It happens to all of us.
We hold on to our thoughts and don’t say them because we are afraid of hurting the other person’s feelings. We stuff them down inside and just stay silent.
We may grouse about them later with someone else, but most of the time we don’t ever say what we intended to the person who we wanted to say it to.
Couples are sometimes embarrassed to tell me how they communicate, especially in a heated argument. They often blame one another for making them feel terrible. I usually hear something like, “He always does this,” “She never stops doing that.”
Both people are locked in their pattern of responding to the other. These patterns cement over time. When people get to the end of their rope they say the most emphatic thing to the other person so they can to be heard. Sometimes it’s really harsh. And when a couple gets to this point they are locked in dueling tirades.
Sometimes when people call to find out about couples counseling I can hear panic in their voice. I can sense a feeling of worry and fear. Something broke and the person on the phone doesn’t know how to fix it and that’s why they are calling.
This is a terrible place to find yourself: not knowing if you can make it in your relationship, wondering if it’s broken, and daring to hope it can ever be better. All this is pressing on the individual who is making the call. It’s a helpless kind of feeling. It’s as if their past experience amounts to nothing, and they must do something radical to survive.
Most people who grow up believing in the power of love don’t understand why relationships fall apart, especially when people love each other. Why isn’t love enough to keep people together?
Falling in love is one of the most wonderful parts of being human. When we feel connected to another person our soul feels as if it has found a home. We feel understood and safe. We feel whole. This is the most exhilarating time in a relationship. It is also a temporary phase.
All of us get triggered by things that hit us in our sore spots. Usually these are unexpressed hurts from a long time ago that are still as tender as they were when they occurred.
And when something in our present day life touches that spot we react. Everyone who has these tender areas reacts. We usually keep them stored up inside our bodies and we leave them alone. But when something touches it, we might have a very big reaction.
Oftentimes when there is a couple and there are disagreements it usually comes down to two people digging into their own positions. We are all individuals, and when we think or believe something and our partner is thinking or believing in something else, well then there is a standoff.
Two people who love each other but are unable to hear each other. This happens countless times to people in relationships. So, what do we have to do about it to make it better?
Often when people call for counseling and I ask them what is the matter, most of the time I hear, “We just can’t communicate.”
This is a catch all phrase that means we don’t understand each other and it is hard on both of us. I get this, especially since I have been working with couples for 20 plus years.
I know that there is a person who feels very deeply about life and another person who thinks almost exclusively in their head. I have seen this in every couple I have ever counseled.
Sometimes in a relationship there are really two kinds of people. There is the one who has to talk about everything. And there is the other who can’t talk about anything.
It does not astound me that all couples look like this. Even though it would be great if we could just talk with our partner if we are the talkers, the non-talkers probably wish they could just remain silent too.
Sometimes in a relationship we aren’t sure about our partner. Do they really love us? Are they going to stay? Do they really mean what they say?
Couples often ask themselves these questions. But where does trust come in? Maybe you say to yourself I will trust you, but you must trust me too.
This sounds equal. We are both in it and can say that if my partner trusts me then I can trust him. But that is really not what trust is about.
When we are in a relationship with the person we love it is so easy to misread how they are treating us. We believe that what they do has something to do with us, our behavior and our being. But that is not always the case.
Let’s say your beloved gets angry with you and is harsh with their words. You might think that they are really mad at you and you might lash back, or hold it in or try to escape.
What we do when someone is angry at us has a lot to do with our old habits. This is how we handle large emotions and we have been doing it this way since we learned how as a child.