What those words mean

what do those words mean?

Many people who have perfectly good hearing, translate “what those words mean” and then insist that is what their partner said. The “brain in relationship”, translates or attaches meaning to phrases. If you recognize yourself in this, please put away the critic that loves to make you feel bad and know that awareness is the first step in changing things.

what those words mean

It’s important to recognize “what” you translate your partners words into. Then to start getting clear with yourself that you are reacting to that, not necessarily to what your partner actually said. It would be even better to tell your partner “when you say ——-“ I hear or I translate that into ——-“
For example, a partner says “I miss the way you were before we had the kids.” The partner hears and reacts to “you don’t like who I am now!” Or one partner says “I’m too tired to have sex tonight.” Their partner hears and reacts to “you don’t want to have sex with me.”

Recognizing this is happening is a great first step. Taking responsibility for the translation by telling your partner is an awesome AND valuable next step.

slow down the conversation

It’s important to slow the flow of conversation down enough to see what is happening and to stay present with it. There’s a real pull to be only “half listening” while your partner speaks and “half preparing your response.” These types of interactions escalate very quickly and are often shut down out of frustration or deeply hurt feelings.

Emotionally Focused Therapy – EFT

Dr. Susan Johnson in her work on Emotionally Focused Therapy or EFT, talks about primary and secondary emotions. The secondary emotions are reactive. They mask the vulnerable emotions underneath. For example when the partner above reacts to “I miss the way you were before we had kids” this partner is likely missing the other. Or may be afraid that the partner doesn’t like or want him/her anymore. Yet the partner doesn’t express those fears. He/she expresses anger (often accompanied by tears).

When couples are unable to slow these types of conversation down, talk about what they are really feeling and believe what their partner is “actually” saying, they end up in repeated dialogues that slowly destroy their relationship.

couples counselling is helpful

Couples counselling is very helpful in identifying these long standing patterns and in helping partners “stop the damage” and start communicating in more useful ways.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this exploration of one of the many “normal” processes of human relationship. If you have any questions about this or other matters please feel free to contact me.

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