In our last post, we discussed why we often approach communication in our marriage or romantic relationships the way we do. Here, we will focus on what to do about it!
Think about these questions:
- When you are in conflict with your spouse (or others in your life), do you feel like you’re pulling teeth to get them to talk (pursuer) or do you tend to avoid confrontation altogether (withdrawer)?
- When you are angry, do you feel like crawling into a shell (withdrawer)?
- Do you tend to be critical of others and maybe yourself as well (pursuer)?
Ultimately, pursuers “pursue” because it is the only way they know how to
engage others and fear being rejected!!
Ultimately, withdrawers “withdraw” because they don’t know how to engage
others and fear of appearing inadequate or incompetent!!
Here’s where it translates to your relationship: pursuers often attract withdrawers and vice versa. Often times married, engaged and dating couples end up coping with stress or conflict in rigid ways, one will criticize/pursue in order to try to get the withdrawer to talk, and the other will hide/withdraw in order to stop the other from pursuing. But the more one withdraws, the more the other pursues (and vice versa) and the cycle continues.
Now we know why we communicate the way we do,
but what can we actually DO to change it?
First and foremost, know how you tend to react to distress and DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT!!!
If you tend to withdraw, share your feelings and TALK!
If you tend to pursue, be quiet and LISTEN!
But remember, it does NO good to talk if you are worried about getting criticized, ignored, or rejected!! Change is not always easy and giving up our defenses is a big risk and leaves us vulnerable to hurt!! Not only do we need to risk doing things differently ourselves, we need to have patience and support for our loved ones who are making an equally difficult effort! SO WHEN YOU DECIDE TO TALK, DO WHATEVER YOU CAN IN YOUR POWER TO ACCEPT and VALIDATE, VALIDATE, VALIDATE THE OTHER PERSON AND APPRECIATE HIS/HER EFFORTS!!!! Nothing is more powerful than to hear from your partner, “Wow, that must be frustrating,” or “If I were in your shoes, I would be SO angry,” or “How sad.” Validation can also be conveyed without words by holding your partner’s hand, looking him or her in the eyes, and “being there” just to listen.
Stay tuned for specific tips on how to communicate with your spouse or partner!