5 Ways to Be a Good Listener for Your Spouse

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5 Ways to Be a Good Listener for Your Spouse

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Opening your heart to your spouse—and nurturing theirs—requires listening well. With so many different issues, obligations, devices, and people pulling at us from every direction, it can be difficult to slow down and truly listen to one another. Listening can be pleasant, but sometimes it’s downright hard. Sometimes, you might want to tune out and lose yourself in your favorite pastime instead—or dive into the list of to-do items you still need to cross off before the day is over.

But to have a healthy, thriving marriage, it’s critical to truly listen to your spouse with empathy and generosity. Today, we’re sharing five ways you can be a good listener for your spouse.

1. LISTEN WITH EMPATHY

When you practice empathy, you’re putting yourself in your spouse’s shoes and seeing things through their eyes. Whether you’re trying to resolve a conflict or just simply listening to your spouse talk about their day, it’s beneficial to both of you to listen with empathy when your spouse speaks to you. For you, it gives you a window into their world and their perspective. For your spouse, knowing that you’re listening from an empathic vantage point helps them feel secure.

Maybe your spouse needs to vent about work, and normally, you tune out when they start talking about their tough day or their challenging project. Instead of switching your mind off while they talk, try to see the events of the day through their eyes, and in the context of your life. Have you been dealing with problems at home, like financial issues, trouble with the kids, or taking care of an ailing parent? Contextualizing your whole life along with what’s happening at your spouse’s job will help you understand the level of pile-on they’re dealing with.

2. LISTEN FOR EMOTION

When your spouse needs to talk to you about something—especially if it’s something hard—it’s easy to get wrapped up and carried away by your own emotions on the topic. In that case, you might respond to your spouse in a totally inappropriate way in your attempt to alleviate the difficult emotions that come up for you. Instead, take a minute to listen for what your spouse might be feeling. This type of intentional listening goes hand-in-hand with empathy.

Once you’ve identified what your spouse is feeling—whether it’s anger, sadness, frustration, anxiety, or excitement—you can adjust your responses based on their emotional state. It gives you an extra chance to check yourself before you say or do something that might exacerbate the emotional state they’re in. When our emotions go into a tailspin, it can be difficult to keep communication healthy.

3. LISTEN WITHOUT BIAS

You’ve both got your opinions, and it’s hard to let those opinions go in favor of simply listening to one another. Listening without bias is helpful when you have opposite stances on certain issues, or when you’re locked in a stalemate during a fight. Set your opinions aside for long enough to hear what your spouse is saying, then practice your empathy skills to try to understand why.

This doesn’t mean you have to change your opinion to match your spouse’s. What it does mean is that your spouse deserves to be heard, and you can’t truly hear if you’re filtering everything they say through your own bias.

4. LISTEN LOVINGLY

When you’re communicating with your spouse, it can be helpful to use loving gestures and body language to let them know you care about what they have to say. It can be as simple as holding eye contact and nodding to affirm what they’re telling you. You could also reach out to touch them or hold hands. Turn your body toward them, or even stop what you’re doing and just sit with them if that’s what they need.

While you may be able to go about your business and have a conversation at the same time (and that can be okay sometimes), there are going to be times where you need to just put everything down and focus all your attention on your spouse. Turn off the TV, put down your phone or other devices, forget the to-do list for a little while, and give your spouse loving affirmation through eye contact and touch.

5. LISTEN GENEROUSLY

Your spouse needs the gift of your time and attention. It’s hard to take time out of our busy lives to generously give our energy to listening when we have so much to do every day, but communicating openly is key to a healthy marriage. When you listen generously, your spouse will feel secure in coming to you with their concerns, hopes, and fears.

If you would like more help with listening and communicating well with your spouse, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Help Your Partner Understand Your Side of the Conflict in 3 Steps

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Help Your Partner Understand Your Side of the Conflict in 3 Steps

By Kyle Benson

There’s no way around it: being misunderstood sucks. It can make you feel frustrated, upset, and hopeless. It can feel even worse in times of conflict.

Conflict isn’t easy. There’s hurt. There’s misunderstanding. And, at the same time, there are parts of us that are screaming to feel validated and understood. The problem for many of us is we have learned to communicate in a way that actually pushes our partners away from truly understanding us or meeting our needs. It’s common to see criticism or contempt in a relationship where partners feel disconnected and misunderstood.

