The most prevalent complaint couples bring up when there’s a problem in their marriage is that they have trouble communicating.
He Said, She Said: Stop Talking Past Each Other and Connect on a Deeper Level is an in-depth eBook that will teach you a completely different way to look at and handle marital communication.
I’ll give you the main idea of this e-course right now.
In marriage (or any relationship for that matter) you cannot not communicate. Everything you do and don’t do, say and don’t say, communicates.
If you believe this as I do, then the issue really becomes – how do you handle the message? Especially when you disagree or flat out dislike it?
Read the first module here – to get the whole course click the Join Now button.
He Said She Said
MARITAL COMMUNICATION IN A RADICALLY DIFFERENT WAY
Words are windows (or they’re walls)
by Ruth Bebermeyer
I feel so sentenced by your words,
I feel so judged and sent away,
Before I go I’ve got to know
Is that what you mean to say?
Before I rise to my defense,
Before I speak in hurt or fear,
Before I build that wall of words,
Tell me, did I really hear?
Words are windows, or they’re walls,
They sentence us, or set us free.
When I speak and when I hear,
Let the love light shine through me.
There are things I need to say,
Things that mean so much to me,
If my words don’t make me clear,
Will you help me to be free?
If I seemed to put you down,
If you felt I didn’t care,
Try to listen through my words
To the feelings that we share.
Play the following scenario out in your mind as you read it:
Your spouse arrives home from work, slams the door behind them, tosses their keys and phone on the kitchen counter and stomps off to the bedroom without so much as a glance your way. When they get to the back of the house, you hear them screaming at your oldest child, and then hear yet another door slamming.
Perhaps you feel your anxiety spiking even as you imagine this.
What is your first reaction to this scenario?
What if you add to this that you have guests in your living room that witnessed the whole thing?
What do you think your thoughts and feelings might be now?
Maybe you are angry and embarrassed.
Maybe you are left dazed and completely confused.
Or, what if you’d just had one of your more stressful days with your job, the kids, or just got off the phone with your mother (who drives your crazy due to her persistent attempts to intrude into your life).
What are you experiencing now?
Regardless which way you are feeling, you will be feeling something.
That’s what close relationships provide – a container that challenges us to deal with our reactions and feelings, as well as another person’s reactions and feelings.
There are two layers to this. First there is the observable behavior; then there is how you interpret it.
To boil down what we do with our interpretation of things, it usually falls into one of these categories: we attack, defend, or withdraw.
Let’s return to the scenario for a moment. What if you took into consideration an alternate interpretation or explanation for what you witnessed?
Would you feel differently if you found out your spouse was chewed out by their boss at the end of the day, they lost the big account they were working the past month towards, their best friend is moving across the country, or the air conditioner went out in the car and they endured 100 degree heat on the commute home?
Would you react differently if you interpreted their behavior as an expression of pain, disappointment, or frustration that has nothing to do with you rather than an expression of disrespect or something you caused?
There are many things to find out and process before you know the best way to react in any given situation. To explore those, though, you are going to have to learn to slow down and respond to the situation rather than simply react.
What to expect in He Said, She Said
There are many ways to teach communication. How to be more assertive without being aggressive, using “I” statements, giving the sender time to speak, then reflecting back what you heard, then speaking in reply, etc.
While each of these and the many others out there are possibly helpful, they are too elementary for what happens in marriage.
In marriage, you do not have trouble communicating. The fact is, you cannot not communicate! The issue is – handling the message.
As we dive into this class, know this – I’m not concerned about technique, I want to focus on what’s already going on.
More than you dreamed
The greatest discoveries in history came when the people involved stretched beyond common beliefs and began to imagine and dream. Columbus’ discovery of America came against the common belief that there was nothing out there and that the world was flat. But he set sail anyway!
One of the reasons problems become perpetual in marriage is due to the relationship system becoming imaginatively gridlocked. When this happens it cannot get free simply through more thinking about the problem – it also won’t become unstuck simply by trying harder. For a fundamental shift to occur, a new paradigm must be adopted.
This class will offer up a radically different way to view communication in your relationships. While this material is designed to be applied to your marriage, it also applies to every relationship in your life – family, children, friends, co-workers.
Imaginatively gridlocked systems
There are three common, interlocking characteristics in any relationship that’s become imaginatively gridlocked.
- An unending treadmill of trying harder,
- Looking for answers rather than reframing questions, and
- Either/or thinking that creates false dichotomies.
These characteristics are both symptoms and the cause of a locked-in perspective.
Just like the fly that continually bounces off the window it can see right through with the result that despite its thousand eyes, its persistence gets it nowhere, marriage can have similar moments. If you’ve been married any length of time you’ve likely experienced this. It happens when one spouse keeps trying harder to change the other spouse, or parents keep trying harder to change their children, or even managers keep trying harder to change those they manage.
The treadmill of trying harder is driven by the assumption that failure or problems in relationships are due to the fact that someone didn’t try hard enough, use the proper technique, or have enough information. What this assumption overlooks is the possibility that other things are at play and in fact there is nothing actually “going wrong.”
Answers rather than questions
Imaginatively gridlocked relationships continually search for new answers to old questions rather than attempt to reframe the questions themselves.
One thing I learned in my doctoral schooling was this: questions are always more important than answers because the way you frame the question (or the problem) already predetermines the range of answers you’ll receive.
Throughout this class, focus on the questions more than you do the answers. Here’s an example: A mother perpetually seeks answers to the question of how to make her kids more responsible with their homework, despite the fact that she’s been ineffective for years. Finally, one day she reframed everything and says to her kids, “This is crazy. You’re going to save me a lot of money if you don’t go to college. So from now on, every time you catch me commenting on your homework you can fine me one dollar.”
Her reframing the question from how do I motivate my kids to how do I regulate myself, she not only found them doing far better, but a chronic backache that had bothered her for years mysteriously disappeared.
Systems that have either/or, black or white, all or nothing ways of thinking will eventually restrict the options of all involved. Differences become intense, emotionally charged polarizations rather than simply differences of opinions – and rigid systems will believe there is something fundamentally wrong.
One of the simplest ways to begin communicating with people differently is to do away with either/or thinking and begin to adopt more of a both/and idea. We aren’t going to agree on everything in life … in fact, we may not agree on most things at times! But know this; when it’s not a moral issue, it’s about what brings relief and comfort.
When troubled couples begin to view things differently and experience a breakthrough, often the issues over which they differed have not gone away but the two sides have become less reactive to the differences.
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