One of the common themes I have found working with people and their relationships, is that often their partner doesn’t really hear them. Do you find for some reason your message may not be getting through at times? I also found this in my relationships as well. I will be honest and at times have not really heard my partner and this has generated a more heated conversation at some time in the future.
I am willing to bet that if we are truly honest with ourselves, if we don’t feel heard, we also are probably not really listening. We may hear the words, but the message is being warped inside our head like a game I remember as a kid where you had to pass a short message verbally along a line of people and the message that came out the other end was nothing like the one that started. I saw it done recently on ‘I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here” And probably the same is going on, on the other side, the message is getting garbled.
This is not to lay any blame, it is what it is. Generally we have not been taught the skills to really be present, non-judgemental and really hear the other person.
Lets check in for a minute. Can you remember a time recently where you have said something important to someone and you felt they have not heard you? How did this make you feel? Frustrated, despondent, or perhaps some other descriptive words that it is not politically correct to write here?
So have you worked out yet what is going on? Chances are that you have encountered this before, possibly many times.
One way to look at it, is that our mind is doing all the great things Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), talks about. It applies filters to the messages coming in through our senses. The internal processing filters are; deletion, distortion, and generalisation. Now we throw in a good mix of Beliefs, Values, Attitudes, Memories and Decisions and is it any wonder we don’t hear the message clearly. (If you want to learn more simply google “NLP Model of the Mind”).
Here is a story, with the names and some of the facts change to protect the innocent. I am sure that many elements will be true in many relationships.
I was contacted today by a woman, a mother to four children, a wife and having her own career. All the people around her were saying the best thing to do was to leave the marriage because of her husband’s behaviour. Here was a woman who was looking for more options. She had tried everything she knew and had been advised.
I normally do a complimentary 30 minute call, so we can get to know each other and see whether or not there is an opportunity to work together. An hour and a half later our call ended. I learned a lot in that time, by being present, interested and listening.
Because of her husband’s work schedule, they had not been able to get to any marriage counselling and it seemed that even though her husband said he was open to counselling, he did not take the initiative to book any. She read this as a lack of commitment. I heard about her frustrations, sadness, confusion, and not knowing what to do next. They had separated a few times before and had always got back together.
I shared that I’m confident that there was mutual love still in this relationship and I know that underneath all the goings on, the stresses of life that it is natural for parents to love their children and for children to love their parents. And that when people have got together, live together and have a family, there is generally a lot of love. However what can get lost along the way is respect and trust. I confirmed this with the woman, and one of her big issues was around trust.
I requested at the end of the conversation if it was possible to set up a time to speak to the husband. She said after tea (or dinner, you know evening meal) around 7pm. So I received a call from the husband, when I was on another call and called back in a few minutes later.
I have no idea what was said to get him to call. No idea of the mood of the household. So I start by saying “Hi Peter (not his real name), how are you going? Do you know who you are talking to?” (In hindsight a silly question as he rang me). Then I start the conversation off and just getting back one word replies. Yep, Ok, No. You get the picture. Anyway, I am simply straight up and say “Even though I didn’t ask Simone’s (his wife and not her real name) permission, I am going to share some of the conversation we had. And I proceed to clarify a few facts, like how long they had been together, the ages of the children, and their names. It is at about this point the 10 month baby goes motoring on all fours down a hallway. And Peter comments that the baby moves on all fours about as fast as he can walk. So there is the goings on around with the family as we talk.
At one point Peter shares that he has no one to talk to. He loves his dad, but when he tries to share what is going on, his dad’s advice is “You can sort it out”. Others around him were also telling him to leave the marriage. It seems like this is the only strategy people have and that these people are only suggesting it to help or protect him.
So Peter shares with me that there is a lot of bottling up going on, and sometimes he takes his stress out on those around him.
I ask what is most important to him and he replies, “Kids I guess”, I ask what’s next most important and he says “Happiness and being stable”, Next “Peace and quiet”. What are the chances of having peace and quiet with a family and young kids? Peter also shares that while he loves his work, it is long hours and very stressful. Now the conversation is starting to go a bit one sided. Peter’s side. He is off and running. The floodgates are opening up (I’m getting dramatic here). The frustrations are coming out. The work stories are being told. Frustrations at home, and I am feeling honoured to hear these stories and to be able to hear what is important to Peter, and really what is going on in his life.
This conversation lasts an hour.
I heard two similar but different stories. I heard different interpretations of events. I could see both were right in their own worlds, based on their own experiences, like wearing different coloured sunglasses. At the end of our conversations I could hear the differences in the energy and in the voices of both Simone and Peter. There was less frustration, more peace and I would like to think more hope that there is a way forward. I did tell them both the good news and the bad news. The good news was that I could see their relationship working and being wonderful if they worked at it. The bad news was that there is no quick fix, and that it will take guidance, time, and effort.
I gave them some homework to work what they wanted to achieve individually by working with me and also what they wanted to achieve for their relationship, family and kids. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall to see what the outcome of these conversations were. I guess I will know within the next few days.
Like I said earlier, I know there are a lot of other relationships out there that are having similar issues where the partners are not hearing and understanding each other. In hindsight, one big conclusion I came to when my marriage broke down was “Love is not enough. Skills, commitment and a willingness to change and grow are required for a healthy relationship.”
Another quick story about a client this week.
This client told me that one area that her husband clearly heard her was when she says to him, “I’m not coping, I need a hug.” She shared that he is fully present, there to hold her and give her a heartfelt hug. At this time she feels he is totally there for her, she feels supported and it fills up her love tank. This is all she needs. Nothing more, nothing less. Now she is able to cope with whatever situation she needs to face. It can be this simple when someone is able to ask for what they need and their partner understands and is able from their heart to meet their need. What is your idea of a compromise? Is it something positive or negative? Here’s a blog I wrote about in relationships compromise is a dirty word.
So if you've got any questions regarding this blog or any aspect of your relationship, why not take advantage of the complimentary 30-minute session I offer. Contact Me to see how I can help you have more healthier and happier relationships. Until next time.
Keith Flynn BSc, Dip. Hyp.