Ultimately, conflict is created by a lack of attunement. This is because one of our deepest needs is for others to understand, or attune to, us. This desire to be “seen” starts when we are young. Take kids, for example: when they play hide-and-seek, they love to be found.

As adults, we crave to be seen in our rawness. To courageously allow another into our inner emotional world. This is why Brene Brown links vulnerability with wholehearted living because vulnerability allows us to be truly known by another. She also refers to vulnerability as the glue that holds relationships together.

But being vulnerable is no easy task. It’s much easier to blame or attack our partners for the problems in our relationship, rather than express how we are feeling.

For example, say your partner leaves the room when you get into an argument. Your gut response may be to blame and yell, “You’re a coward for leaving the room when we fight!” But if you took the more courageous, vulnerable route, you might instead say, “I feel scared and inadequate when you leave the room during our fight. My fear is that I’m not good enough for you to fight for. Is there a way I can bring up a conflict so you and I can work through it together?”

Can you see how easy it is to hide compared to how courageous it is to be vulnerable and seen?

When you speak in a gentle, open way that allows your partner to attune to you, you help them to understand why you feel the way you do. As a result, you feel more emotionally connected, which builds trust, increases intimacy, and makes sex oh so much better. Not to mention that when your partner understands your perspective, they are more willing to meet your needs as well as their own.

So how can you get your partner to attune to you during conflict?

Over the next six weeks, we are going to teach you the skills to attune to each other during your weekly, hour-long State of the Union conversation.

The first skill of attunement for the speaker is the “A” in A.T.T.U.N.E., and it stands for Awareness.

Speak with awareness

By speaking with awareness, we mean that the speaker chooses words mindfully and avoids making the listening partner feel cornered or defensive. This then helps the listening partner open up to understanding because they are not under attack.

Here are three ways you can speak with more awareness:

1. Use “I” statements
An “I” statement reflects your feelings, perceptions, and experiences. Using the word “you” during conflict has the opposite effect: it points fingers at your partner’s feelings, behavior, or personality. And as the saying goes, whenever you point your finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back to you.During a session, a client of mine I’ll call Tristan said to his partner, “You are so self-centered. You clearly didn’t think about how uncomfortable I felt sitting at Canlis (a fancy restaurant) all alone!” His partner instantly became defensive. “No I’m not! I had to stay late to finish up the proposal for the meeting tomorrow so we can take our trip this weekend.”When we paused and tried the discussion again—this time focusing on using “I” statements—Tristan’s tone changed completely. “I wish you had shown up to the restaurant on time,” he said. “I felt like a loser sitting there waiting for you next to the other couples sitting around our table. I even had a little kid staring at me like I was weird. I felt really lonely…”

This softer approach allowed his partner to relate to where he was coming from and find common ground. Her response? “It sucks to sit alone in a restaurant. I know that feeling. I’m sorry. I’ll make sure to be more mindful of the time.”

2. Focus on one issue
Since you have your partner’s undivided attention during your State of the Union conversation, it can be very tempting to lay out all of your relationship problems at once. But the more problems you try to air, the less likely they are to be solved. Instead, focus on one event and describe it like a journalist:

  • “I would like you to take out the trash without me having to ask you to do it.”
  • “I feel frustrated when you come home later than you say you will without checking in with me.”

3. Protect your partner’s triggers
In Stan Tatkin’s audio program Your Brain on Love, he states 11 facts about people in relationships. The seventh is “Romantic Partners are Responsible for Each Other’s Past.” Whether we like it or not, we are affected by the raw spots in our partner’s past, just as they are affected by ours.

These raw spots can escalate conflict if they are not cared for. Your partner’s baggage may be a source of irritation, but it’s unrealistic to expect them to drop their pain points and “change.” Instead, you can prevent conflict from worsening by working around their triggers with compassion.

Intimately knowing your partner gives you the superpower to love them compassionately despite their raw spots, or to severely hurt them with the knowledge you have. The latter breaks relationships, while the former builds them.

Next week, we will teach you the next letter T, which stands for Tolerance of your partner’s perspective.

How you talk to your partner about issues in your relationship determines how effectively the relationship problems are resolved. If you want to change your partner’s behavior towards you, start by changing your behavior towards them.

