Hearing is understanding, and understanding is the key to intimacy and deep love.
That’s right. There are times in marriage and love relationships when partners try to say something important to the other and don’t feel heard and understood. There are other times when partners talk to each other in a way that is difficult to hear. In this article, we are going to share with you what usually happens with couples when they don’t feel heard, why that is a problem, as well as, what to do and not to do about it.
We would like to introduce you to a couple we’ll call, “Frank and Faye.” They have been married for over 25 years and are what some call “Empty Nesters.” It has been just the two of them for about two years, and they continue to be busy in their demanding careers.
With the chapters of parenting responsibilities behind them, one would think this would provide them to spend more quality time together after work. Yes, they do have a little more time together; but, to their dismay, it’s not always the quality of time they had imagined. Both often complain that it’s difficult to talk to the other because the other one won’t listen.
Here’s one scenario:
One night, Frank and Faye were driving home from having a fun dinner with friends. Both are sharing what a good time they had. Then, about 10 minutes of the pleasantries, Faye says, “Did you notice how affectionate Oscar and Olivia were with each other? They have been like that since they married. And, they have been married longer than we have. I wish we had more of that.”
Frank keeps driving and doesn’t say a word.
After about 3 minutes Faye said, “Fred, did you hear what I just said?”
Frank snaps back and says, “There you go again, comparing us to other people, telling me what I am doing wrong. I just can’t please you. I’m sick of this!”
Stunned, Faye replies, “That’s not what I said. I said Oscar and Olivia were affectionate with each other, and I wish I had more of that with you.”
Frank retorts, “See, you just repeated it. You’re always criticizing me.”
Well, it is evident what Faye said was not what Frank heard. Frank was listening more to his interpretation of what Faye was saying, not her message. He heard, “I wish we had more of that” as a criticism. In Faye’s mind, she was sharing a reasonable desire. That was the problem. Frank felt criticized, and Faye misunderstood.
What is worse are the words and actions during the interaction that activated negative feelings during a conflict. These feelings lead to a communication breakdown, resulting in emotional and possibly distance and disconnection. And, that HURTS the person on the receiving end.
Frank’s hurt is not as evident as Faye’s. However, when Frank peeled away the layers beneath his anger, he could identify his pain.
In our marriage and relationship therapy and counseling practice, as well as, in our weekend workshops, we see and hear a variety of scenarios that lead to the same results that Frank and Faye often experience.
Here are three recommendations about what not to do when facing this kind of situation:
- When in the midst of conflict or communication breakdown, do not keep the conversation going because the words and actions exchanged in the heat of the moment cannot be taken back. The memories linger and simmer to a boiling point and erupt when neither partner expects it.
Stop talking and take an “Adult Time Out” to cool down. While Faye welcomed this step, Frank resisted at first, however, when he did take time for himself, he did feel better.
- After you cool down, do not go back into “attack” or “defensive mode,” explaining why you are right and your mate is wrong.
Think through what your positive intention is for this discussion – the positive results you want when you re-engage. When Frank and Faye took this step, their focus changed from blaming one another to thinking about the experience they wanted to share with each other when they re-engaged.
- Don’t concentrate on what went wrong or who was wrong. Focus on the solution to solving the problem.
According to Drs. John and Julie Gottman, Ph.D. psychologists and researchers on marriage, only about 31% of problems in marriage and committed relationships can be solved. Frank and Faye, as well as other couples, need to figure out if the issue they are facing can either be: dissolved by just talking about it more effectively; resolved by one or both partners committing to a particular behavior change; or, managed – some call this option compromise. The goal is to have a “win/win” outcome.
Now that you now know three ways to say no to the tangle of miscommunication and “yes” to beginning the process to untangle miscommunication, it’s time for your next success step.
Get your free instant access to our Communicate to Connect Video Workshop when you visit http://JesseandMelva.com. This complimentary 3-part video series will help you to discover your next step to creating a communication breakthrough in your relationship.
To Your Relationship Success,
Jesse and Melva Johnson
Learn more about them by visiting their website, www.jesseandmelva.com!