What started out as a lovely catch up about our day, one wrong turn quickly turned into a minefield of accusations, complaints and a breakdown of any real communication. The only resort was to put down the phone, and have some time to cool off. Perhaps we didn't speak in the most loving tone, or speak words of love in general, but there is no doubt we love each other. What transpired here was a true lack of understanding. In fact I am sure at some point I even said: "You know me, but you don't always understand me." For others they may say something like "I love him/her but I don't always like him/her".
Understanding is what is missing in most relationships. The reason partners complain to each other is because they are not getting their needs met. If I think about why we took that "one wrong turn" I realise that there were unmet needs from earlier in the week, which had failed to be discussed at a constructive time, and instead these unmet needs reared their ugly head when we were both tired, over the phone, at the end of the day. A recipe for misunderstanding, for poor communciation, and an impending argument.
Complaints are really a disguise for sadness or disappointment or disconnection from our partner. When we are not understanding our partner's needs or even the way they want to be loved, it leaves our 'love tank' depleted or empty if unfulfilled for long periods. Understanding is knowing what is needed to refill that love tank; and this will be unique from couple to couple.
Unfortunately when a partner is unhappy, it usually comes out as "You never have time for me", "You never help out around the house", "You always leave your clothes lying around", "You always forget to pick up the milk" etc. These criticisms give us a clue about the underlying feelings. She/ He may be feeling ignored, sad, angry, disappointed, lonely, vulnerable... and all these feelings come out about complaints about the milk and the clothes on the floor.
Much like with my phone call, one criticism leads to a critical reply, which leads to anger, and there we have hurt feelings on top of hurt feelings. Both people are left feeling misunderstood and cheated.
If this isn't resolved this can create a pattern by which the couple live by.
4 Steps to Breaking the Cycle of Misunderstanding
1. Before your partner can understand you, you need to understand yourself. After an argument, take sometime out and consider WHY you were complaining. Is it really about the clothes or the milk.... or are there deeper feelings of sadness, disappointment, anger, loneliness, isolation? This is essential before moving to the next step. Understanding who you are, what makes you tick, what your needs are, and then communicating this to your partner, allows you to experience a deeper intimacy in your relationship.
2. Apologise. "I am sorry I got frustrated with you" "I am sorry that I spoke to you that way". Very few conversations (unless it is an abusive relationship) result in only one partner hurting. This softens the mood and gives you the space to move to Step 3.
3. Our partners are many great things, one of them is NOT a mind reader. This is where the need for understanding comes in. Once you know what your needs are: (to feel valued, to feel important, to feel affirmed, to have dinner together, to have quality time marked out together during the week) then ASK for it: Babe, sometimes I feel like you don't appreciate me/ I feel like we don't spend enough time together/ I feel like it doesn't even matter what I do, it is never enough.
And then follow this with : Could you tell me that I am important to you / Could we plan for which nights we can eat dinner together after work.
4. Counselling gives you the tools, and the opportunity to perfect this dialogue. Initially speaking like this will feel strange and out of the ordinary, but it feels AMAZING to ask for what you need, and to have your partner give it to you. It requires a strong foundation of LOVE in your relationship, to be able to feel vulnerable with your person, and tell them how to better UNDERSTAND you. It is not just about working on how to ask for what we want, but how to respond once we know what our partner needs.
Counselling helps you to make sense of why you are arguing about the milk or the clothes on the floor, to become more self aware, and more aware of what your partner NEEDS, WANTS and DESIRES.
If you are ready to take the next step to a better relationship, contact me on 073 809 9576 or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Love from Simone
Your Registered Counsellor Rooted in Love.