If you would like help with your relationship communication, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

The Biggest Communication Problem

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Listen, then respond. Empathy and understanding must precede advice.
-Jennifer Dowling

If you would like help with your communication, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

When Your Spouse Won’t Listen

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When Your Spouse Won’t Listen

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

We all desire to be seen and heard. It is true at work, in our relationships, and most especially with our spouses. Fewer things are more empowering than articulating thoughts that are heard, received, considered and used to grow our relationships.

On the contrary, not feeling heard disempowers, erodes and stunts our relationships from maturing. Worse, if it happens over a period of time it can lead to anger, distance and apathy.

So what do you do if your spouse won’t listen to you? If you find yourself in that situation, you likely feel frustrated, at best–and entitled, at worst. You probably don’t want to hear that you may be contributing as much to the problem as the accused.

If you feel you aren’t being heard, let’s take a step back and consider a few reasons why that may be happening.

TIMING

First, consider the timing of your delivery. Catching your spouse as they walk in the door may not be the time they are most receptive to hearing you out. Some people need some time to wind down and recharge (this doesn’t count if your idea of winding down is tuning out for the entire evening). Does this sound like your spouse? If so, consider that need and think about the timing of your delivery. A little bit of time could create much-needed space for your spouse to be a better listener.

MEN VS. WOMEN

Everything from science to psychologists to our own experiences has proven that men and women generally come from two very different places–and have very different needs. At the core, women want to be loved and cherished and men long to be respected. Before we get carried away, we ALL desire to be loved and we ALL desire to be respected; however, how we prioritize those things is different.

Wives, your men are 100% more likely to shut down if they feel they are being nagged or disrespected. Often–and maybe even rightfully so–women may feel frustrated, as though men should earn their respect. The problem is, that is not the face of sacrificial love.

Proverbs 14:1 says this: “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” One of the greatest ways to build your home is to establish a foundation of grace, love and respect between you and your spouse. Finding your identity in Christ and operating out of the abundance of His love will establish a soft heart for your husband and a place where he will feel respected. Almost always, when a husband feels that respect, his heart softens, and making his wife feel loved and cherished won’t be forced, but fulfilled.

This doesn’t let you off the hook, men. So many of you are prone to wandering minds. If your wife is speaking to you, be intentional about putting down your phone, turning off the game and leaving work at work. Make eye contact, listen, and respond. You are to love and cherish your wife. Your undivided attention is of the best ways you can do this.

Men and women are different. But there is beauty in knowing that and finding the best ways to glorify God in spite of those differences. If your spouse isn’t listening, be sacrificial in your love. Think of what you could be doing better, swallow your pride and love them–not necessarily because they deserve it, but because Christ loves you.

DELIVERY

As goes the saying, it’s not what you say, but how you say it. When communicating with your spouse, it is wise to check your heart and motives before you deliver your message. So often, we are prone to tune out when we pick up on a tone of voice that puts us on the defensive. Checking yourself can be so hard to do when we are operating from a place of hurt or anger, but it is worthwhile to wait until you can communicate in a positive manner. This builds character in yourself and trust in your spouse.

One common denominator across all healthy marriages is healthy communication. At the core, that takes open hearts, articulate communication of your feelings and an ear that is willing to listen. It is no accident to find these in your marriage.

If you are finding your spouse at a place where he/she won’t listen, it is time to do some searching. Start by examining your own heart, timing and delivery. Make small changes where you can. If that doesn’t work over time, seek professional counseling. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather an indication that you want your marriage to thrive. Start small, start now.

 

If you would like help in your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

The Keys to Unlock Great Communication

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The Keys to Unlock Great Communication

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

When you ask any couple what the key to a successful marriage is, they’ll likely include “great communication” in their list. But when we’ve asked couples what “good communication” is, we’ve gotten a lot of foggy answers. Not everyone knows the basics to communicating well, and that can lead to a lot of frustration and unmet expectations in a marriage.

With so many thick books on communication, it is sometimes difficult to cut through the clutter and sum it all up, so we’ve listed out what we think are great places to start. Here are five keys to unlocking great communication:

KEY #1: SEND CLEAR AND ACCURATE MESSAGES.

Precise and unambiguous statements facilitate good communication, while imprecise and ambiguous statements hinder it. Consider the difference between these two statements: “You hurt me tonight at the party,” versus, “I was hurt when you spent almost all of your time at the party watching television instead of talking with our friends.”

