- Do you find yourself having the same argument over and over again with your partner?
- Does it seem like a carousel ride with both of you going around and around in your arguments, but never getting anywhere, except more frustrated?
- And getting easily into verbal abuse?
- Do you walk away wondering why it happened again, but why nothing really happened?
Have you ever stopped to ask your partner why?
One thing couples seem to so often get caught up in is wondering why why one doesn’t understand the other, “Even after telling him so many times!” But the question seems to rarely be asked directly to that partner in a constructive and sincere way. You may be saying right now, “But I ask him that every time we argue “Why don’t you understand me?’” The problem is right there, that you ask him every time you argue.
Often, when couples fight, they feel hurt or scared, so they automatically put up defenses, like shutting down or getting angry, internally putting up their guards. In this way, they block out the hurtful or frustrating things that are being said. That block acts exactly as it is, a block, not as a filter; it becomes very difficult for rational questions and conversation to come through either.
So even though you may think you are asking the important question of “Why/What don’t you understand?” the question is blocked as an accusation, and as such, automatically rejected by the “other” instead of being accepted or processed as a constructive request for communication.
You probably are very familiar with the topic of the argument, and likely know exactly what YOU are trying to get across or what problem you are hoping to get solved. You may go over it again and again in your mind, even when you are not arguing it with your partner. Use this revolving thinking as a tool – next time you find yourself thinking about, pay attention. Try to calm down and just allow yourself to think through it, almost like a math problem or a business challenge.
What do you say to your partner when you bring this up? What is the actual problem? Is there more than one problem just wrapped up in a larger picture? Why is this a problem for you? How does the problem make you feel? What are you needing or expecting from your partner when you broach this topic?
If it helps, write all this down, to keep it organized and calm. On the back of the paper, list your feelings, too.
Now find a time when you and your partner are NOT arguing, are feeling calm and have time and a suitable atmosphere to talk. This would be a time when maybe you would usually talk about what you might do over the weekend, or cook for dinner – Think comfortable and connected. This is the time to ask your partner what is in your messages that he doesn’t understand.
The question needs to be asked with sincerity and calm and you must be ready to listen. You could start the conversation with an opener such as “Honey, I’ve noticed we tend to argue lately when we talk about… But we don’t seem to get anywhere. I don’t want to argue about it. I think maybe we aren’t understanding each other. I want to make sure I am communicating my ideas to you, and it doesn’t seem like it’s working. Can you tell me what prevents you from understanding when I bring issues up?” Or, what is the blockage?
Then listen, really listen, don’t try to think of a response until he is done talking. You may be surprised to find out he really didn’t know what your definition or feelings on the problem were at all, or you didn’t know his, and that’s why the carousel ride wouldn’t stop.
And after he has finished, you respond to him: “I hear you saying……, is my choice of words the obstacle that confuses you about what I mean”?
Try to use his own words, or similar that you are familiar with….and ask up until he says: YES! now you get me! and then, ask him: “I will express one of my thoughts on this problem to you, can you repeat back what you understood of my phrase?”
Rinse and repeat up to the moment he is able to convey back to you the meaning you so desperately tried to send to him….This is the good communication example you can use in the future, to establish a base for “when we are communicating well…”
Conflict is natural, it is meant to help us learn and strengthen ourselves and our relationships. But conflict that hurts, or takes us nowhere but in angry circles does neither of those things. If you struggle with conflict and need more help finding the right times and the right words to use conflict in a healthy way, you are not alone, and help is here.