FULFILLING RELATIONSHIPS REQUIRE WE START REALLY TALKING AGAIN IN ORDER TO START LOVING AGAIN.
Many if not all of the couples I have worked with over the years end up sharing a very interesting thought. “I feel unheard in my relationship. He [or she] is not listening.” The fascinating piece in all of this for me is: If neither party is listening to each other, is anyone really talking?
Couples tend to spend their initial one-on-one time with me complaining about their partner. Invested in being right versus being happy, they remain convinced that they know what their partner is thinking, feeling and experiencing in any and all given situations. They tend to have all of the answers without ever asking any questions.
There is such a deer-caught-in-the-headlight look when I simply ask them, “Have you ever asked your partner what goes on for them when xyz happens?” As they stumble to locate the word “no” in their brain, they quickly follow that up with, “But I already know.” Guess what — you don’t know. And 9.9 times out of 10 you are going to be wrong. Chalk that one up in your loss column. There is no greater awakening than when I have one person tell her partner what she is thinking, only to hear the partner reply, “That isn’t what is going on for me.”
Assumption versus authentic communication
Bottom line, both parties do this with and to each other. It seems silly, doesn’t make much sense logically, and yet this avoidance of conversation runs rampant in so many relationships.
The causes and reasons are not so hard to locate. People who have stopped participating in the lost art of conversation have clearly forgotten their first date. Truth be told, the stakes are not that high in the early days, when first impressions are simply an investment in a cup of coffee, a frozen juice drink or a dinner. It is a time for sharing your wants, dreams and life’s desires to see if you are compatible. No kids, in-laws, mortgage or private preschool financial issues occupy any of your brain space. As one married male client with kids shared with me, “At the end of a long day of everyone pulling at me, conversation feels a little overrated.”
Other couples have fallen into harder times. Fighting, disagreements, all-out war-of-words cage matches have left them wounded, angry and resentful. The desire to communicate is fractured. There is a growing belief that too many topics are not worth getting beaten up over. Communication becomes compartmentalized and then dispensed on a “need to know” basis. I have often told couples that if they don’t start talking, their lawyers will never stop.
It’s time to reconnect by talking and sharing
These scenarios kill conversation and ultimately destroy the fabric and the foundation of your relationship. All hope is not lost, however. Here’s my list of things that must be addressed for any couple wanting to reconnect and start talking again.
- Since much of the non-talking occurs in the home, I want you to re-jump-start your ability to share with your partner outside the home environment. This would require remembering something you like to do, preferably something you used to do together, and doing it. You need to start finding yourself and your partner interesting again.
- Start speaking your truth. There is no greater loss in any relationship than when people start withholding information from their partner. The truth is often best delivered when you talk about yourself and your experience and let your partner do the same.
- Focus on how you are feeling without making your partner responsible for how you are feeling. Generally, couples don’t get up in the morning and plan out a strategy on how to make their partner miserable. No one makes you feel anything you don’t decide to feel. Be responsible for your own feelings, taking into consideration how someone else’s actions, words or behaviors trigger that inside of you.
- Become a better listener. Left to your own devices, you can convince yourself that almost anything you are thinking is true. When you think that you know what a look, a stare or a statement really means, stop yourself and instead ask your partner. Reflect back over your experience and where you run to with the information and end it with, “Is this what is going on for you?” Let your partner share his truth.
By now we want the conversation back under your own roof, too. Especially if you have kids, you want to be modeling healthy, interactive communication. Let them see that conversation doesn’t have to mean confrontation. Get talking, people!