"We Can't Communicate"By Dr. Margaret Paul
December 07, 2009
Is a lack of communication one of the complaints you have in your relationship? Learn why this may be so and what you can do about it.
What do you really mean when you say, "We can't communicate"?
The issue with understanding what this means is, what do you mean by "communicate."
All too often, when a partner states, "We can't communicate," what he or she means is "I can't get my partner to listen to me and understand things from my point of view." And underneath this is, "If my partner only understood things through my eyes, he or she would then change and do things my way."
So what partners often mean when they say, "We can't communicate," is "I want to control my partner and he or she won't listen."
Think about the last time you tried to communicate with your partner. Now, be honest with yourself - why did you want to communicate?
The chances are that, if you wanted to communicate about an interesting or funny situation that happened to you, or about your own learning and growth -with no agenda for your partner to change, your partner was more than willing to listen. But, if you wanted to communicate about your feelings of unhappiness about something your partner did or was doing, he or she may not have been so receptive. Or, your partner might have tuned you out, if you were being a victim and complaining about someone or a situation, and wanting sympathy rather than real help.
Too often, communicating your "feelings" is a way of making your partner responsible for your feelings. He or she has to change for you to feel okay, or do something to take responsibility for your feelings. When this is the case, your partner might be less than enthusiastic about communicating, because his or her experience is that you are using your feelings as a form of blame and control. No one likes to be at the other end of that.
When couples consult with me and state "We can't communicate," I immediately know that, in one way or another, they are both trying to control each other rather than learn. What they really mean is that they can't communicate about problems because one or both are not open to learning about themselves and the other. One or both are trying to get the other to change, rather than learning about how they are each creating their own problems or the problem between them, and learning about what loving actions they each need to take.
Many couples, at the beginning of their relationship, say, "We can talk to each other for hours." Yet later in the relationship they "can't communicate." This is because at the beginning of the relationship they were not making the other person responsible for their feelings, nor trying to control the other person. They were sharing themselves and listening to the other to LEARN about each other.
However, within a short time of moving into a committed relationship, they often stop learning and start controlling. Instead of giving and sharing, they are now trying to get something from each other. They get stuck in a system where they each want control over getting what they want from the other person - understanding, acceptance, time, attention, approval, affection, sex. As soon as they try to have control over getting what they want, they are likely to get into power struggles, as one or both resist being controlled, or one continually gives in and then feels used and resentful.
When you each learn how to take responsibility for your own feelings, let go of trying to control the other, and move into an intent to learn about yourself and each other, you will regain your ability to communicate. You don't even need to "learn how” to communicate! Good communication is natural when the intent of the communication is to learn, rather than to control.
This is what learning and practicing Inner Bonding teaches you!
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Notice throughout this day what gives you energy and what drains your energy. Which people are givers and which are takers? Which experiences energize and which are depleting? What thoughts fill you and what thoughts create emptiness? Become conscious of what gives to you and what takes from you.
By Dr. Margaret Paul