Make a move to create the fulfilling relationship you want.
Does this sound familiar? You want to vent to your husband about your day, but he keeps giving advice or telling you what you should have done differently. Then you get upset because he isn’t listening. Does your wife get upset with you when you try to help her solve a problem that she has come to you with? Does she become frustrated and tell you that you aren’t listening? As a result, you either end up in an argument or you walk away frustrated and feeling confused, unheard, and unfulfilled.
This is a very common dynamic in couple relationships for one simple reason: Men and women communicate differently.
Generally, when women are talking, they are looking for empathy. Sharing and relating is fulfilling to them and makes them feel connected. The problem is, men don’t experience communication that way. Men are fixers, they think that their partner is communicating a problem that needs to be fixed. So, they offer their solution in an effort to make her feel better. Instead, she becomes frustrated and an argument ensues with the man confused as to why she doesn’t appreciate his help, and the woman frustrated that he doesn’t listen.
This dynamic is, although extremely common in relationships, is not exclusively limited by gender. Women sometimes take the role of fixer and men take the role of communicator. This dynamic is also quite common in same sex relationships.
There are many other dynamics in relationships that lead to a breakdown in communication which then leads to hurt feelings, disconnection and loneliness. Improving your connection to your spouse, improving your communication and getting rid of those lonely feelings is my specialty.
Why are we having so much trouble communicating?
Communication is hard; there are so many levels to it. In theory, you can be communicating every day, but that doesn’t make it “good.” Communication requires asking the tougher questions. Good communication is about digging deeper. Next time you are frustrated in a situation, communicate with each other what the source of your feelings is, instead of assuming.
Researcher John Gottman has identified four signs that a relationship is in trouble: contempt, criticism, stonewalling and defensiveness. When couples are distressed, they fall into these negative communication patterns that consist blame, hostility and withdrawal. Oftentimes, the pattern of communication is the same even when the topic is different. In these patterns of communication, couples experience emotional disconnection, increased negative affect and unmet needs and longings.
Other signs that your relationship may be stalemated by unaddressed attachment wounds are if you find yourself increasingly:
- Reluctant to be vulnerable
- Spending more time apart
- Arguing more easily and finding it more difficult to talk calmly
- Envisioning worst-case scenarios for the relationship
- Expecting less from your partner
- Viewing your partner in negative ways
- Experiencing far more negative than positive interactions
- Fantasizing about other people, past relationships or leaving the relationship
- Complaining to others about your partner but not letting your partner know
- Feeling less trusting or emotionally safe
Next time you are feeling hurt, angry, or frustrated in your relationship, focus on communicating about the true source of your feelings and avoid making assumptions about why your partner feels the way he/she does. Provide a safe place for each other to share authentically and be vulnerable. Ask why, listen to learn and understand and be open to hearing the "why." Ask how you can help. That’s what it means to have healthy communication. Be your partner’s partner, be his life partner. You are both human, you both have feelings and insecurities, do not forget to ask your partner about theirs. You may find that your communication can go from "good" -- to "great." Keep scrolling to learn the steps.
The Importance of Listening
There is a saying that goes, “You get what you give.” If you listen to your partner, your partner will likely be more open to listening to you. If you listen well, you're investing in your relationship and you are more likely to create a relationship in which love, intimacy, and trust develop.
It necessitates really listening to our partners, which is not as easy as it sounds. You need to ask the right questions, empathize, and make your partner feel understood.
We naturally do that when we're falling in love---we can't get enough of what they're saying. Remember those days? We attentively listen and ask questions. We want to know everything about them. But this should stay consistent throughout the lifespan of a relationship, or you will grow apart from each other, just as you grew together when you invested in being a part of their life.
Listening is a skill
Like any other skill, listening can be cultivated through practice. If you aren't sure how to be a good listener, or you've simply forgotten how and need a refresher, I'd like to share some tips with you. Being a great listener is essential to any relationship, especially if you want to foster intimacy, understanding, and connection.
How To Be A Great Listener:
Step 1: Focus on Your Partner
Put the focus on your partner, and away from yourself. Whatever happened to you today, it can wait until it's your "turn" later. Put it on the backburner. Listen and be genuinely interested, to whatever your partner is feeling or thinking. If you aren't in a good place to listen, go take a moment to self-soothe but eventually come back to your partner and tell them you want to listen.
Step 2: Be Present
Respectfully and non-judgmentally be present with them, no matter how intensely or painful their feelings. JUST LISTEN! Don't try to make them feel better or give advice, just ask questions and show empathy. Don't jump into problem solving, criticism, defensiveness, or superiority.
Step 3: Summarize
Summarize back to them what you heard them say, to show that you were listening and that you are trying to get it. When someone reflects back our feelings, we feel more understood, heard, and loved. This type of validation is critical to intimacy. It shows that you're just trying to "be there" for them.
Swooping in to give advice, make a suggestion, or make them laugh can minimize what they're feeling and make them resent you. Now is not the time to take sides with whomever else they're talking about. Take their side by being present and validating how they feel, although you might not fully agree with their logic or thoughts.Example validating phrases:
"I hear what you're saying..."
"It makes sense why you'd feel this way, because..."
"I hear you saying that my mother can be mean. She's been like that with me before. I totally understand why she made you mad last week. She's really ticked me off in the past, too".
Whatever your partner is going through, take time whenever you can to just listen to them. Let them know that if they're in pain, the world stops, and they matter more than anyone else. Communicate "I'm here for you, whatever you're going through, whatever you're feeling, whatever you're thinking".
Basic Listening Skills Are Simple, Right?
Most of us know the importance of spending time with your partner, listening to each other, knowing what's going on in each other's lives (like any best friend would know) and being supportive of one another.
In healthy relationships, as a partner, it's your job to help your partner create an oasis with you from the world. By truly listening and giving each other your undivided attention, you're sending the message, "I'm always here for you" and "I want to know you" and "I care about you".
These steps are very effective at improving your communication and your relationship, but sometimes couples still have difficulty when trying to improve their relationship. If you’ve tried these steps and you can’t seem to make it work, or if your communication problems are more serious and can’t be solved by becoming a great listener, then it is time for you to make an appointment.
In therapy you will learn:
How to have conversations in which you feel listened to, understood and appreciated by your partner.
Develop effective listening skills as well as effective communication skills
What attachment wounds are and how they impact you and your relationship.
How to address and heal those wounds so you can have a loving and fulfilling relationship with your spouse.
Make sense of your emotional turmoil and name your emotions and turn your frustration to empathy and openness.
Please contact me to set up an appointment or schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation now.