Communication in Marriage
Are We Communicating with Each Other or Not?
by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.
“We are going to have to change ABC in order for ‘this’ to work,” he demands. And all along, neither he nor she understands why nothing happens. Communication in marriage like this closes off the dialogue. It stops it dead in its tracks. Why?
Closing the Conversation
When your partner speaks to you from that lofty place where he/she knows best, what happens? Well, if you’re seeking advice, you may admire the confidence in your partner’s presentation. However, when you seek communion, that pedestal creates a wall closing off communication.
It’s as though the mere directive inspires defensiveness in the person on the receiving end. It’s their way of surviving in the midst of a “you better or else” or “we better or else” message.
What you feel when you are showered with such a directive is an attack. You’re being shown how you are not okay...not up to par. And from here, your natural tendency is to protect yourself from the attack. You automatically defend yourself to stay in the interaction. Yet, in doing that, the conversation stops because you are no longer listening to your partner.
Opening the Conversation
Now let’s dial the interaction back and offer a message that keeps the dialogue open...keeps the listening alive...keeps communion intact.
Rather than tell you what you or we ought do, how about if I tell you how I am feeling in this moment in the absence of what I long to see. Now, personalize this with me. Think about something your partner consistently requests/demands of you...and imagine the request delivered from the place of his/her innermost longing.
The request begins with an “I” and is followed with a pure want or need unadulterated with blame. For example, “I need to know that I am as important to you as your work.” “Can you help me recognize that if it is, indeed, true?”
Now on the receiving end, do you feel attacked? No, more likely you remain attentive...the listening remains open...and you are available to rise to the occasion and make a decision in the relationship.
Conclusions for Couples in Therapy for Domestic Abuse
As you sensitize yourself to the subtle, you grow in your capacity to influence the more significant interaction patterns in your intimate relationship. Use the simple less threatening topics to practice keeping the dialogue open and you will develop in your ability to stay present and in communion with your partner.
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