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Using Approaches that Invite Constructive Participation

Marriage counseling can give a couple tools so they can better communicate with each other. Many relationships break down due to poor communication skills that lead to misunderstandings. After awhile, the misunderstandings keep building rather than resolving. All too often, the relationship breaks down.

Sentence-Starters For Communication

Psychotherapists have many tools that can help couples. One in particular that Psychology Today introduces is the idea of sentence-starters. What are they?

Sentence-starters are constructive ways to start a discussion. The words used invite communication instead of instigating an argument. No one likes to be blamed or made wrong, and there is a way to avoid doing that. Using tactful wording to begin conversations can open up communication and allow you to exchange helpful information and ideas.

Examples of Sentence-Starters

Incidentally, these sentence-starters are great for opening up discussions with anyone — parents, siblings and children — not just with a partner or spouse.

Starters for Questions

The following word choices begin the conversation with the idea of a mutual benefit instead of a “me vs. you” mentality:

Good sentence starters include:

  • I feel/felt…
  • My concern is/was…

(Following I feel/felt with feelings such as “confused, anxious, concerned or sad” are more likely to lead to a constructive conversation than using descriptions such as “angry, mad or frustrated.”

A negative example for beginning a conversation is: What’s the matter with you? Why did you run out of the house when you saw the new sofa?

A constructive example would be: I felt concerned when you saw the sofa and ran out. We’d talked about getting a sofa for a while now and I thought you’d be happy.

Other good sentence starters include:

  • I would like to…
  • How/what do you think…(about the subject of discussion)?
  • What was your reaction to (subject of discussion)?

Be sure to balance the conversation and not just voice your feelings. Ask your spouse/partner for their input.

Starters for Answering Questions

When answering a question, a good sentence starter is:

Yes, I agree that…(be specific about what you agree with).

For example: Yes, I agree that we’ve wanted to get a new sofa for some time. You could also explain, “And at the same time, I felt panicked because my new boss told me my job might end. After that, I wasn’t sure how we could afford a new sofa.”

What More Can You Do?

Sentence-starters are just one of many tools that therapists can use in couples therapy. Schedule a consultation and tell us about your relationship and your desires to make it better. Our therapists at Affordable Therapy Los Angeles can see what approaches might work best for you.