Monday, October 8, 2012

The Communication Breakdown

Communication is one of the most common complaints of couples. Often the talker is married to the silent partner. The talker wants to engage in conversation to feel closer and more connected. But what about the partner that says little, if anything?  Problems in communication have less to do with the ability to communicate, and more to do with the fear of communicating. Individuals who refrain from saying anything are afraid of the other persons reaction. Typically this person grew up in an emotionally volatile environment with an angry or reactive parent. Consequently, they learned that it is not safe to say how they feel or what they think, for fear of the consequence of a strong emotional reaction. This response can be further complicated by feelings of shame that say, "I am bad" or "It is all my fault" that the person became angry. In other words, it feels terrible to express oneself. Many such people actually not only say nothng, but shut down emotionally. This causes feelings for their partner who then emotionally reacts from feeling dismissed or ignored. Is it any wonder that there is a breakdown? The silent partner is also at risk for being passive aggressive. Instead of using words to express themselves, they use behavior. They will not tell their partner that they feel angry, but will not talk to their partner for a few hours. They hope that their partner will know how they feel based on their behavior. Of course, it typically backfires in relationships.

Direct communication is saying what you think and what you feel to your partner, regardless of the other person's reaction.  It is taking responsibility to express oneself in order to be heard and understood. Learn to speak honestly and truthfully and to create an environment that allows your partner to do so as well. 

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