KEY #2: AVOID INCONGRUENT MESSAGES.

Do not send simultaneous messages with mutually exclusive meanings. How many messages are contained in the following statements? “There is nothing wrong! And I don’t want to talk about it!” Most often, incongruent messages come from a statement that is not in synch with the person’s facial expression or tone of voice. When a husband says, “I’m happy to wait for you,” but his tone and posture indicate that he is definitely not happy to do so, he is sending an incongruent message that is destined to cause a communication breakdown.

KEY #3: BE EMPATHIC.

Empathy can be defined as listening with your head as well as your heart to truly understand what your spouse is thinking, feeling, and experiencing. Empathy involves putting yourself in your partner’s shoes and imagining what that would be like from his or her perspective. When you partner tells you about feeling rejected by someone at work, for example, put yourself in his or her position. Use your heart to imagine how you would feel if rejected. Then, use your head to accurately understand if what you would be feeling is the same as what your partner is feeling. Every time you empathize, you are able to better understand what your spouse is saying.

KEY #4: PROVIDE FEEDBACK.

Communication involves an exchange of information. The response (or feedback) to the message the other person has sent indicates the message was (or was not) received and was (or was not) understood. “Yes, go on, I’m listening.” “No, I don’t understand that. Please repeat it.” Providing these kinds of simple statements, as well as being attentive with your eyes and posture, lets your spouse know he or she is being understood—that you are genuinely interested in hearing the message.

KEY #5: BE GENEROUS WITH SUPPORTIVE AND POSITIVE STATEMENTS.

Accuracy, empathy, and feedback are all important. But we all like to feel good about ourselves. When we give recognition to our spouses, when we compliment their accomplishments, and when we reassure them of how important they are to us, we not only make them feel better, we build a stronger foundation for communication. When we feel supported and are supportive, many of the other basic communication skills fall more naturally into place.

While there are plenty of additional elements to good communication, these five qualities are some that we view as being most important. In fact, you might want to review this list from time to time and think about your own communication style. Ask yourself how often you use the practices listed here with your spouse.

 

If you would like help with your communication, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or a counselor.

3 Ways to Ensure Your Message Is Not Heard

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3 Ways to Ensure Your Message Is Not Heard

By Eric Geiger

The most important characteristic in effective communication and effective leadership is credibility. Incredible passion cannot overcome a lack of credibility. Sound logic, as important as it is, will not compensate for a lack of credibility. Just as people are unable to follow a leader they cannot believe or trust, a message will not be heard when it is delivered by someone who lacks credibility. Here are three ways communicators lose credibility:

1. Not telling the truth

As a kid, you likely heard the fable of “the boy who cried wolf.” The young boy lied multiple times about being in danger from a wolf. Because he did not tell the truth, people assumed the third time he yelled, “Wolf!” was a lie too. When communicators and leaders don’t consistently tell the truth, people don’t believe them even when the message is true.

2. Constant expressions of anger

Anger can grab attention, and righteous anger can be endearing, as people respect a communicator who is passionate about a wrong that should be made right. But fits of rage expressed against anything and everything reveal the person is bitter, angry, and lacking self-control. Warren Wiersbe said, “Love without truth is hypocrisy, and truth without love is brutality.” Effective communicators speak the truth, but they speak the truth in love.

3. Inconsistency between character and message

A lack of integrity in a communicator distracts from important messages that are being communicated. In the book Small Data, business consultant Martin Lindstrom writes about the demise of the “LiveStrong” bracelets that, at one time, were commonplace:

Up until a few years ago, whenever I gave speeches I asked audience members if anyone was wearing a yellow LiveStrong bracelet… Invariably two dozen or so audience members would raise their hands. Why do you wear it, I asked? Most told me they wore the LiveStrong bracelet to show their support for the fight against cancer. Today, in the wake of Lance Armstrong’s doping controversy, almost no one would want be seen wearing a LiveStrong bracelet. Still, when I asked audience members why they stopped wearing the bracelet—did this mean they no longer believed in fighting cancer?—most admitted they began wearing the bracelet to stand out, to inspire a conversation and even to show their superior moral status.

The important issue of fighting and researching cures for cancer has not become less important, but this particular message lost traction because of a loss of credibility that stemmed from inconsistency between words and actions. Someone who is found guilty of doping is not someone who is seen as a credible messenger for health.

