How do we get our relationship to the point where both of us feel safe enough to share matters of our hearts?
Communication is undoubtedly one of the most challenging aspects of marriage. We are two different people who respond to things differently, express things differently, feel things differently. And it can be so hard to bridge that gap–to make that connection. Sometimes we find ourselves asking the same question as the Verizon Guy: “Can you hear me now?” (but with much less success than the seemingly always-connected Verizon Guy).
Do you ever feel like you and your spouse speak completely different languages? Like, some days, you say “red,” and your spouse hears “blue”? It’s hard not to read into it, hard not to feel unheard. We all want to be understood by our spouse, and our miscommunications can go beyond making us feel disconnected to the point where we feel hurt or even rejected. If this cycle of disconnection continues over a long period of time, we find ourselves feeling hopeless and like we’ve been sentenced to “death by poor communication” in our marriages. We start to say things like, “He/She doesn’t understand me”–and we end up believing they never will.
Two Equals One – Season 1 Trailer
Are you experiencing this in your marriage? Are you having a difficult time resolving conflict because one or both of you shut down, become passive aggressive, or avoid conversations altogether because you know you will inevitably feel more stressed and disconnected? Maybe you’re wondering how in the world two completely different people, with different filters and backgrounds and communication styles, can ever get to a place where you aren’t warring against each other in conversation.
Jimmy and I can totally relate!
For years, we struggled to communicate, unable to heal wounds caused by miscommunication because we found a new way to injure one another before the previous conflict could be resolved. Our inability to communicate resulted in harmful words, lack of attentiveness to each other’s needs, and flat out disconnection.
the key to successful communication is listening to understand, rather than just listening to respond.
Maybe you’re like us, and you find yourself stuck in this painful cycle that leaves you feeling alone in your marriage and unloved by your spouse. You struggle with a deep longing to be known, desired, and heard. Deep down, you want more than anything for your spouse to open up to you–to be the person with whom they share their most intimate thoughts, fears, hurts and wounds. I think all of us want that kind of safe place for openness and intimacy in our marriages. But when we feel unheard by our spouse for long enough, we really end up losing a lot of trust in our relationship. It is no longer our safe place. So the most pertinent question becomes: How do we get our relationship to the point where both of us feel safe enough to share matters of our hearts?
Over the last seven years, Jimmy and I have worked hard on our communication skills, and it has radically changed our ability to understand one another and restored a true sense of safety where we feel we can talk about anything and everything under the sun. In all the work we’ve done on our communication, we’ve learned that the most important factor is how we listen. When most people think of communication, they think about talking, sharing information, and expressing ourselves clearly. But honestly, the way we receive information from our spouse is just as, if not more, crucial to the health of our communication. What Jimmy and I have learned is that the key to successful communication is listening to understand, rather than just listening to respond.
How Did We Get Here?
When we listen to respond, we’re looking for the opportunity to prove our own point, to make sure our spouse sees that we are right. But if we zoom out for a moment–is that really the goal for our marriage? To be right? Or is it to make sure both people are validated, seen, and heard? Proving that we’re right does absolutely nothing for our marriages. But working to understand each other’s perspective does a TON!
When we listen with a goal to understand our spouse, we immediately foster connection. When I can tell that Jimmy is actively trying to hear what I’m saying and understand where I’m coming from, I automatically feel closer to him. It feels like we’re in this together, working as a team to bridge the gap between us. It calms me and helps me speak more clearly because I feel secure in my relationship with him. Seeing that he’s for me, for us, allows me put my guard down. In this safe space, we have the opportunity to express and receive each other’s perspectives indeed. Even if we disagree, we can talk without being defensive or hurtful and respect the other person’s right to their own opinion. We don’t have to agree for our communication to be successful. We have to make sure each of us feels heard.
5 Tips for Healthier Fights
Let me encourage you today to prioritize creating a safe place in your marriage. Please talk with your spouse about your desire to feel connected, and let them know that you are ready to work to understand them. Ask your spouse what you can do to make them feel heard in conversation. You’ll be amazed by how your spouse responds to this peace offering. It may very well be the beginning of a new season of connective communication in your marriage.