Why Feeling Misunderstood Upsets Us


Why Feeling Misunderstood Upsets Us

Feeling misunderstood is an unpleasant gap in the closeness we share with our partner. Here’s a bit on how it arises, why it feels the way it does, and what to do about it.

Feeling Misunderstood Leaves Us Disconnected

The most satisfying feeling for two people to share is experiencing a connection with their partner, the person they love. To know you are understood by them and to feel closeness that develops out of this connection is a place all humans long for. It is what reminds us of our togetherness, and it is way we all feel love.

Every one feels this when it’s happening, and we feel it distinctly when it’s cut off and is not available to us. All of us have felt a cold shoulder from someone we wanted to be with. Every one of us has been sad because we were not understood by our mate. This is the pain of being in love with our special person. This is often the key issue that keeps people apart.

Feeling Misunderstood is Common, Especially When We’re Out of Sorts

Feeling Misunderstood is as Common as it is Exasperating

And what do we know about misunderstandings? They happen all the time. I mean all the time. Think about your own life and look at how hard it is sometimes to explain yourself so others will get you and know what you are talking about. I know I run into this with my husband.

Sometimes after work my brain is tired. I still want to tell him things, but when I look for the exact wording it doesn’t come out right and I end up saying something like, “I need you to get the thing and do the thing.” Yes, I have said stuff like that before. I feel what I am saying, but my mind’s exhaustion has prevented me from finding the right words.

How Patient Partners Mitigate Misunderstanding

This is not a big deal for the two of us. He says gently, “You know I don’t know what you mean, what are the things?” And then I concentrate and find the words and tell him what I wanted to say in the first place. We have it worked out. But this has happened over time. In the beginning it wasn’t so smooth.

And this can actually happen to any couple. One person knows what they are trying to say but they can’t say it in a way the other person can understand. The person who is listening might get frustrated with their partner and then there is a misunderstanding and possibly an argument.

Then it’s possible the couple might disconnect and then both people feel bad. And the disconnection was probably over something pretty simple, like having someone understand what you are talking about. The truth is, most misunderstandings or arguments are over something pretty simple.

Feeling Misunderstood Feels Bad, But Speculation Can Make Things Feel Even Worse

Speculating About Motivations While Feeling Misunderstood

The misunderstanding doesn’t cause the argument. It’s the motives we ascribe to our partner that causes the upset. If we think the one who can’t explain correctly is trying to frustrate us we might get irritated. If we think the listener just isn’t listening we might feel angry. When we get irritated or angry we stay irritated and angry.

There isn’t a pretty version of irritation or anger. It’s just not pretty. And everyone feels these feelings. So what do you do when you are in a relationship with a person that you love and want to feel connected to? You get some awareness that even if you are not understanding your person, they are not doing whatever they are doing to make you upset. Like my husband and how he almost makes a gentle joke when I say something like, “I need the thing and the thing.”

When Feeling Misunderstood, Stop and Take a Breath

I don’t get upset because he doesn’t understand me. I realize I need to give him some more information to be understood. His inability to understand me doesn’t mean he doesn’t love me; it just means he doesn’t know how to help me in that moment.

And it’s that nuanced when we are talking about being misunderstood and getting upset. No one wants to be disconnected from the person they love. Realize that you don’t want it, and your special person doesn’t want it either. Grow the muscle of seeing this and remembering it. The practice will serve you for a lifetime.


Want to Feel Misunderstood Less Often in Your Relationship?

Read a Book About Communicating in Relationships

'Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship.' A book by Linda Nusbaum.

Can’t make it on Monday? If you’d like some help bringing clarity and connectedness to your relationship, try reading Linda’s book, Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship. It has tips that just might help you learn methods for clearer communication. Give it a read.

Get Couples Counseling

Come in for couples counseling. Couples counseling can help you and your loved one get the most out of your relationship. It'll equip you with coping strategies and tools for communication that can help you argue less and love more.

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