Tips on how to improve communication….

….when rebuilding your relationship following the discovery of sex addiction and/or porn addiction

Please note – If you are a partner who has just discovered that your partner has a sex addiction or porn addiction, then we suggest starting with some of our other blogs which focus on your welfare as you deal with the shock of discovery and the many questions and emotions you are experiencing right now.  Our recent blog series on “Mind, body and soul betrayal” is a good place to start.

This blog is aimed at couples who have worked through the impact stage of discovery of sex addiction in the relationship.  The couple have individually sought help and are now in a place to focus on repairing the relationship. 

Couples can feel like that their relationship is at a crossroads, the couple looking in different directions on where they think the relationship should go.  The addicted partner is focused on their journey of recovery from sex addiction.  While the partner is trying to adjust to a life that was not planned and having to put trust in his/her addicted partner.  Not easy!  So, we have come up with 7 ways for improving communication which can help couples join up and start to walk together.

1.  Think before you speak

Easier said than done, but try and take a breath before blurting out something that has not been thought through.  A lot of hurt can be caused by unplanned words that are fueled by anger and fear.  Take some time to think about what you need from the conversation.  Your goal could be to gather information, express your opinion, tell your partner how you are feeling or highlight something that is bothering you.  Once you know what you want to say, the next step is finding the right time to say it.

2.  Find the right time

Productive conversations work best in environments without other distractions.  When both of you are ready and have the time to talk things through.  Choosing the timing is important.  You will become frustrated if you try and start a conversation when your partner is too tired or pre-occupied which can lead to hurt feelings if you’re left unheard or misunderstood.  Some couples who have busy lives, schedule time in their diaries, where they will meet and talk about key issues in their relationship.

3.  Keep focussed

When you’ve found time to talk, it’s tempting to use that space to offload all your pent-up anger and say things that have been bugging you for ages.  Offloading in this way, runs the high risk of saying something that you regret and not talking about what you both agreed to discuss.  If you are feeling angry and know you are not in the right head space for a constructive conversation, then it’s probably best to postpone the conversation to another time.

4.  Ban certain words

There are some words which make us feel like we are being attacked or blamed for something.  This puts us in a defensive mood and not ready to listen to how the other person is feeling.  Words to avoid in conversations are :   ‘you’ / ‘never ‘ / ‘always’ / ‘should’.

Examples are:

“You make me angry when you’re late”    replace with   “I feel angry when you’re late”

“You never help around the house”    replace with  “It feels like I do all the housework“

“I always make the decisions”    replace with   “I feel as though I make all the decisions”

“You should ….”    replace with…..”I’d like you to….”

5.  Avoid interrupting

Often when we are listening, we are only half listening.  We are already planning our reply, just waiting for our partner to pause breath to get in our response.  On some occasions, if we feel our partner is labouring the point for too long, we just interrupt.  This can really annoy our partners!  Interrupting can convey to our loved one that we don’t care or value what they have to say, that we are not listening properly and that we have the answer.  Some couples use an object like a cushion to show they are not to be interrupted while they hold the cushion.  The other person sits and listens and then repeats what they have heard their partner say.  This allows the partner to clarify what they meant or confirm that their partner has understood.  The cushion is then given to the other person to talk.

6.  Be aware of your body language

We can subtly show our loved ones that we are not interested in the conversation, this can be done by sighing, avoiding eye contact, scrolling on our phone, carrying on with another task, folding our arms, rolling our eyes, going silent or starting to cry.  It is not comfortable to admit to the ways we sabotage conversations, but self-awareness and honesty enables us to stop the behaviour and start to listen well.

7.  Talk about your feelings

Your partner is not a mind-reader.  If you want your partner to understand you and what you are thinking and feeling, then you need to explain.  For example, telling your partner that you feel unvalued when they are late for dinner, will let your partner know how their behaviour is affecting you.  The addicted partner can find it incredibly hard hearing how their behaviour has caused pain but being able to sit and listen to your partners feelings shows a commitment to the relationship and an opportunity to move forward.

For more information on communication between couples, then we suggest reading “Improving your Relationship for Dummies” by Paula Hall (2010)