Myths about Communication

Most couples come into my office thinking they have a communication problem. Then most say their partner needs to listen better or be more open.

It can be a challenge to see our part in the “communication” problem. We are usually so busy reacting to what our partner is saying that we aren’t really hearing them. Instead we are listening to our assumptions, putting up walls, or formulating our next point.

What if you were better able to manage your own emotional reactions with your partner? The challenge isn’t getting your partner to listen, it is getting yourself to stay interested in your partner without defending, attacking, or withdrawing.

If you are looking for a different perspective on opening up couple’s communication, then I invite you to listen to this video from The Bowen Center’s Family Matters interview series on “Myths about Communication.” As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Kathleen Cauley shares her thoughts on common communication challenges among couples:

In the video, Kathleen shares common assumptions many couples have about good communication. She also proposes a new way of thinking about communication that involves calming yourself down instead of getting your point heard. I would love to hear your thoughts and reactions to this video in the comments section.

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Subscribe to Family Matters on You Tube to hear more videos. The mission of the Bowen Center is “to assist families in solving major life problems through understanding and improving human relationships.”

Use Feeling Lost to Spark Motivation

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“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” ~Helen Keller

I’ve always loved a good adventure, especially exploring trails off the main path. That is, unless I get lost. Like the time I got lost deep in the woods with two friends when I was 15.

An Adventure in Getting Lost

I remember it perfectly. We are exploring uncharted land behind my friend’s apartment. (There are worse things a teen could be doing!) The sun is getting closer to setting, and my friend wants to take a “short cut” back to the apartment. Yet, instead of getting us back quicker, we find ourselves surrounded by a wall of trees – in a forest we never knew existed.

Darkness begins to fill the spaces between the trees. Thorny plants pierce our legs with weeds halfway up our bodies. We can’t see what we are walking on, but know we need to keep moving. Hours pass, fear sets in, and we have absolutely no idea how to get out of the woods. Everything looks exactly the same in the dark.

After walking many miles away from home, we see a faint light in a clearing. It is a house sitting on a long driveway. We bravely knock on the door and ask how to get back to the main road. (After all, cell phones hadn’t been invented yet!)

We are surprised how far we have traveled in the dark and discomfort, but we are proud of the scars from our adventure.

Usefulness of Being Lost

Have you ever been really, really lost? I don’t mean lost physically, but lost as to how to solve a problem or face a challenge. Did you freeze in fear or renew your determination to keep moving?

I find feeling lost and unsure very frustrating, but I also find it very motivating. My discomfort activates me to push myself and keep moving. I reflectively search myself for answers until I am back on track.

“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Feeling lost helps us retreat, reflect, and restore. In fact, some researchers describe “depression as a natural restorative process after a sustained stress response” (Dr. Daniel Papero). In this way, feeling lost is a time to recharge by taking extra good care of yourself.

Turn Feeling Lost Into Motivation

Let the dark-woods seasons of life restore you. If you feel lost, let your fear and frustration motivate you instead of paralyze you. Instead of getting angry at feeling lost, you can:

  • Look after your body with enough sleep, exercise, and nutrition
  • View feeling lost as part of the journey
  • Remember that you hold the answers, even if it’s hard to find them
  • Know this too will pass
  • Connect with others along the way
  • Focus on sureness (goals) more than your unsureness (anxiety)

You don’t need to have all the answers to free yourself, or to find your way back. But, you do need to believe in yourself just long enough to see you can and you are.

When has feeling lost motivated you to keep moving?

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If you would like to spark your own growth journey, try free introductory coaching session with Coach Marci!

Photo Credit: “Evening Sun in the Woods” by Per Ola Wiberg

Open Communication by Respecting Differences

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Do you remember when differences were exciting? Learning about your mate was like reading a mystery novel. In the beginning, even your mate’s flaws were endearing. You weren’t trying to change each other. Instead you accepted each other the way you were.

But the longer you are together, the more you start to notice more differences with your mate. And the differences start to get under your skin. You wonder how you can tactfully get your mate to see there is  a better way – your way.

What if we don’t have to change our spouse to be happy again? We have a choice. Try to change the differences or grow to respect them. And by respecting differences, you will invite more open communication in your relationship.

4 Ways to Respect Differences:

Having differences isn’t the problem; it is how you respond to the differences that creates marriage conflict.

“When people can listen without reacting emotionally, communication is wide open and differences are an asset to a marriage, not a liability.” ~ Dr. Michael Kerr

  • Be curious – While it’s tempting to push for agreement and sameness during stressful times, find a way to think about differing ideas as less threatening. Differences can be lively and interesting when you don’t have to change them. Enjoy learning about your spouse again.
  • Look for similarities – If all you can see is differences, look for commonalities. You may find you have more in common than you thought. Maybe you value the big things, but differ on how to get there. Or maybe you both take things personally, but calm down in different ways.
  • Manage Worry – If you worry about what might or could happen, then it’s hard to stop reacting to differences. Most people can deal with the way things are, but it’s almost impossible to deal with what they worry might happen. Give your worry less thinking energy, and you will feel less threatened. Focus on what you do have instead of worrying about what you might lose.
  • Know Your Choices – Feel secure by knowing you always have a choice. If you disagree, then it’s ok to let your mate be responsible for the consequences of his or her choice. You don’t have to persuade him or her to do it your way, because you can choose not to rescue them from their choices. When you find a way to be less impacted by your mate’s different choice, you can be less reactive to the differences.

The Upside of Having Differences in Relationships:

Expressing differences without pressure for agreement is another form of emotional intimacy. Differences don’t mean that one is right and the other is wrong, it’s just different. When there’s room for individuality in a relationship, there is room for connecting and growing together.

“When we judge, we leave no room for love.” – Mother Teresa

Many couples avoid conflict and feel a pseudo-closenss because they “never fight.” But do the couples still really know each other?

I am not saying you need to share every difference you have, especially if you are expecting your mate to change. But if you can present your idea while also respecting your mate’s different idea, then you are being intimate instead of combative.

The more sure you are of yourself, the less you will find differences as a threat. When two people are more free to define themselves without pressure to shape up the other, then they can truly be known. And being known, even if it’s different, is what intimacy is all about.

Share your thoughts: What helps you listen to your mate’s differences without seeing them as a threat?

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Photo Credit: Felix Fracis