Communication in Relationships – Part 1 of 3

Video transcript by Youtube: Hello my name is Keith Cross. I’m a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the owner and clinical director of the Prescott Relationship Center. I wanted to start today with the first of a three-part series on communication it seems like a common topic that our couples come into the center with and it’s understandable all too often what we’re thinking feeling believing meeting doesn’t come through in our communication so our first part today we’re going to sort of talk about sort of the why it is that we end up in this in this really challenging place where we can’t seem to communicate to our partners in the ways that we that well that work really and then part 2 will be around sort of what it is that that it actually looks like when we’re not communicating well how that essentially results in the disconnection in our relationship and then finally the third part will be on how to do it differently how to do it in a way that’s more effective and connecting so yeah so let’s jump in I asked these on some slides on PowerPoint that I don’t just work through as we talk so I’m gonna move over to that and here we go so yes first part here is again why it is that we communicate the way that we do alright so I already explained sort of the three parts here why we’re communicating what it looks like when we are disconnecting around communication and then finally what can we actually do about it the most recent research and the theory that we are leaning towards nowadays around communication and our needs around that is attachment theory I’ll get in a little bit more into that in a few minutes but for the most part it does have to do with how our early experiences in this world influence who we are as adults and therefore how we engage and communicate in in our relationships and I have to confess when I was in graduate school and I first started learning about attachment theory I really I really pooh-poohed it I really pushed aside and said you know that that doesn’t fit with me what does what does my life as a as a three year old toddler have to do with Who I am today I don’t even remember what life was like you know when I was four so what how could that possibly impact me today so I was very much a skeptic and eventually I did learn about the connections and how they do actually impact us as adults and that was that was a key to my personal and professional development as well so we’ll get a little bit more into that as well but yeah attachment theory does focus on the connection between early experiences with caregivers on how we experience and express emotion and relationships and safety and Trust throughout the lifespan and as I’m sure you’re aware it is often through the expression of emotions that we have the most difficulty communicating some of the pieces here about attachment theory which essentially asserts by the way on that last slide I do I do want to I guess clarify that attachment theory is not a recent theory and I think I did have the word recent on that on that last slide attachment theory was originally developed and in the 50s and 60s really starting to look at again how children were raised and how they interacted with their parents how them and even more so how their parents reacted and responded to their kids their babies infants newborns and for many years actually there was there was a lot of pushback about attachment theory and a lot of the quote unquote cognitive behaviors really pushed back and said no you know emotions and nurturing are not are not what’s important it’s all about the ever-important belief and cognitive pieces there that we that we need to focus on and if we can just change how somebody is thinking then we will therefore change their behavior or vice versa if we can change the we’ll change their beliefs so for a long time attachment theory really had some challenges to being accepted in the field eventually people started looking a little bit more deeply into it and the good thing is actually nowadays we have the technology that allows us actually to look at brain scans detailed brain scans of people who have had either positive experiences in in their childhood versus those who had distant or unsecure attachments from their caregivers as well as the difference between people who are in marriages and long-term relationships where there is a lot of conflict and arguing versus those who are in healthy adult relationships and the data around those brain scans demonstrates to us what those early theorists were asserting way back in the 1560s around attachment theory so it has come full circle it’s great to see that we have plenty of data to back up what it is that we’re basing what it is that we’re basing our interventions off of nowadays so I did want to mention that sorry after I have to I flipped over to this one but anyway so attachment theory does assert that as an infant we continually monitor the accessibility of caregivers and tend to flee to this caregiver for safety and times of distress we are dependent on our on our caregivers we do in quote unquote what we call strange situations need to be reassured that we have a place of safety and security in which to soothe that anxiety or that uncertainty in times of distress and as I’m sure you’ve heard before this is where the concepts of attachment insurance your base come from and it’s through these attachment experiences that infants learn to cope or survive in their particular environment so for the most part how the parent is responding to that infant in those times of distress are they are they responsive and caring and patient and loving or not and we’re going to talk about sort of what the differences are and how that can have an impact on your kind of your adult relationships and interactions with others so when caregivers can’t or don’t meet the infant’s needs the infant’s ability to manage his or her emotions is affected and this is based somewhat on temperament that’s what the research is really coming down to is that we all sort of tend to have at a basic fundamental level a tendency to either in this case pursue or withdraw and these aren’t these aren’t typically the terms that we attach to how infants are engaging with their parents but they are the terms we use in adult relationships and as far as how it is that we’re communicating or not with those people in adult relationships that we care about so again we’ll get a little more into this so it makes a little bit more sense but for the most part data shows that the vast majority of us well over 80 percent of most adults do have a secure attachment to a caregiver early on and regardless of whether you had a good experience with the caregiver in your early years we do all tend to have that tendency to again either pursue or withdraw regardless so we do all learn to interpret the interactions we had with our caregivers and apply these expectations for how we should be treated by others it’s how things work so I you know that it’s actually I’ll just go ahead and go into that now because even though you don’t remember what those early experiences were does not mean that they don’t still influence you into adulthood so let’s take the example of let’s just say an infant who in the highchair is either hot or cold or you know what’s their diaper whatever the need is that that infant has at the moment the way that they communicate that to their caregiver of course they cry right so they cry and they cry and then let’s just say if they have that responsive caring loving person who comes over takes them out of the highchair figures out what they need takes care of it and again in a loving caring way that person learns okay I can expect that the world will care for me I can I can have trust in this world that that my needs are important and they will be responsive at the end the world will be responsive to my needs okay then we take let’s just say one of two scenarios so let’s just say that baby cries and cries and continues to cry and continues to cry and