Are you familiar with those moments where you talk to your partner and he or she is completely not getting you? You feel neither seen nor appreciated? And, that the conversation seems to be completely off. As a result, the both of you are on the edge of starting an argument?
I experienced this quite often in my past marriage, too. To be frankly, as life can be quite busy and challenging, such situations are a likely trap that can get you caught in an argument quite quickly . But how can we turn such situations around? What are the underlying reasons that lead us into such situations? So, here I am sharing with you what I have discovered regarding this topic in a professional and personal context.
Why does communication fail in a relationship?
Based on what I have seen with my clients and in my personal life, these are the four most common reason why communication fails in a relationship:
#1 you and your partner approach things and thoughts differently
#2 you have different values
#3 you are not really listening to each other
#4 You are not really curious about each other’s way of thinking
First of all, it is normal that we see and approach things differently, not just because we are different people, but also because we all come from different upbringings, which sets our mental default setting, as I like to call them. This impacts how we carry ourselves and how we walk through our lives. It is influenced by family circumstances and family culture, cultural and ethical standards, gender and experiences of any kind. Even within a family these terms of thinking vary from person to person. In short, our upbringing shapes our current paradigms.
Second, this paradigm also influences our values. In order to maintain a healthy relationship with your partner, it is important to have a common ground, meaning a base of common values. If your values differ too much, it not only sets ground for constant arguments, it also shows some incompatibility. There should be at least 3 matching core values to have a common foundation with your partner.
Third, not listening to each other signals that you are not available for a conversation at that certain moment, because you might be mentally occupied by other pressing things. In such situations, I recommend you share this with your partner and signal that you would like to postpone the conversation to a later point in time in order to be able to listen completely. Set a day and time within the next 24 hours for this conversation so your partner still can feel seen and valued.
Fourth, if you are not listening because you are actually not interested in what your partner has to share, could be a clear sign that you have either have mentally left this relationship already or you are about to exit this relationship. In either scenario, this would be the moment to seek professional help, if you still wish to stay with your partner. Sometimes couples ask for help when one of the partners has already has left, at least mentally. In such case, a peaceful goodbye has sometimes turned out as the couple’s underlying goal.
What can you do to turn around communication challenges?
However, assuming you are dealing with the reasons 1 and 3, the following brief communication tools of the Imago couple’s dialog will help you to turn around the communication challenge.
Mirror what your partner said. The tool of mirroring (repeating word by word what your opposite is saying) provides the opportunity to both of you to hear what was understood and what was said.
So, you quickly can evaluate if this is a good moment to engage in communication or whether you are currently unavailable for the conversation.
If the different attitudes of you and your partner (your paradigm) causes the communication challenge, it’s an invitation to both of you to reflect on these differences. What I do and recommend to my clients is: take a deep breath, in case the said offended you. Then try to name the feeling which arose and ask your partner to reword the sentence.
Try to own the arisen feeling as a part of your paradigm and who you are. This moment gives you the chance to reflect if it’s a beneficial or defeating paradigm. Owning this feeling allows the both of you to understand the other one’s approach without blaming each other. This can lead to true, honest and respectful communication which creates intimacy and a strong foundation for your relationship.
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