esteem. We often find a simultaneous reduction in anger in the child.
6. Peer Play: Peer play also relies on social cues which ASD child finds extremely difficult. Therefore we often find and autistic child unable to share, wait for turns, negotiate with another child, imitate other role models, ask for help, request for events / objects, initiate inviting another child for spontaneous play, all of which a necessity for any school going child. Through structured play sessions dealing with each of these skills and then slowly moving on to group play sessions or introducing it amongst the siblings the child gains enough confidence in these skills to be able to practice them at school or with other peers.
7. Increasing attention and concentration: also requires the child to comprehend the object and hold it in his thought symbolically. Play sessions intrinsically provide these opportunities to the child. It then becomes a practice field where the child learns to master these skills and then be able to use them outside.
8. Motor coordination also increases tremendously using play toys. The child learns to explore and experiment with different shapes, sizes textures and colours of toys in a non threatening, goal less, safe environment where the only goal is pleasure.
9. Parenting skills are also improved. Very often without realizing parents facilitate the learned helplessness in the child as he is unable to communicate. We often find the parent not being able to push the child to learn the above mentioned skills or become too harsh and frustrated. Neither of these behaviours are conducive for further development. During play sessions parents get an opportunity to examine their play deficits as well as express their own emotions and frustrations with the therapist. This kind of self exploration helps in dealing with parental anxiety of their child and his future in a manner which will help the child become independent.

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