The single most effective way to ensure your message is not heard is to lack credibility. Effective communicators and effective leaders know this and fiercely guard their character and integrity.

Extended Conflict: 5 Tips for Overcoming a Stalemate

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Extended Conflict: 5 Tips for Overcoming a Stalemate

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Inevitably, you and your spouse will run into issues you can’t agree on that will lead to friction in your relationship. Instead of letting conflict simmer, unresolved–where it will eventually burn up your relationship–allow it to shed light.

It’s frustrating and painful to get locked in a stalemate with your spouse…the one person you really don’t want to disagree with. Here are 5 tips for overcoming an unresolved conflict in your marriage.

  1. DON’T AVOID CONFLICT

In the short run, it’s very easy to avoid conflict. But long-term, it can be damaging–so you can’t ignore issues, especially if you’ve reached a stalemate with your spouse.

Ignoring conflict–instead of addressing your disagreement head-on–will create additional undercurrent issues in your marriage that might not have existed otherwise. Additionally, buried feelings have a high rate of resurrection…and unfortunately, when they arise again, they’re uglier than when we first felt them. You could unintentionally create a minefield for you and your spouse.

Get your conflict issues out in the open, and put them on the table. This exchange with your spouse doesn’t have to be loud, loaded or emotional; focus on having a relaxed and fully present conversation where you reveal that you have conflicting feelings over certain issues.

  1. RATE THE DEPTH OF YOUR DISAGREEMENT

When you and your spouse can’t see eye to eye on a certain issue, try using a rating system to rate how deeply you feel about whatever you’re disagreeing on. You can rate items from 1-10 (least to most important) to give yourself an objective view of how invested each of you are in certain outcomes.

Rating your issues will help keep you from checking out on each other when the going gets tough. Download our freeConflict Card for an easy way to rate the depth of your disagreement and the importance of the issues you’re dealing with together.

  1. STEER CLEAR OF CRITICISM

When hashing out a particular problem or disagreement, steer clear of making critical comments toward your spouse. Criticism can take an argument in a very damaging direction.

We’ve all felt it: someone throws a critical comment in our direction, and we immediately become defensive. Emotions are heightened all the more between spouses, and it can be too easy to hurt the person we’re supposed to love the most.

Instead of being critical, turn your critical comments into complaints. That may sound counterproductive, but it will actually help you keep the emphasis off your spouse, and put it back on you and your feelings.

How you begin your statement makes all the difference. Focus on starting with an “I” statement. Instead of saying, “You never pick up your dirty laundry. You’re such a slob!” you could try, “When you don’t pick up the laundry, I feel frustrated. How can we resolve this?”

Another useful tool to keep criticism at bay is the XYZ Formula. To use it, just follow this simple construct and make it applicable to your situation: “In situation X, when you do Y, I feel Z.” It’s a great way to avoid criticizing your spouse and having to deal with hurt feelings in addition to the conflict or disagreement you’re already working to resolve.

  1. PRACTICE EMPATHY

Empathy is the capacity to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes–and it’s SO crucial in marriage. Practicing empathy allows you to see the world from your spouse’s perspective, and imagine living life in their skin.

Feeling things from inside out will have a great impact on you, and in turn, your relationship with your spouse. We’re all hard-wired differently; there’s not one right or wrong way to do most things. We are who we are, and it can be difficult to accept this without being empathetic to one another.

Being empathetic is risky behavior because it will change you. Once you’ve learned to practice empathy, you won’t be the same person you were. You’ll be more accepting of others…and in the case of this stalemate with your spouse, empathy could give you a deeper insight into your spouse’s stance, and why they’ve taken it.

  1. WORK TOWARD CLOSURE

When you find yourselves on the other side of an extended, unresolved conflict (or sometimes, when you’re right in the middle of it), you may find that you have many unresolved emotions to deal with. Burying these emotions will begin a new cycle of conflict, so it’s important to handle these feelings head-on rather than suppressing them.

Make a list of things you consider unfinished or unresolved, and work to get closure with your spouse. Do the necessary work to get internal closure for yourself, as well. Journaling is a great way to process your feelings until they’re out.

CONFLICT ISN’T THE END

It’s important to learn that conflict isn’t the end of your relationship. Once you move past the fear of conflict, you can begin to build confidence in your ability to face and overcome issues together.


