Figuring out how to communicate with your spouse and feel heard in times of conflict can be challenging. Passions run high and you probably both know exactly how to press one another’s buttons. But do you know how to hear each other and bring the conflict to a close?
When I work with couples I often help them to really listen to what their mate is saying. We all know how to talk, so it might sound funny that a couple would need a professional to help them hear, but that is sometimes what is needed.
We Generally Know How to Communicate Outside of Relationships
We are all pretty good at explaining ourselves when we need to. We start early in our families, telling our parents or siblings what we want or need or what is ours and not theirs. We learn how to explain ourselves when we attend school. Sometimes we can become very good at telling others what is right for us and what we want.
We move into the work world and may find success talking about what is working or listening to others when they tell us how to work. We find a rhythm to our life where we express ourselves when needed and listen when appropriate. And it works.
Learning How to Communicate with Our Spouse Means Managing Feelings
And while most of us use these skills without even thinking about them, why is it that when we get into a relationship with the one person who is supposed to know us better than anyone else on the planet, we find ourselves at a loss to get our point across?
I believe it’s because there are two of you now in the mix. And unlike any other relationship when you are involved with someone on a deep level it’s common to hurt each other’s feelings. This can happen out of the blue; a misunderstanding over what was said, an off-handed remark, a side-ways glance. Any of these can set an intimate partner off and then there’s a disagreement.
Hurting People Need to Feel Heard and Understood
In a disagreement when two people are having hurt feelings, that means both of you want to be heard by the other person so you can feel better and heal. So when one partner starts to express what happened and the mate can’t hear, that’s because the mate wants to be heard at the same time. This dueling desire is what leads to most fights.
Two people hurt trying to get the other to understand and they are both trying at the same time to get relief. You know in your individual life that you do one thing at a time. You focus on one act, (well maybe you multi-task) and you perform that act with precision.
You are still doing this with your partner after you get your feelings hurt, trying with all your skills to express yourself. The reason your partner can’t hear you though is because they are trying to get their relief and understanding from you at the VERY SAME TIME!
Both Parties Talking at Once is Not How to Communicate with Your Spouse During Conflict
You can not be heard by your mate if while you are talking, he or she is trying to tell you something too. Both of you are not listening. Both of you are trying to get your needs met simultaneously and no one is available to hear.
This is one of the more challenging concepts for couples. Here’s a solution. One of you has to get into the drivers seat, and one of you has to be a passenger. You both can’t drive at the same time. One of you has to understand first and be the listener. Give of yourself to your mate and listen to them if you can. One of you has to do this. The one who does this first is probably the one who can calm themselves down first.
Have the Calmer Partner Listen First, but Take Turns
I know in my relationship, even though I am a counselor, it is not me who listens first, it is my husband. He has the capacity to hold on to his feelings and listen to me as I try and explain mine. He does this for us and it works. And it doesn’t mean anything more than he gets there first. It doesn’t mean I am deficient, just different.
In all relationships one person can quiet themselves quicker than the mate. That’s all it means. The one who can calm first should be the first listener. There is always room for the other person to listen after they have spoken and been understood. They will be calm then and ready to do the listening. And who really cares what order the healing comes in, just as long as it does.
Learn How to Communicate with Your Spouse
Read a Book About How to Communicate with Your Spouse
Can’t make it on Monday? Learn more about how to communicate with your spouse by reading Linda’s book, Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship. It has conflict resolution strategies, tips for feeling heard, and suggestions on how to express your love and celebrate your relationship. 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.