Are You Feeling Heard in Your Relationship?
Welcome to our Friday series for couples, filled with mouth-watering food pictures and insightful relationship tips, because we all know that after a while, it’s all about the food when it comes to long-term relationships.Are you asking for what you want in your relationship?? Or did you give up trying and just decided to settle to keep the peace?This June series is all about communication, how we talk to each other, how we ask for what we want, and how we can listen to our partner.Plenty of research studies and tons of self-help books all conclude the same thing. Divorcing or chronically unhappy couples display more negative communication and more negative emotion as measured by the daily ratio of negative to positive interactions:
- A majority of negative communication behaviors consisting of: telling each other what they are doing wrong, complaining, criticizing, blaming, talking down, and just generally not making the other person feel good;
- A few or no positive communication behaviors such as complimenting, telling each other what they are doing right, agreeing, laughing, using humor, smiling, and just simply saying “please” and “thank you.”
Adequate communication is probably the most important thing when it comes to “irreconcilable differences” and yet, one of the hardest things to accomplish. Communication is a very complex mental, emotional, and interactive process that starts at birth and continues throughout our lifetime. It will constantly change and evolve with each interaction with our parents, teachers, mentors, friends, spouses, managers, co-workers, and customers. Most importantly, how we communicate (listening and talking) is a multigenerational process that gets passed on from grandparents to parents, to children, and future generations. Disagreeing couples bring their own multigenerational baggage and when they interact, they create a unique, signature way of engaging and communicating with one another. This often recreates the same patterns, functional and dysfunctional, that they witnessed growing up.We may be on our best behavior when we first start dating, but as familiarity settles in, we revert to what we know (good or bad). If things stay on the positive side, then it’s all good. We are likely able to navigate the ups and downs and still stay connected to each other.But if things revert to ineffective and negative interactions, and we don’t make a conscious purposeful effort to fix it, this will become a pattern over time and erode the relationship. This can damage that sense of trust and the connection, until either both parties shut down or just crush each other’s spirit, leading to a feeling of “being stuck or trapped”.The biggest danger of creating this pattern is that, in the end, time after time, we don’t remember the logistics or the details of a particular fight, but we remember the powerful feelings of being hurt by the other person. We will continue to accumulate all of these feelings. At some point, these feelings turn into expectations. We expect anything that the other person does to be hurtful, frustrating, annoying, stupid, irresponsible, mean, uncaring, etc. You can get creative and fill in the blanks, but it’s definitely negative. The next time it happens, we anticipate the feeling before we even process the facts. Our skin crawls with the anticipation of that negative feeling. We see it and feel it coming our way.We shut down before we even figure out if the other person is right or wrong, so there is not even a chance of a proper discussion because we are already pissed off before we even start talking. The next thing we know, we are walking and stomping around the house being angry at each other without really knowing what we are angry about.Have you ever had this experience? Or know someone that does? If you want to know more about your communication style, follow the series on Facebook and check out our free Marriage & Relationship Resource Center to learn how to communicate effectively with your spouse.ABOUT: Dr. Ruxandra LeMay is a private practice psychologist in Litchfield Park, Arizona with experience in family therapy, ADHD, stress and anxiety management, and executive coaching. She is the author of My Spouse Wants More Sex Than Me: The 2-Minute Solution For a Happier Marriage. Click HERE to check out her free resources on effective communication, emotional unavailability, intimacy, and anxiety management or join her at www.ruxandralemay.com for monthly blog posts.