Do you listen...?
It can be difficult living with another human in an intimate, loving relationship. Always needing to be aware of the other, to be careful not to offend or hurt them or to behave selfishly. To share, to give, to notice, praise and to be interested in the other. At times, it can feel like there is no space for the uncomfortable feelings/thoughts when you do not feel close, loving and you simply want some 'alone' time, without it hurting your partner.
Of course, there are couples who 'seem' to be content all the time and have all the answers. They may even talk to you about those answers to having the 'perfect relationship'. They offer advice, guide or try to direct you down the right path. However well intentioned they may be, more often than not, behind the gloss, the smiles, the contentment, there too will be the moments of irritation, frustration and feelings of unfulfillment.
No relationship is perfect. No relationship stays in the same place emotionally because we, as people, do not stay in the same place emotionally. Our needs change all the time and it is hard for the other to keep up with those needs. Lets face it, it's difficult enough for us to know ourselves what our needs are, let alone trying to express them to someone else!
It is hard work and is that necessarily a bad thing? If it were plain sailing all the way with no challenges or changes, we would not know how to fully appreciate those times, when we can feel that true connection to the other person in our life. Those times when we hold hands and we remember why we are in a relationship together.
Well, what if those times are few and far between; too fleeting to even notice anymore. Perhaps those loving moments have stopped completely? What then? The big questions need to be asked, to be faced and not hidden away, hoping they will somehow disappear.
When you become aware things have changed and those changes do not feel good; when the person opposite you seems like a stranger, it is time to talk. However, there is no point in talking if the other does not listen. There is an 'art to listening' and it is vital that both parties are able to do this. Easier said than done when we are hurting and our defences may be up; protecting us from possible pain.
To listen, we need to check out with the other, what they have heard. That might seem strange if you have said something that is crystal clear to you, yet, the other person can hear something completely different. It is also good to remember, you may be feeling and thinking very differently about the relationship. Far too often, couples make assumptions about the other person close to them. Using this strange 'couple telepathy' whereby, 'my partner should just know how I feel if he/she loves me!'.
To be sitting across from your loved one and not see or hear each other, can be a lonely place to find yourself in. It doesn't have to be like that but it takes hard work, effort and love. Forget the couples who say 'it just happens with no effort'. Who are they kidding?
Something that comes up in therapy time and again, is the word balance. Find the balance between talking, listening and checking out with each other, that you have heard and understood what the other has communicated.
Take the time to do this, together or within therapy. Take it slowly, step by step...