Are You Listening

Are You Listening

I work with couples and they often come in saying that they want to work on their communication with one another or learn how to fight fair.  As we begin the work, what I notice is that it’s not that they aren’t sharing how they feel, what they want or their perception of what is going on- it is that they aren’t able to step out of their own belief of what happened and hear their partner’s experience or perception.

It is already so hard to share how we are feeling with our partner.  Thoughts race through our minds: what will they think, will they be upset, will they understand, will they support me, will they leave me, etc.  So when someone shares their experience and their partner tells them “no, that isn’t what you meant, how you felt, your intentions”; it causes that partner to shut down because nothing they say is going to get through.  This leads to less sharing and more disconnection.  What the person sharing was afraid would happen is coming true; they have shared what is real for them and they are being dismissed or defended against.  And so the cycle goes on- and the thing they are asking for, “please talk to me, I want to hear your thoughts” isn’t going to happen because when they do, they are shut down by their partner.  

This is such a hard space to be in.  On one end, the partner that is dismissing or defending is just sharing how they are feeling, the hard that they are going through, the messages they are telling themselves, and we are supposed to share, right.  But what happens when your partner shares and instead of leaning into their experience and trying to understand or make sense of it we defend and go into our position is that our partner feels unheard and like they are wasting their time and energy if whatever they say is going to be challenged.  The person that is dismissing or defending has good reason they are feeling the way they are feeling and may struggle to make sense of what their partner is saying.  It’s scary to trust what they are saying because that would mean that they have to lower their guard and believe the best in the other person.  This is really hard to do when you feel you have been wronged.  

Y’all- I am a therapist, this is the work I do and I won’t lie to you- I get caught in this cycle too.  I want to believe that how I am feeling is right, that I can explain or justify why my partner is wrong, how they meant it.  But I’m not them, I’m not in their brain, I’m not feeling the feelings they are feeling and the only way I will know what that is, is if I listen to what they tell me.  I can stay in that place of “I’m right/you’re wrong” but what does it get me?  I feel alone, misunderstood, wronged, upset/angry- there is no winner in this scenario, only two losers left feeling defeated and disconnected.  

Our best case scenario is to be able to listen to our partner, believe they have our best intentions at heart, and even if we don’t agree with it and request that the behavior change, that we can still lean in enough to make sense of it/hear what our partner is saying.  We need to feel safe and secure to share with our partner and if we don’t the intimacy and connection between us will break down.

If you are struggling with communicating with your partner, I’d love to help you learn your negative cycles, why you are making the moves you are making,  and help you shift how you interact with your partner. 

Speak Your Mind


8780 Big Bend Blvd. Suite B
Webster Groves, MO 63119
(314) 472-8180

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