If you would like help working through conflict in a healthy and constructive way, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-45-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Marriage Insight: Not Wrong, Just Different

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By Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

In a survey of seven thousand married individuals, we asked the question, “When in a conflict with your spouse, do you feel unloved or disrespected?” The results were truly staggering. Eighty-three percent of the husbands said “disrespected” and 72 percent of the wives said “unloved.”

How could married men and women, when asked the exact same question, overwhelmingly answer in such opposite fashion? Well, as we like to say, one viewpoint is “not wrong, just different.” As different as male is from female. As different as pink is from blue. That’s why we like to describe wives as approaching conflict through all things pink (love) and husbands as all things blue (respect). This felt need of each reflects perfectly Ephesians 5:33!

Wives, your husband is not approaching conflict with your pink goggles on, but instead is coming at it from his blue vantage point.

Husbands, your wife is not entering conflict with your blue goggles on, but instead is approaching it with pink lenses.

You must always be aware of this vast difference between you and your spouse.

Today’s Question: As a wife, you may feel he ought not to feel disrespected since you seek to do the loving thing by pointing out things he needs to change. As a husband, you may feel she ought not to feel unloved since you seek to do the respectful thing by withdrawing to calm down, to prevent the conflict from escalating. Will you dismiss the other as childish, overly sensitive, and egotistical?

Today’s Challenge: Read this statement and meditate on it every chance you get: “Though I cannot imagine that my spouse ought to feel unloved and disrespected during marital conflicts, since I am seeking to do the respectful and loving thing, I will see that God made us different. We are male and female (Matthew 19:4) with honest differences, especially in the way we deal with conflict. When we clash over differing preferences, and I feel I am right, I will not declare that my spouse has to be wrong. I will subscribe to this truth: Neither of us is wrong, just different.


If you would like help dealing with conflict within your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with one of our counselors or coaches.

Can You and Your Partner Agree to Disagree?

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Can You and Your Partner Agree to Disagree?

By Lean Seltzer

Let’s agree to disagree.

challange acceptedCertainly, you’ve heard the phrase before, perhaps so often that it’s ceased to have much meaning to you. But the fact is that in a long-term, committed relationship, when circumstances oblige you to confront significant differences with your partner, nothing could be more crucial than agreeing to disagree.

In my 30-plus years of doing therapy, I’ve found that helping couples learn to truly accept their inevitable dissimilarities—and to take them in stride—serves not only to protect marital harmony in situations of potential conflict but, even more, to help the relationship reach its full potential.

Not that such a near-paradoxical accord, adaptation, or accommodation is easy to accomplish. Most of the time it can be extremely challenging—for most couples, reaching the point where they’re able to comfortably agree to disagree can take not months but years, if their relationship ever achieves that enviable state of grace at all.

Why?

Well, if you operate the way most people do, when your partner takes exception to your viewpoint—or introduces one sharply contrasting with yours—you may find it almost impossible not to experience them as invalidating you, personally attacking you, or striving to defeat you. And if this is how you perceive them in the moment—not as your lifetime companion but as your willful adversary—then you’re compelled to strike back, defend yourself, or even exit the situation entirely, whether mentally, emotionally, or physically. After all, in that instant of disagreement their words have managed to morph them into your enemy. How could this not be the case if, somewhere deep in your gut, you experience their contrary point of view as somehow puncturing your own? (And incidentally, there’s an awfully good chance they’ll be reacting to you similarly—i.e., experiencing your position as aiming poison arrows at theirs.)

This, of course, is when you’re most likely to summon all your mental energy to prove them wrong. For it may feel as though it’s absolutely critical to defend your position. In that moment of perceived threat you may feel (without really understanding why) as if your viewpoint represents something intimately connected to your essence, so that making any concessions would be to sacrifice the innermost core of your being.

And to the extent that you identify yourself with your mind—that you unconsciously regard yourself as equitable to it—then the thought of changing your mind, or simply detaching from it, can feel untenable, even hazardous. So it can be exceedingly difficult to avoid taking your partner’s disagreement personally, especially when you can’t help attributing a certain authority to them; they are, after all, your “match.”

Additionally, when your partner takes exception to what you’re saying, it can feel like a total withdrawal of their loyalty and support—all the more so if you’re dependent on their approval. Yet what’s imperative to understand is that on most occasions your disagreements merely mean that the two of you happen not to see something the same way—or that your wants or needs on a particular matter differ. Not being each other’s clones, naturally you’re not going to share all the same preferences.

