It comes as no surprise therefore, that we are left a little flummoxed when faced with our partner’s emotional distress and we are unable to fix their apparent problems.
Solutions are not always what partners need or want in the moments of emotional expression, unless they are asking for a fix.
Solutions don’t always help in building connection and intimacy.
The act of listening often highlight the differences between the way women and men, in general, communicate differently.
Failure to listen closely can become a source of ongoing tension in a relationship.
Below are some interactions highlighting some of the differences. Remember these are generalisations and not totally prescriptive.
She sees the interaction as hugely productive without any tasks required or to be agreed. It’s a way to connect. She may not need a problem to be solved. Simply knowing she has been listened to reduces her anxiety and negative feelings.
She uses her head and hand movements to express herself. She interprets his lack of body movement as he’s not listening, distracted and doesn’t care. Sharing for her is an act of intimacy and increases her closeness to the man she loves.
She experiences his need to problem solve as dismissive and it minimises her feelings. Her view is that he thinks her feelings are not important. She feels rejected.
She may not know what or how many words are needed until she speaks and allows her process of thinking to spill accordingly. It’s rare that she plans or rehearses her conversations.
She can feel her partner’s silence as her failure to support him properly. Her fear is that she’s losing him. The more she tries to reach out to him he seems unavailable. Her anxiety increases and asks heaps of questions. Suddenly it feels like an interrogation more than a conversation.
She steps away and gives him the space and trusts he will work it out and come out of his cave. She may feel abandoned after a while. She seeks out a friend for a chat.
When styles of communicating are at odds it’s easy to see why relationships struggle. Consequently many couples can get stuck in the following patterns of relating in their relationship.
When either partner hears any kind of criticism as a personal attack they become guarded, defensive and stop listening.
Moving further into a defensive pattern includes a reaction of a partner who closes off the ideas or thoughts of the other absolutely. It’s the ‘case closed’ response.
Projecting thoughts and feelings on to another person happens when perspective and objectivity has been lost almost completely.
Sometimes people credit their own feelings of anger, disappointment and frustration onto their partner when it is they who experience those feelings.
This is the rapid jumping to conclusions about a partner’s intention and meaning of their comments and expression. Assumptions can often be inaccurate.
Real listening is impossible with the TV blaring, iPad screen shining or mobile phone messaging going off in the background. It’s amazing how many couples try and resolve their differences with these kind of distractions.
Relationships will always provide opportunities for both partners to learn something about their listening and communication styles.
The willingness and acceptance to reflect without blaming or focusing solely on the other person is the key to change.
Solutions are necessary when opposing patterns of relating cause such huge distress. The distress on a couple can be immense.
There is often a lot at stake particularly if there are children involved because they tend to absorb the patterns of relating from their parents.