There you are, once again, trying to talk sense to your partner and all they can do is argue back! Or maybe its the other way around, they are trying to get something across to you, but you have already got your back up and you are only listening long enough to be able to formulate your defence or counter-attack. Sound familiar?
Several bodies of research show that most conflicts that have a painful “charge” are only 10% about the present situation and 90% about some past wound that is causing pain now. We don’t tend to act very logically or consciously in situations that carry an emotional charge, and consequently we often make matters worse when we would like them to be better.
When there is tension in the air we really owe it to ourselves, our partner, our relationship, to slow down, make a really conscious effort to be constructive and if you are on the receiving end, make a big effort to really understand your partner.
Now this is not an easy thing to do by any means. Below is a neat little video of a real life couple demonstrating Imago Therapies “Couples Dialogue”. This video can also be found as part of a series on the Imago International website here
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Do you tend to just jump right in to solving your partners problems as soon as you hear them, and then wonder why they get upset with you when all you are trying to do is be helpful? Frustrating right? If this is you the chances are you are a man, or the go-to problem solver type.
As a generalisation women tend to respond to a problem by turning to their friends, and sharing the problem. The experience of the other person getting them and responding with understanding and empathy has a connecting and calming effect that’s facilitated by the production of feel-good chemicals in the brain such as oxytocin. This calming effect reinforces connection in the face of a problem.
A majority of men on the other hand tend to respond to a problem as if it were a threat, something to be repelled or avoided rather than an opportunity for connection. When we experience a real or perceived threat we get a shot of adrenaline, which is a fight or flight activator and pushes us towards action rather than connection or curiosity. So we want to jump right in and solve the problem, but in doing this our partners are left feeling unseen and disconnected.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes our partners don’t just want us to listen. Sometimes they would like some kind of help or advice, but you will be in a much better place to offer what’s needed or ask about that after you have really tuned in to them and got what it is they are experiencing.
Ask your partner to use the phrase “Its not about the nail…..” next time you are missing them, and the chance to connect, by being unhelpfully helpful.