An Unusually Common Couple’s Communication Issue

by Helen Williams

When I’m working with couples, I often have the opportunity of watching their ‘couple talk” – their typical and most common way of addressing each other.   I get to notice a very familiar pattern which appears to creep in unnoticed for many, many couples and yet often becomes the deep wound which brings couples seeking help.

They name it as a “communication issue” but seldom have the words to adequately explain it.  Women will say “I feel like I’m never heard” and men will say “I can never do anything right.”

This is how it typically plays out:

Most often it is the woman who says, “You never listen to me, you never spend enough time with me, you never notice me and you treat me like I don’t matter.”

When I ask the male partner what he heard her say, he usually replies, “It doesn’t matter what I do it’s never good enough, I’m continually criticised and told off, I feel like I can never get it right.”

If you look at it, it sounds like a complainer talking to a fix it person.  For many men, a woman asking for attention sounds like a person with a problem requiring fixing.  Yet, if you ask the woman, she will often say I don’t want to be fixed or repaired or solved like a problem, I just need you to listen to me.

The main reason why it appears impossible for her partner to listen to her is simply the use of the word, YOU!

Try the same conversation again now after eliminating the use of the word you.

“I feel unheard. I’d love us to spend more time together, I need to be noticed, I’m often lonely.”

The reply can be more easily, “I didn’t realise, how can we change this?” because there is less criticism, censure and judgment when there is no YOU.

Why not take note of this in your daily conversation and make a change for clearer, more open communication?  Write yourselves a sign that says NO YOU and place it on the fridge. It works well with children too!

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