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Separation and communication: Are you growing apart, but afraid to speak out?
You may have heard that communication is key to keeping a family together. Indeed, the family system is a complex relationship, which is forged by the way in which people communicate (or fail to communicate) how they think and feel. Family members can quickly become angry, bitter, withdrawn or depressed when there is a breakdown in communication, and you might not even realise that this is what is causing the issue. Families are not just simply a unit; they are a collection of individuals who play a role in the family dynamic by the way in which they interact with each other. Families behave in a certain way to maintain their status quo, confirm hierarchy, and mediate problems. These dynamics can cause friction between family members, leading to separation and divorce, as well as poor relationships with children, as members deal with the separation. In your family, you may feel that the way in which people communicate are keeping both your family and each other from growing and being happy.
What type of communicator are you?
The way you and your family members talk to each other may represent how you feel about yourself, both as a member of the family system and as an individual. As individuals, we wish to develop on our own, outside of our family, based on our hopes, dreams and desires. A particular communication style may represent feeling stifled in reaching this goal. If you are a ‘Placater’, you may find that you come across as weak, tentative, self-effacing, apologetic, and constantly eager to please. Or perhaps you are ‘The Blamer’, who likes to dominate, find fault in others, and may come across as self-righteous. Then there is ‘The Super Reasonable’, who will have a rigid stance, remain detached, and seem to lack emotional involvement in anything. Another is ‘The Irrelevant’, who will distract others, and avoid offending or hurting as much as possible. Finally, there is ‘The Positive Communicator’, who is known as the congruent communicator, who comes across as ‘real’, is genuinely expressive, and displays clear and simple messages. This last one is what family members aim to become, in order to develop as an individual and improve the quality of family communications. The types of communication listed above, besides the last one are signs of psychological dysfunction in the family. The family communications styles reflect a dysfunctional family, which use tactics such as being indirect, unclear, incomplete, un-clarified, inaccurate and inappropriate.
Individuals stifled by habit
These communications styles may also serve another function at the cost of the individual’s growth – maintaining the status quo. Families may have rules and regulations, which over time have become habit, yet no one remembers how they came to be, or why the family behave in this way. These habits may be harming familial relationships, driving apart both the marriage or partnership and the relationship with the children. For example, the Jacob family have come into therapy at a time when they are about ready to tear each other’s hair out. They argue all the time, and they are very worried about their son, Jack, who just seems to be very ‘weak minded’, and always apologises, even if he has done nothing wrong. Sarah, the mother, just seems to have no opinion, and the husband, Andrew, feels like he has to make all the decisions by himself. The Jacobs discover that their communication styles are actually their way of keeping their family together, by dealing with the problems they each have in the way they think makes sense. When exploring the Jacobs family, the therapist helps the family members explore how they each feel stifled, and how that is affecting the way in which they communicate with each other.
Self-esteem and growth
In further exploration, it is discovered that the father Andrew’s dominant communication style is actually masking the son Jack’s issues of self-esteem and confidence. Andrew and Sarah have communication issues to resolve, which is based on problems in their relationship; in effect, Sarah has begun just ‘giving in’ to Andrew’s requests, in order to stop him from getting angry, and making sure that the children don’t bear the brunt of his ‘bad attitude’. Sarah, however, is mostly worried that Andrew is domineering and bullying Jack, whilst Andrew felt that he had to make his son ‘stronger’. In talking to Jack, it was found that Jack actually felt that he had to communicate and behave in that way, in order not to cause any issues at home, so that his parents would not fight anymore or get divorced.
Resources to grow in each individual
In the example, Jack is not the only one who feels like he can’t be himself. Each member is facing issues with personal growth, which is affecting the way in which they communicate with each other. Andrew is feeling stifled in his career by being constantly rejected for promotion whilst feeling like his son’s shy behaviour is a result of inconsistent parenting from him and his wife. Sarah feels like she is defined as a ‘stay-at-home mum’, and always wanted to pursue her dream of doing a Ph.D. She feels that Andrew would never understand, as he may feel her desires as a challenge to his ‘masculinity’ and an affront to his wage-earning potential. When families have the opportunity to grow both together and separately, they can begin to communicate effectively, clearly and affectionately, improving family relationships and allowing the individual to focus on their own growth. There is a very positive message to take from this: that each individual has the capacity to find themselves and pursue their desires and ambitions. If your family is facing separation, and if you find that ‘family time’ has simply become a shouting match, a stream of arguments, or a time of anxiety and depression, then seeking counselling services can help your family achieve your goals. If separation has occurred, then seeking mediation services can assist in keeping things amicable.
More Information on Counselling & Therapy Relating to Separation & Divorce
- Why have we grown apart? My partner just does not seem to understand what I need from them
- How will my children be affected by our separation? Solutions for children acting out or siding with one parent
- Is your extended family driving a wedge between you and your partner?
- Why do we always fight? Are you sure that you do?
- Separation and communication: Are you growing apart, but afraid to speak out?
- Adapting to children entering and leaving the family
- Can counselling help us move forward post-separation?
- Why does separation hurt so much? Why do I feel differently towards my partner?
- Domestic violence: What is it, what can we do about it, and how to get through it
- Infidelity: Why did my partner cheat? Can our relationship be saved?
- Contemplating separation? Will a trial separation help or hinder?
More Information on Mediation & Family Dispute Resolution
- Family Dispute Resolution
- Parenting Plans
- Financial Agreements
- Child-Inclusive Mediation
- Section 60I Certificates
- Child Support
- Child Support Calculator
- De Facto Relationships & Separation
- Divorce & Mediation
- Grandparents & Mediation for Grandchildren
- Parenting Plan & Draft Consent Orders for Children
- Property Settlement at Mediation
- Mediation & Domestic Violence
- Relocation & Overseas Travel with a Child
- Going to the Family Court versus Mediation
- Family Dispute Resolution & Mediation
- Child Support & Mediation
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DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this website is for general guidance only. No person should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information. Professional counselling or therapy or psychology advice should be sought based upon your particular circumstances.