Getting what we want, what we feel we deserve, and what we hope for often feels out of reach and inconceivable. This is can be particularly daunting when we consider intimate and loving relationships. In my years working as a sex and relationship therapist, people have shared with me how they struggle to find the right relationship, or if they are in a good relationship, how to dig deeper and get their needs met.
For those that have been reading my blog posts for a while, you will recall that I start every year off, not with a set of resolutions, but with a word of the year. I do not make resolutions because as soon as you miss the mark once, you have failed. I will go to the gym 3 times each week becomes the source of self-shaming, frustration, and guilt as soon as you do not make the mark (and I venture, that moment usually comes before the end of February.) Instead, I choose a word that becomes a perspective to set context for the different journeys I will take for the year…
We have all been given false narratives about how we are supposed to communicate in relationship. These false narratives are often seen as honorable or required, particularly when we are trying to heal a relationship. Countless couples come into my office and talk about the need for absolute transparency for trust and connection to be restored.
Every year, I try to find my “word of the year”. It is a ritual that helps me to maintain focus, build resiliency, and find my path forward. In years past, my words have included: intention, curiosity, boundaries, and balance. Each of these words have become so incorporated into my being, my practice, and my perspective that every decision I make is rooted in these concepts.
To be an intentional couple, one of the core skills that must be mastered is the art of listening. We have been given gross information about what listening is and how we should do it. Some folks think that they should be making grand facial expressions while mutter “uh huh…”, nodding their head and wrinkling their brow to show that they are listening. But listening is something entirely different. Today we are going to talk about why we listen and how we alter our approaches to listening.
We listen for four key reasons: to allow someone to vent, to help them unpack something in their head, to seek understanding, and perhaps to resolve something. Let’s look at each of them independently.
What is yelling? When a partner denies that they yell, I wonder if they know what they sound like. I think there are two distinct types of yelling. The first, is the basic and popular raised voice yelling. It often starts at our toes and rolls up our core until it comes out of our mouths as a strong bellowing exhortation of increased volume, often accompanied by words that would offend us if they were spoken to us. The other type of yelling is more complex. It is tight and constricted. It starts in our throat. It is not loud and bellowing. The volume is not out of range. However, it is the tone – sharp, clipped, judgmental, and cuts like a knife. It feels like yelling to the recipient.