then cries more and more and more now if that parent that caregiver is not being responsive well obviously they’re not being responsive to that infant in that moment and let’s just say whatever is going on for that caregiver there that there that that has influenced their responsiveness to that that infant it’s likely that at that point that that caregiver is not exactly going to be responding very positively to that infant okay that that person may very well be short with that that infant toddler maybe yank him out of the chair and change their diaper hastily or whatever it might be change their clothes whatever and that infant learns in many cases that infant learns that in order to get my needs met I can’t I can’t just expect that the world will take care of me I can’t trust I don’t have the security in the world that that the that it will take care of me and that my needs will be met so I got to do whatever I got to do to get those needs met so even if it means my and action with that caregiver or the world isn’t exactly going to be positive I’d rather have some interaction than no interaction even if it’s negative again so that that person learns early on I have to push and push and push to get my needs met and I don’t know how else to do it so that’s what I’m gonna do and we again we have to think long term if that sort of the template that that person is looking through early on and then they apply it to most of their adult by well through childhood and adult relationships it’s likely that that’s going to perpetuate itself to where that person is really seeking out attention and requiring that that attention from somebody again even if it’s negative they will get that attention however they came conversely there are individuals let’s just say infants that they cry and cry and cry needs aren’t getting met cry needs aren’t being met and instead of continuing to holler scream and cry and even get negative attention a lot of these infants will learn that it doesn’t matter how much I cry my needs won’t be met and learned that I can’t trust the world to meet my needs so I won’t even ask so instead of pushing to get even negative responses rather than no responses these infants learn I’m just gonna give up my needs aren’t important this world isn’t a trustworthy place for me don’t know how to get my needs met so I will just suppress them I will shut them down I will stuff them and again think about what this looks like long term when that’s the approach through childhood and early and into adulthood my needs aren’t important I’m just going to suppress them or my feelings aren’t important I it doesn’t matter how much I holler I’m not going to get any resort of responsiveness from someone I love so they shut it down okay so think about this as an adult in your adult romantic relationship okay when you’re in conflict let’s just say with your spouse or partner or other important people in your life do you often feel like you’re pulling teeth to get them to talk are you are you asking questions and asking questions and asking questions and maybe it doesn’t matter how much you try they maybe they they’re not exactly responsive to you or eventually maybe they lash out and say fine or you know whatever the response might be or do you tend to avoid confrontation altogether whatever I got to do to stop any sort of conflict because again I don’t know how to communicate I don’t know how to get my needs met I don’t know I don’t believe that my needs are important enough so I’m gonna push them suppress them and that often leads to a an avoidance of confrontation or in many cases communication altogether okay another way to look at this when you’re angry do you feel like crawling into a shell when you’re distressed do you feel like shutting down do you just want to sort of go in a quiet room and not talk not communicate or some pursuers do you tend to be critical of others and maybe yourself as well is that sometimes how you get that person to eventually communicate to you a lot of pursuers will talk about sort of feeling like that they have to sort of out of whip this dead horse you know to get any sort of reaction from their partner and some cases the only way to get any sort of reaction is through being critical and sometimes that creates an ongoing downward spiral where that pursuer pushes to get the withdraw to talk the which are doesn’t want to talk to what jar doesn’t know how to engage they try and shut down stop the process and the more that person pulls away the more the pursuer pushes and then sometimes the which are finally just says screw it and well yell or holler or literally physically leave the city whatever it might be or sometimes it’s a you know whatever or yes dear whatever that might look like I’m from the withdraw perspective and by the way it’s very important to remember neither of these approaches are either a healthy right it’s just the way that we learn to engage and communicate but it’s ultimately important as well to know and truly believe that neither one of them is right or better they are just the ways that we’ve learned and we oftentimes don’t know any other way to communicate so that’s what we default to ultimately pursuers pursue because it’s the only way they know how to engage with us with others and they oftentimes have a fear of being rejected that that pursuer again think of that infant who’s in that that that seat who’s crying and crying and crying to get their needs met they’re used to eventually getting someone to respond even if it’s negative somebody will eventually respond but if they don’t that pursuer really is really challenged to feel like they’re not even important to them for negative attention so again on the contrary that withdraw withdraws withdraw because they don’t know how to engage with the other in many cases fear appearing inadequate or incompetent think about that pattern that that develops or maybe that pursuer is using criticism to try and to try and get that withdraw to engage to get that withdraw to talk and somehow someway it just doesn’t work but eventually yeah that which are you know may respond in some way but usually it’s not positive but regardless that that criticism does often pile up on that withdraw and it often results in them fearing that appearing inadequate or incompetent unfortunately we have a lot of data that shows that pursuers often attract with jars and what dryers often attract pursuers in many cases this is often something you know sort of an endearing quality of the relationship when you know which are can say oh you know you know she finishes my sentences and you know I don’t really ever have to think about what you know what we need to talk about she’s always got something to talk about in the and the pursuers saying he’s he never interrupts me and it’s great because I can just talk about my day and he’s just there and doesn’t push doesn’t criticize so unfortunately that that overtime that dynamic turns out to be a downward spiral and really hurts the relationship in the long run oftentimes married engaged in dating couples end up coping with stress or conflict and rigid and predictable ways one will criticize or pursue the other one will try to get in order to try and get the which are to talk and the other one will hide it withdrawn or to stop the other from pursuing and unfortunately again the more one withdraws the more the other pursues the more one pursues the more the other would drawers so it’s it really is an unfortunate reality so that’s part one where we’re going to go from here is okay so that’s part one what we’re gonna do is shift gears and part two we’re going to talk about more about sort of that pursuer withdraw a relationship and how that communication pattern often results in disconnection and then for part three we’ll go into more detail as far as what to do about it how to change it and actually get your needs met communicate the way you want or need to communicate to get what you need in the relationship and create positive change so look forward to it and we’ll see you for part two