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Communicating with your partner - learn to listen and to understand better

Updated on September 21, 2012
Happily ever after? We just fell in love and everything seems just perfect....until reality kicks in
Happily ever after? We just fell in love and everything seems just perfect....until reality kicks in | Source
Growing old together - that's our goal. Will we get there with the communication we have?
Growing old together - that's our goal. Will we get there with the communication we have? | Source

The problem arises

I have been in a few relationships, and I am one of those who is trying to work things out. Like you all, I realized one day that something is "off" and like many of you I heard of all kind of books in regards to relationships, especially "Men are from Venus, Woman are from Mars". But before I got into that book I read a few other ones. Slowly but steadily I began to learn, began to grasp and understand the biggest problem of relationships. It isn't so much the differences - but the communication itself. It is not right from the beginning that we realize there is a problem with communication, because we are freshly in love and life seems perfect. But as life moves on we reach more and more topics to discuss and situations we get into as a couple.

Because we are different, we also communicate differently. Have you ever tried communicating with someone who doesn't speak a word English? We make every effort, with hands and feet, gestures, maybe even adding some drawings to it - just do whatever it takes to make the other one understand as much as possible, right? We try different things, different methods and have a lot of patience. In a relationship, we quickly get aggravated, irritated and impatient because we speak the same language and yet we don't understand each other - it doesn't make sense to us. We might even think:" How can he not understand?" or "Why is she so dumb and doesn't get it?".

Applying what we learn

Well, it should be easy and straight forward to understand someone who speaks the same language - you would think so. Now think about it - how many words do we have to express ourselves? Approximately 600,000 words we have to express ourselves in the English language - plenty to begin with. Do we always think of the same thing when we hear a word? Absolutely not.

When I started reading about problems in relationships and the differences between the sexes I got a better understanding about what is going on. And there is a number of things, but I believe the communication is the number one reason. If we can't make the other one understand what we are trying to say and try them understand it from our point of view - we are at loss. Will it be possible to make the other one understand? Yes and no. While we can change the way we say things to help the other one understand, we cannot make the other one feel and think like the opposite sex.

How does it help a relationship when we have a better understanding of the problem? Well, we will first of all have more patience and have a better understanding why the other one just doesn't get it right. This relieves us from pressure, from anger and frustration - which is the main cause for break ups in the end.

I started off with books from Gary Smalley. He wrote a couple of excellent books like "If only he knew" or "Love is a decision". While he puts everything in a religious perspective - don't be fooled. It is written so realistic and it applies to everyone of us in one way or another. I had my moments of big laughs while reading those books - and my husband back then, came into the bedroom, wondering why I was laughing so much. The reason was, that I was relating to so many situations Smalley was describing in his books. Relating to the situations myself right there and looking at them from a distance with the understanding I just gained from the book - it just made me laugh. I had fun reading those books and digging in my own past at the same time and realizing situations.

This was my first and most important step to get the big picture. Yet, I made a mistake through all my learning. And I believe it is a very common mistake that many of us make. After we realize the difference in communication we try to change the way we communicate, while trying to make the other one think and feel like us! This is never going to happen! A woman is a woman and a man is a man, period. We are just wired that way and it is impossible to rewire. So, how else does all what we learned from the books help us?

Well, what I learned first of all, that the communication is very different. Just sit down with your partner and describe the same item? Write it down and then read it to each other? It might go that far that you don't even realize that you are talking about the same item! What does that tell you? First of all we choose different words and express the same thing totally differently.

Putting into practice what we understood

Women usually tend to be more emotionally expressive, while men are more factual expressive. When a woman talks she loads her speech with emotional words which seem like garbage to the ear of the man. So he eliminates them and keeps records of what's left over....maybe not much at all. She gets a verbal response with just plain factual words and her brain is filtering for emotional words, same thing as he did just reverse. And what is left for each other to understand is just a fraction of what each other actually said....often the important words of the speaker have gotten lost somewhere. The result is misunderstanding, frustration and more.

So, we try again harder - throw even more words in that are important for us to make the emotional statement as a woman, and the factual statement of the man. But the same thing happens....we filter again....and we tried so hard to get our point across again but no luck, no success. And we keep doing it again and again while frustration builds up. At one point we walk away from each other believing the other one just doesn't want to understand, angry and frustrated. Maybe we try the same thing another time again, maybe not.

What we can learn from the books is to realize that a man is a factual focused being, who sees things differently than a woman, who can be emotional, but on a different level, connecting emotions with different words than a woman chooses. A woman is a very emotional being that a man will never be able to reach her level. We will never be able to make a man feel and sense words like a woman and the other way around. It is impossible to change the way we are and we should not change, because the way we are makes us what we are - woman and man.

So, why does this help us for a better understanding? First of all, if the other one does not understand what we are trying to say we can remember:"He does not understand what I am saying, because he is different and not because he is stubborn or doesn't listen to me etc...." Doesn't that already help a lot not to get so angry and frustrated? And the next thing we can do is try to find things or situations he might be able to relate to which are similar or might be similar and use them as a tool to make him understand better. He can do the same in finding more emotional situations that relate to it.

I stopped pushing for emotions from him, that he just can't feel or relate to. And he stopped doing the same the other way around. It is what it is and like the famous book says "Woman are from Mars and Men are from Venus" - while we speak the same language, we use different words we can relate to. Don't try to make a woman out of a man or the other way around - this will never happen.

I also learned rephrasing. It is a fantastic tool. This way you say something and your partner will rephrase it with his own words what you just said. First of all you are forced to listen well and it will help to stop right there, where something has been misunderstood. Often we tend to interrupt the other one - we need to learn to stop doing that and what helps a lot is the following method. Choose an item - a book, a pen, a pillow, just anything you want. The one who speaks will have it in his/her hand. As long as it is in the hand, wait until he/she pauses to give you a chance to rephrase - then just rephrase, don't respond! Wait until it is your turn and you have the item in your hand. Then it is your turn to respond and for the other one to rephrase. You will notice that often we have the tendency to interrupt too soon and miss some important part that could change our response completely. Also don't talk for too long - keep it short and take turns, this way you don't have to store up so many thoughts and responses can be shared quickly to avoid misunderstanding.

One other big issue of misunderstanding is the respect and security. A man needs respect and the woman needs security. Both of these are very essential elements in any relationship - and they weight a lot into it. But without communication your needs can not be met. She will not be able to show respect when she doesn't feel understood nor will he be able to give her security when he doesn't feel understood.

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