In the beginning of our relationship, my husband did it all the time. It was so frustrating that the normal, average, regular woman would probably go insane. She would probably yell, scream, cry, and maybe even emotionally punish him by rolling her eyes, giving the silent treatment, and maybe just maybe not plating his food at dinner just to get back at him.
Wondering what it is? We’ll get to that.
Despite the fact that my husband would do it, I’m a therapist, so things look a little different in my house. Although sometimes the very human woman inside of me slips up and goes into some unhealthy communication habits. Hey, don’t judge me. None of us are perfect.
Let’s get back to what my husband does. The inevitable dance that we would engage in would go something along the lines of the following.
I share my stress about the day.
He listens for two minutes.
He then goes into logical rationalization that brings him to the ultimate fix it problem solver. As if he’s got the perfect solution for me, he states it in such a way that the problem is done. It’s over. I’ll be fine. I’m expected to move on.
I stare at him with a death glare which indicates to him that something is wrong.
He’s not sure what he did but he feels the flames coming from my eyes.
I walk away not getting what I want.
He walks away not getting what he wants.
So, can you guess what he did? And I guess if I’m being fair, I might ask, can you guess what I did?
As an Atlanta Counselor I see the problems I’m about to address happening with couples all the time. And, it’s not necessarily true that one sex or the other engages in either problem. But, for the sake of the article I’m going to label men as doing one thing and women as doing the other. To clarify, both need to fix both problems.
Don’t worry, I’ll give you the fixes.
Problem Number 1 (the thing that he did:)
He missed the mark. He automatically went into rationalizing. He wanted to fix. Here’s the thing. Your wife is a grown woman. She’s survived all of her life. She has skills. She’s smart. She’s so smart, in fact, that she can fix her own problems. That’s not why she came to you! Just a side note: most people are not looking for someone to solve their problems. So, what did she want? That’s a great question.
Solution to Problem Number 1
If your wife comes to you with a problem, try validating her feelings. Validating is like communicating permission for a person to feel the way they do, communicating that their feelings make sense, and maybe even naming the feelings they might be feeling.
Here’s an example: ‘Wow, it sounds like you’re really frustrated with your boss and you feel burnt out. That makes sense. You’ve been working hard love!’
That’s it. Plain and simple. Stop with the validating. Do not fix the problem.
Another Solution to Problem Number 1
Some people really struggle with stopping at validating. And that’s quite okay, because I’ve got another idea for you. After you validate, ASK THE MAGIC QUESTION. The magic question is ‘How can I help?’ No remember, DO NOT GO INTO FIXING IT UNLESS SHE ASKS YOU FOR SOLUTIONS OR IDEAS. Sometimes she won’t know how you can help. At this point you can offer a hug, encouragement, ideas for how to deal with it, etc. But, DO NOT GO INTO FIXING IT UNLESS SHE ASKS YOU FOR SOLUTIONS OR IDEAS.
Problem Number 2 (the thing that I did:)
During the discussion, I came to my husband with a longing. And that longing was never, at all, for him to fix it. But, I didn’t express what I need. Instead, when he began fixing, I began becoming angry and shutting down. I didn’t express my feelings and ask for what I need.
Solution to Problem Number 2
Share your feelings and ask for what you need. Sometimes it’s difficult for people to share their feelings without sharing judgments as well, so I’ll encourage you to avoid that. Instead, connect with feeling words, and share them with your spouse. Then, ask for what you need.
Here’s an example: ‘Love, I’m finding myself becoming defensive because I was wanting to share my stress about the day but solutions are being given. Do you mind just validating my feelings and maybe giving me a good place to vent for 5 minutes? I could also use a hug.’
And, there ya go. The solutions seem so simple, but they’re so hard to use in the moment! If you can become a pro at using these solutions, you’ll get great at communicating. And don’t worry, most people aren’t pro’s when they first use them. In fact, if you struggle with communicating, I suggest you find a counselor, mentor, learning tool (shout out to Intentional Marriages), or some other well informed person or platform to help keep you accountable.
We all need improving. We’re all imperfect. We all benefit from continuing to grow. So take these two little tools, and help yourself grow in the area of communication.
About the Writer
Mikela Hallmark, MS, LPC is a licensed counselor who has a private practice in the Buckhead area of Atlanta, Georgia. She mainly sees high achievers who experience stress related to home life, work life, or relationships. She uses couples therapy (Gottman Method), trauma therapy (EMDR), CBT, and other therapies to help people release judgment and fear, reduce anxiety, and get connected with others and with their sense of purpose. She and her husband have the wonderful joy of doing marriage, but having to be accountable to the fact that she’s a couple’s counselor and has to live what she preaches. Which is harder than it sounds, but worth every moment.
Click here —> http://atlantatherapistbuckhead.com/
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