Average couples wanting their relationship to be better have a very similar story. It goes something like this:
“We don’t talk very well together, she says. The little things become bigger and bigger. I don’t even know what we fight about. I don’t feel like I’m very important to him. He doesn’t listen to me. So I get upset and try to get him to understand.”
He says: “We just don’t communicate. I can’t seem to do anything right. She gets upset a lot, and so I shut down. We can hardly talk about anything without fighting”.
“We are just so different,” they both say.
How We Talk
So many couples see their issues as ones of differences and communication. Certainly, there are difficulties with communication with couples. But that difficulty is usually HOW they talk to each other in terms of their value. Do they feel good about how their partner speaks to them? It is essential to grasp the difference between “what is talked about” versus “how you talk.”
Most couple’s issues at their base are about differences between how partners feel about positive and negative emotions! And, how they accept or dismiss them in their conversation. Are their thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and desires validated and accepted, or not?
Couple’s real issues are about:
- Gradually growing apart
- Losing a sense of closeness
- Not feeling loved and appreciated
The problem at the core is Emotional Disengagement. There is an absence of positive expressions toward each other. They need to:
- Respond directly in kindness and positive ways (Turn Toward)
- Be emotionally available, or “present.” Focused with both the head and the heart
- Act like close friends. Talk, spend time, have fun, enjoy activities together.
- Make attempts to soothe one another. Comfort each other, show compassion and empathy.
Couples do not connect well in their communication until both feel they are loved and cared for by their partner. Think about it. If your partner is talking AT you, not listening to you, is angry or defensive, it can feel like they don’t even like you. It is almost like you are enemies; not two people who love and care for each other. Many times the communication issues couples experience are the result of a focus on placing blame, figuring out who is right and who is wrong, or finding a solution before addressing the root of the problem. That type of communication does not feel safe, genuine, or warm.
Generally, couples want to talk about reactions-what they DO- which is futile! These types of conversations make us dependent on other people for our happiness and fulfillment. They need an awareness of experiencing each other’s emotions, and an ability to respond to each other’s emotions. They don’t take responsibility for each other’s emotions, but genuinely try to understand them. Couples need to learn to “soothe” themselves and each other in order to reduce threat in processing difficult or hard issues for both partners.