A main cause (and antidote) for arguments between men and women
The frustration of not being heard by a partner is likely the number one argument couples bemoan. Speaking generally of the differences between the sexes, it’s often due to incorrect assumptions. In other words, each sex tends to project their unique perspective and way of experiencing the world onto one another, much like a film projected onto a screen which is already playing a different film. When there are communication issues, each partner expresses themselves, not to their significant other, but instead to a fictitious other created by their imagination, expecting to be understood.
Consider this - imagine talking to your mirror, thoroughly believing the reflection will return to you as you expect. You wave to it, but the reflection stands still. You snarl, but the reflection smiles. You jump up and down but the reflection is calm and indifferent.
The reason you’re seeing a totally different reflection is because you’re standing opposite a completely different person, who thinks, feels, and acts uniquely to you.
The antidote to this miscommunication is understanding what your partners individual 'truth' is in the moment. This takes enough awareness to listen on a level, often way beyond that which you are used to, which is incredibly difficult when each other's egos are at play. It takes the ability to actively listen without simply trying to get a point across. It can be hard, frustrating, and demoralising, to the extent that most partners feel exhausted at perpetually trying to be heard by one another. The damage from such exchanges leads to loss of attraction and physical intimacy, emotional shutdown, and, quite often, breakups or severe distancing.
The next step for most couples is to attempt negotiation. This is the 'logical' response to communication issues. However, since the partnership began through positive anchors, excitement fantasy, and peak emotional experiences, this doesn't work. Why? Because you cannot negotiate intimacy. Holding talk after talk, consulting to agree on 'terms' for the relationship, simply leads to resentment rather than the jackpot of opening up your other half emotionally. So how is this done? The entire focus should simply be on listening and understanding. Here are some steps to digest;
1. Accept that the way in which you are currently communicating isn't working. This sounds like a simple step, but without the initial acknowledgement, you can’t move forward. There are no victims here. Each partner has a unique way of expressing themselves.
2. Eradicate your attempts to prove your argument/perspective is right by using history, back-up memories, and logic to convince your other half they are wrong. This doesn't work.
3. Show, don't tell. Demonstrate, don’t explicate. Talking about how you wish to change things might seem like the correct thing to do, but you're not in a business meeting. Don’t make it about you. Explaining is akin to reassurance seeking; it’s supplicating and cringeworthy and will not lead to opening your partner up emotionally or re-building attraction.
4. Understand that, for some partners, their 'truth' is not logical, it's emotional. In other words, they 'feel' unheard in their body, so even if what they say makes no logical or common sense, it makes total sense to them. They don’t require fixing, facts, or proof. They simply want their feelings, at that moment, acknowledged. That’s it. Simple.
5. Understand that for other partners their ‘truth’ is logical rather than emotional, and they are much more mind-orientated than emotive. In their mind, being understood means acknowledging to them that 2+2=4... literally.
6. Commit to seeing things from their world, let them know you've heard them and what they have expressed makes sense, not from your perspective, but from theirs.
Sounds easy right? Well, as I’m sure you're aware, issues are resolved with time and patience. Understanding and direct experience are akin to reading a map or actually walking the territory. A professional counsellor could help you on this journey.
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About Adam Day
Adam Day is trained in various approaches as an integrative therapist; these include humanistic (person centred/existential), cognitive behavioural, transpersonal and psychodynamic. He is available for therapy throughout the week from 10am to 8pm.… Read more
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