Many of us like to think we’ve got our spouses figured out. After all, we’re around each other constantly, so it’s only natural that we listen, observe each other’s behavior, and remember things about each other simply because we see it every day. We recognize traits, patterns, experiences, behaviors, qualities, etc., and then draw conclusions that make us think we know what they “really mean” by their words and actions. We think we know each other better than anyone.
But do we really? Furthermore, is this healthy, or are these dangerous patterns hurting our ability to communicate?
As we dive into another new year, it’s important to recognize the damaging patterns in our relationships that keep us from communicating and understanding each other better. It’s a dangerous cocktail that leads to anger and fighting, and much like the chicken and the egg, no one really knows where it started and if anyone is truly at fault.
“The biggest communication problem is we do not listen
to understand. We listen to reply.” — Stephen Covey
Let’s look at a few possible scenarios where damaging patterns exist and lead to a slew of problems for married couples.
Damaging Patterns of Communication in Conflict
Controlled — She feels like she will be dominated and that she’ll have to give in or cave to his demands. She’ll be treated like a child and won’t have a say in the matter, as if she’s dumb or ignorant.
Alone — She’ll feel isolated. No one is there to help her or stay on her side.
Unloved — She’ll legitimately believe that her spouse doesn’t love her, care for her, or desire her.
Criticizing — She finds and verbalizes faults in her husband. She brings up what is wrong and focuses on the negative.
Isolating — If she’s not criticizing, she’s shutting down emotionally and physically. She retreats into her “cave.”
Withholding — She holds back affection, time, intimacy, and love.
What a Woman NEEDS to Feel
Adequacy — She wants to feel that she measures up and is good enough.
Partnership — She wants to feel that her husband is a teammate and partner. She wants to feel that they both have equal responsibility for their decisions and life together.
Valued — She wants to feel honored and treasured.
And that’s just the woman! How does the man behave?
Disrespect — His thoughts and opinions have been disregarded. His wife doesn’t respect or admire him.
Judged — He feels unfairly criticized or misjudged by someone who has formed faulty or negative opinions.
Unwanted — He feels undesired by her. She is only here because it’s her duty or obligation.
Defensive — Instead of listening, he defends himself by providing explanations or excuses for his actions.
Invalidates — He discredits her thoughts, feelings, or actions. He gives no weight to her opinions.
Demands — He tries to get something he wants or needs with force or “implied threat.”
What he really NEEDS
Accurate portrayal — He wants to be seen correctly.
Intimacy — He wants a deep sense of closeness and connection with his wife. He wants to feel wanted.
Respect — He wants to be admired and esteemed.
Can you see how easy it is to fall into these damaging patterns? As they misinterpret, infer, or assume each other’s actions as negative, the cycle or patterns repeat over and over again. What is really going on here is that they both have desires that they want their partner to fulfill for them. But they are NOT communicating their real needs to each other.
As a result, their relationship becomes caustic, toxic, and they go around and around in a never-ending pattern or cycle.
They need to end the dance, talk about their individual feelings and desires, and stop any negative behaviors that are blocking them both from communicating AND getting what they want and need.
All we are saying here is that we cannot have a safe and connected marriage if we are not looking beyond what we think we know of our spouse to see what is actually underneath. We need to get past the assumptions and understand each other’s feelings, needs, and desires. Recognize damaging patterns in your relationship and break the cycle together.
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Did we leave anything out? How are you trying to communicate better? How do you recognize each other’s feelings, needs, and desires without falling into the trap of creating damaging patterns? Please send us a quick email and help us keep this conversation going at Mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.