To be an intentional couple, one of the core skills that must be mastered is the art of listening. We have been given gross information about what listening is and how we should do it. Some folks think that they should be making grand facial expressions while mutter “uh huh…”, nodding their head and wrinkling their brow to show that they are listening. But listening is something entirely different. Today we are going to talk about why we listen and how we alter our approaches to listening.
We listen for four key reasons: to allow someone to vent, to help them unpack something in their head, to seek understanding, and perhaps to resolve something. Let’s look at each of them independently.
I always say “Come to couples’ therapy when there is something to work on. It is an easier road than when you wait until you are injured and broken and looking for salvation and healing.” One of the gratifying aspects of being a couples and sex therapist is when a couple decides to come see me when they are building their future rather than when they come to me in distress. Premarital therapy is one of those opportunities where both partners are looking to learn more, grow together and find some open curiosity. However, this can also be a time of great stress and challenging relationships.
There are so many times that I am sitting with a couple who are in distress, feeling unheard and struggling through difficult communication. They unintentionally are making the process so much harder for themselves. I can see them getting stuck in the who is right argument and discounting the reality that there can be more than one truth. This is where a small shift can make a big difference!
One of my favorite things about working with men is talking about manhood. Really understanding where their definition of manhood was developed and how it is present in their everyday life. This conversation is really interesting as most men are thinking about this for the first time.
Often, people in my office get confused about what they are feeling. When asked to name the feeling they are experiencing, they often name one of four buckets of feelings: Glad, Sad, Mad, and Anxious. Every feeling we have gets thrown into one of those four generalized buckets. Then, the same people start to get frustrated when their partners don’t understand the feeling or why they are experiencing it.
Every relationship has a unique storyline. Like the greatest romances of our day, there is an arc from the first meeting to dramatic denouement. We grow thinking that adult relationships begin with an air of mystery and intrigue, survive through milestones and hardships before drifting into the happily ever after – until they don’t.