No big deal, right?

If in that moment of disagreement you actually feel abandoned by your partner, it can be a very big deal. You can feel completely out of harmony with them—frustrated, demeaned, disregarded, disconnected, alienated, and/or betrayed. At least that’s what the child part of you may be experiencing—and it can be intensely uncomfortable and disconcerting.

Move from Menacing Disagreements to Safe Ones

For the rest of the article, check out the article in full at Psychology Today.


If you would like help with your relationship, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Basic Principles of Effective Communication

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Basic Principles of Effective Communication

By Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

John is a student writing a paper on male and female communication. He emailed me saying, “I would be honored if you would please take a few, brief moments and answer three questions for me.”

Question #1: In your opinion, what communication breakdowns occur between males and females?

We often say communication is the key to a successful marriage; however, I prefer to say that mutual understanding is the key.

If I speak perfect Spanish and you speak perfect German, we can communicate in prose that touches on poetic, but if the other does not know our mother-tongue, they will not understand us.

I take the position that women lean toward Love-Talk and men toward Respect-Talk, which I show in my books, Love & Respect and The Language of Love & Respect. The principles explained in both books are based on Ephesians 5:33, the discoveries at the University of Washington, as well as my own research.

When a husband does not understand what his wife means by what she says (“You aren’t loving me”) and a wife does not understand what he means by what he says (“You aren’t respecting me), they will not understand each other and thus will not communicate very well.

This is a simple explanation that I write about elsewhere in greater depth.

Question #2: What important skills are necessary for effective communication between males and females?

She needs to learn to communicate her need for love in respectful ways, and he needs to communicate his need for respect in loving ways.

Let me insert something important here: women need respect and men need love, too. However, we asked 7,000 people this question, “When you are in conflict with your spouse, do you feel unloved or disrespected?” 83% of the men said they felt disrespected and 72% of the women said they felt unloved.

We all need love and respect equally, but the felt need differs during conflict.

To effectively communicate, a wife must learn how to communicate her feelings of being unloved in a way that sounds respectful to her husband, and a husband must learn how to communicate his feelings of being disrespected in a way that sounds loving to his wife.

Question #3: What can be done by both males and females of all ages to increase effective communication in relationships?

Understand that God designed the genders differently. Neither are wrong, just different.  Though we are equal, we are not the same.

We have shown that the differences exceed simple biology–they spill over onto how we think and feel. A man and a woman can encounter the same conflict, but one’s gender drives how that conflict will be interpreted and handled.

For example, 85% of those who stonewall and withdraw in conflict are male. Why? Many wives say it is because he is being unloving, but I believe he does so to calm down–he knows it is not honorable to allow a conflict among friends to escalate out of control.

Why would a man need to calm down? At moments of marital conflict the heartbeats of many males, according to the University of Washington, can reach 99 beats per minute. He is in warrior mode. His wife, however, remains relatively calm with regard to BPM.

Interestingly, she appears out of control while he appears stoic, but internally both respond differently.

She does not interpret the conflict as a provocation, but as an opportunity to resolve the matter. On the other hand he feels provoked and senses a need to calm down, lest things get out of hand.

Why would a husband do this? I see it as honorable. He does not want to fight, so he withdraws to protect the relationship. But when wives were asked by researchers what they felt at such moments, the wives said, “It feels like an act of hostility.”

Who is right? Is it an act of honor or act of hostility? Yes. It just depends if one filters it throughblue or pink.

In our study, how did the wives approach their husbands in conflict? Research reveals that women tend to move toward the husbands to connect; they do not withdraw. However, the researchers found that when wives move toward their husbands, they do so with criticism and complaint.

I believe it is because they care. However, when the husbands were asked how they feel about the wife’s approach, many of the men interpret the ongoing criticism as contempt for who they are as men.

Who is right? Is it an act of care or an act of contempt? Yes. It just depends on the pink and blueview.

Neither are wrong, just different. When we learn these differences, harmony can be presentbetween men and women.

We will not attack the other as hostile and contemptuous, but rather as good-willed and desiring to do what is caring and honorable.

Hope this helps.

-Dr. E

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If you would like help in communication, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to set up an appointment with a counselor or coach.