Saturday, November 15, 2008

Expressing your feelings in a Relationship

Time after time people tell me that they have difficulty in communicating with their partner. Often, I help them see that at times not talking is a way of communicating something. If you are unclear of what your partner is trying to tell you, ask. Often times, not talking is still “talking” without words. In either scenario there is information that you receive because researchers say that 90% of what we communicate is done nonverbally. For instance, if at some point you have tried to express a certain concern to your partner and he or she rejected you, you may shy away from engaging in that specific topic for a while. Another person may react by becoming more forceful and vocal. This all depends on ones personality. In either situation, feelings are being expressed verbally or nonverbally. In the former it may be hurt, disappointment or shame. In the latter, it may be anger and frustration. Each of us is entitled to our own feelings. We all experience the world and the events around us subjectively. Nevertheless, bottling our feelings is not healthy. We may become resentful, disappointed and blame our partner for the way we feel. Remember that you have to claim what you feel because only you chose your feelings and what to do with them. When we enter into a conflict with another person, it is often times the result of two things: the first one is- we believe that the other person is trying to change us; and the second is that we are trying to change the other person consciously or unconsciously. The reason behind doing this is due to our belief that we will become more content, happy, and more in sync and satisfied and less stressed in our relationship. When we feel positive feelings we’re usually free of anxiety. It is in our nature to try and decrease unpleasant experiences. However, what we do not realize is that conflict arises when we fail to honor the other person’s autonomy. Arguments, fighting and miscommunication occur when we disregard the other person’s feelings, point of view and authentic self. During an argument, most likely, we believe that we are right and the other person is wrong. If we both agree on something we would not become argumentative. In many cases people fail to pick their battles. Does it matter who picked the mail the day before and who walked the dog in the evening? People become resentful and argumentative when they feel that their autonomy is in some way affected by the other person’s actions. Of course, what people chose to ignore is that no one; not even our partner is responsible for the way we feel.
We chose to react to certain situations based on our values, personality traits and desires amongst other factors. It is hard to admit that we are our own directors of our feelings. It is easier to point the finger especially when we are unhappy about something. For instance, often time partners blame each other because of what the other person in their opinion is failing to contribute to the relationship. In this situation, it is helpful to re-examine what made us commit to this person, what we liked about him or her, what things are we willing to get used to and how we both can grow closer together. Miscommunication and fighting naturally pull us apart from others not just our partners whom we hopefully love and feel a stronger bond with. Just think about the way you treat your partner or how you talk to him or her when you’re upset. Most likely we do not talk like that with others such as our boss, authorities, or our teachers. What on earth makes us think that it is acceptable to treat our partner that way?
A partner may get fixated on who started the argument. This is a very childish and unhealthy behavior. At times we yell and punish our partners. In an adult relationship partners should be equal. A sign of unhealthy relationship is when one partner is trying to assume a domineering role. Parents reprimand their children. Partners should work together to solve a problem. When one partner tries to assume the parent role, naturally the other will become more resistant. In this scenario, even if the other partner had a valid point, the way in which he or she tries to express it will hinder the process of communication. In a parent –child relationship the communication style is usually one way.
The parent is the deliverer of information and the child is the recipient (Parent  Child). In adult relationships, both partners should be able to express concerns and feelings (Partner Partner) with equal validation.
There are various verbal acts that we engage in with others in order to communicate our feelings and thoughts.
1. We ask questions – Can you please feed the pets today?
2. We agree or disagree – (express our opinion) – I don’t like this restaurant as much as you do.
3. We make promises to each other – I promise to help you clean the house this weekend.
4. We bargain (coerce) – If you help me wash the car, I will help you plant the flowers.
Excerpt from the audio book Couple's Communication Made Easy