Most of the couples that come to see me say they have communications difficulties.  I usually say, “your communication is fine, it’s just that you don’t like what you hear.”

I am not being glib.  Communication  means that two people are hearing what the other is saying and acknowledging it, just that.  It does not mean that they agree or even that they totally understand, just that they have focused and heard what is being said by the other.  This is really important.  If one partner says, “he does not listen to me,” that could mean many things.  It usually means “he doesn’t agree with me,” or “he won’t do what I want him to do.”

This situation is very different from what the couple believes is the problem.

Experts and authors suggest long lists of skills to help “communicate better.” I think its a deeper problem.  I don’t think you can hear what the other is saying unless the fog of defensiveness, fear of criticism and need to be in control is worked on first.  What keeps us from hearing eachother is a terrific fear that we will not be right, and more importantly, we will lose our position in the relationship if we “give in.”

In order to have a reasonably healthy and balanced marriage, we need to acknowledge that we are not perfect (even tho we say this all the time, it takes time to act like it) and that the partner we selected has  perspectives to share. We have to be secure in the belief that we will not be rendered stupid or of no value, if we hear the other opinion, and there may even be a possibility to change our minds and learn something new.

There are those times, too, when our differences will outweigh the flexibility to change our minds.  But that’s fine.  The only time there is a real problem that can threaten and undermine an entire marriage is when we close our minds, minimize and ignore the other person and stop relating — Relationship, me in relation to you, my thinking in relation to yours.  It’s not just about me and protecting my precious view of reality.

If you are not communicating well, build some self esteem, take a seat and listen. If it’s too difficult, and too much of the past has gotten in the way, well, we can work on that.

This entry was posted in Marriage. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.