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.
What is yelling? When a partner denies that they yell, I wonder if they know what they sound like. I think there are two distinct types of yelling. The first, is the basic and popular raised voice yelling. It often starts at our toes and rolls up our core until it comes out of our mouths as a strong bellowing exhortation of increased volume, often accompanied by words that would offend us if they were spoken to us. The other type of yelling is more complex. It is tight and constricted. It starts in our throat. It is not loud and bellowing. The volume is not out of range. However, it is the tone – sharp, clipped, judgmental, and cuts like a knife. It feels like yelling to the recipient.
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!
Jill and Don wanted to explore alternative dispute divorce options as they believed that their 7- year marriage was irretrievably broken. Arriving at this painful decision was all the more poignant for this young couple since they had a one-year old son.
Reese, a 17 year old female high school student, came out to her friends and family as bisexual a couple of years ago. Most of her family told her it was “just a phase” and now her friends ask her, “Are you sure you’re bisexual?” and “Are you still bisexual, you haven’t dated any girls?” These questions may seem innocent and inquisitive, but they dismiss Reese’s feelings and her friends are essentially telling her that doesn’t know herself. These questions and comments are microaggressions, intentional or unintentional insults, slights and/or derogatory questions and comments at target marginalized groups of people; in this case LGBTQ people.
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.
The other day I was discussing the emotional toll of fighting and hurt in intimate relationships with some folks. We were talking about what happens after the fight. You know…when we have apologized, we know that it is time to move on and there is nothing more to process, but you still feel yucky inside.
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.
My dog is in training to be a therapy dog. Marcel is a natural- he’s gentle, sweet, and at 11lbs, he was bred to be a lap dog. Though I’ve only brought him to the office with me for a few weeks now, clients immediately notice when he isn’t there and ask with notable disappointment, “Where’s Marcel?” I don’t take it personally, rather, I understand.
Many women are searching for romantic relationships that provide love, acceptance, respect, desire, emotional security, passion and intimacy, and understanding. These are building blocks of what is perceived as a “healthy” relationship. Why then, do women everywhere, choose to stay in relationships that no longer meet these basic needs? Several factors may contribute to this process, which will be further explored and discussed in this blog. I am dedicating this blog to all the women who need words of encouragement and motivation towards empowerment and self-advocacy.
Everyone wants to be a winner! Everyone likes to be right…right? Unfortunately, these two things aren’t the same thing and don’t always go together. Do you ever find yourself in an argument with your partner or friend and you are pushing to make sure they see your point and understand why you are right and they are wrong? Tempers and decibels start to rise and you are left confused on how you ended up sleeping on the couch.
Do you ever find yourself avoiding people that you feel close to because you have a truth about yourself that you are afraid to share? In my practice I work with lots of people who are on a path of self-discovery and trying to live a life with integrity. This journey often brings new truths and/or challenges to important relationships because being open and honest about something that feels emotionally charged is scary.