I am in the business of helping people understand each other. As a couples counselor I listen to people tell me about their struggles with their partners, the person they love.
I know that every time I hear a story I know that person is telling me his or her truth. We as humans feel very strongly about what we think and believe. These thoughts and feelings are what make us who we are, and feeling like we matter depends on letting others know what we are about.
And I know that people just want to let their partners know what they think and feel. Most people in relationships feel they must get the other person to understand them or they will feel invisible and undervalued. It is very important for people in relationships to get their partners to understand what matters to them.
We’re Bad At Coping with Not Feeling Heard
This is the process of communication. Unfortunately this process is fraught with challenges and difficulty. People struggle all the time trying to get their points across to the person they love. Partners can get so frustrated not being understood all kinds of other behaviors can develop. If someone isn’t hearing you, maybe you talk louder. If someone isn’t paying attention to you, maybe you give up and walk away. If you are not being attended to the way you think you should maybe you get mad at the person who is supposed to listen to you.
These are some of the situations that drive people into counseling. And often times when a couple arrives I hear them describe the problem in the same way as they say, “We just can’t communicate.”
We Feel Misunderstood, Because Communicating with Loved Ones Is Hard
That is exactly right, but it’s more complicated than that. All of us know how to talk, that’s something we learned as toddlers. We are all pretty good at expressing ourselves. We do this with family, friends, co-workers, teachers, and bosses. We have been speaking to others all our lives and we are experts.
So why is it so difficult to speak and express to the one we love? Part of the reason it feels so raw with our partners is because we are already vulnerable to how they think and feel about us. Other people in our lives are not that close to us. So when we speak to the one we love, we already have a basis for feeling understood, so when that doesn’t happen we feel misunderstood.
Feeling Misunderstood Makes Us Feel Unloved or Insignificant
Feeling misunderstood is like feeling unloved. In the head the thought could be something like, “Hey my person doesn’t understand me, they must not care or love me. I know that’s a leap, but most of us actually feel in the moment that we are not cared for or loved. When we are in a relationship we expect our person to “get” us. They are supposed to know what we are about. They are supposed to want to listen to us and they are supposed to appreciate our thoughts and feelings.
Although this isn’t talked about, it’s pretty much how most couples really feel about their special person. So how can you make it better? For starters, think about the intent. If your partner doesn’t understand you and you feel misunderstood, ask yourself this, “Is my partner trying to upset me?” You would probably answer that question with a no. Your partner loves you. Not understanding a person does not mean the person is unloved.
Your partner would say also that they were sorry if they knew how lonely and disconnected you felt. Let them know, gracefully, not in anger, with compassion. After all, your partner is probably interested in understanding you, just as strongly as you are interested in being understood.
Understand Each Other Clearly
Read a Book About What to Do When Feeling Misunderstood
My book, Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship may help you and your loved one understand one another more clearly. It’s chock full of communication tips which might help you fight less and feel happier.
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.