Is It Time for a Relationship Check-up?

Whether for a significant conflict, betrayal, infidelity, communication problems, pre-marital, parenting and family issues, stress management, struggling with a mental disorder, or just general relationship maintenance, therapy can be so beneficial for moving in a healthy direction. Marriage therapy is one of the most common types of therapy we see at our practice, North Star Therapy. With divorce rates being at an all-time high, it’s never too late to invest in things that will strengthen your relationship. Love is a gift, but it also involves two entirely separate individuals with different neural pathways and different life experiences. Marriage therapy can be used to help enjoy this beautiful gift to the fullest.

One of the main focus points we discuss with our couples is to seek to understand what makes your partner feel loved. Research shows you need 5 positive interactions for every one negative interaction. Patterns of negative communication can create resentment and cause healthy relationships to experience a rift. The actual negative events are not what will hurt your marriage; it’s the resentment that is toxic and can impact the future state of your relationship.

Learning how to navigate communication styles is paramount when it comes to relationship growth, maintenance, or overcoming conflict and challenges. Our go-to communication styles and patterns have been shaped by our upbringing and life experiences. Some may be healthy and helpful, while others are detrimental when not channeled appropriately. A therapist is professionally trained to help you understand the connections between your past, how your habits were formed, and how to release the barriers.

The Four Types of Communication Styles


Aggressive communication is characterized by putting your needs before someone else’s at any cost. It is expressed in a forceful manner. Aggressive communicators cause conflict, and will intimidate others to get what they want. Aggressive behaviors are usually about power and control.


Passive communication is characterized by putting other people’s needs before your own at the expense of your own needs being met. Passive communicators seek to avoid conflict. This style of communication does not lead to accomplishing a desired goal. The feelings often associated with passive communication include hurt, anxious, and delayed anger. Once you realize you aren’t getting your needs met, then the anger comes in. Other people’s emotions tend to be irritation and a lack of overall respect. That can lead to guilt or superiority by the people you are being passive with.


Passive aggressive communication is characterized by using passive communication at first, then blowing up later. Feelings are expressed indirectly. Passive aggressive communicators won’t talk about what is really bothering them. They may make sarcastic or cynical remarks, feel resentful, or look for revenge.


This is the best communication style. Assertive communication is the most effective way of communicating with others. You are respecting your own rights and needs while still respecting the rights and needs of others. Assertive communicators are able to tell people how they feel without putting anyone down. This type of communication is kind, clear, direct, and honest. As a result of assertive behavior, you may not always achieve your goal but you will have been able to preserve the relationship. Assertive communicators are willing to compromise. When people use assertive behavior, they tend to feel confident and respected. Other people feel the same way and ultimately, everyone leaves feeling valued. It’s the ultimate win-win.

Our Goal is to Provide Tools that Promote Healthy Relationships

What exactly does a healthy relationship look like? They require everyone to express their thoughts and feelings in an assertive communication style. Each partner needs to feel heard, and results from empathetic statements and actions which support what is said.

There are three parts to making an assertive statement:
• Describe what is happening. Use just the facts without blaming. “I think…”
• Express your feelings. Give your honest reaction without blaming or intimidating. Use a feeling word (frustrated, angry, resentful, embarrassed, hurt, worried). “I feel…”
• Make a recommendation for how the problem can be resolved. Be specific enough so that the other person can really do what you are asking. Be kind, clear, and direct. “It would be best if…”

Now, let’s put it all in a statement. Here’s an example:

I think you have been spending a lot of time with your friend lately. I feel unimportant and uninvolved. It would be best if we could schedule a date night once a week. What do you think?”

Progress Over Perfection

Practice using these three parts together when responding assertively. For additional exploration, download our exercise worksheet on your own time.

This template may feel unnatural at first, but over time becomes more natural. Use your own style and tweak as needed. Once this becomes more comfortable to you, it can be fun to uncover unhelpful patterns and transform them into positive, safe, and lasting habits. At this point, resentments are unpacked and released. Mental health of the relationship, as well as individuals are improved. Once the hard work is put in, there are so many beneficial outcomes that continue to improve the relationship.

A therapist can provide guidance, but ultimately it is up to the couple to put in the effort if they want their relationship to improve. With dedication and hard work, couples can learn how to effectively communicate with each other and build a strong foundation for their marriage.

At North Star Therapy, we’d love to help you cultivate a loving, lasting, and healthy marriage, or individual exploration.

Contact us today to begin illuminating your path back to health.