Usually, the wife makes the first call for marriage counseling, but sometimes, it’s the guy. When I ask the caller to tell me why they’re seeking counseling, part of the conversation is almost always, “We’re just not communicating.”
Most relationships get off the ground because communication was pretty good at the start of the relationship. But, before long the couple became like two little ships that drifted apart.
“When we were dating we’d spend hours talking on the phone. We practically spent every waking moment together. Now, I ask him to talk to me, and he can’t even ask about my day.”
“She used to hang on my every word. Now, she doesn’t listen to anything I say. All we talk about is the kids, if that.”
“I don’t think he cares about anything but his work.”
“I guess she just doesn’t find me interesting any more.”
I understand. You settle in, and other things, or people, vie for your attention. Children, as much as we love them, depend on you for everything — especially when they are young.
Work is demanding and often competitive. Jobs either get busier or they can be even more stressful when the work isn’t rolling in like it used to. You assume your spouse will understand if you need to spend more time at the office or wind down with a t.v. show or FaceBook.
We get lazy about the relationship and hope our partner will understand, read our mind, or remember that we don’t mean to come across “that way”.
Wouldn’t it help if we could slow down those small arguments over little things before we get all bent out of shape and start or continue another argument?
The pattern of pursuit or withdrawal doesn’t have to ruin your relationship. You may have heard me talk about Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy before, but now I have another tool in my toolbox; it’s an EFT workbook for couples to help them communicate and focus on what is happening at home between sessions.
Enter An Emotionally Focused Workbook For Couples: The Two Of Us by Veronica Kallos-Lilly, Ph.D and Jennifer Fitzgerald, Ph.D. On page 3 the authors mention a way of helping couples communicate with an easy to remember acronym, L-O-V-E. Since, it has become helpful to the many of the couples in my practice, I’ll share it with you here.
“When we communicate with each other, we need to:
Listen with an
Open heart and mind.
Validate and acknowledge each other.
Express our thoughts softly, simply, and slowly.”
Like any new skill, remembering L-O-V-E takes a little practice. It can take a lot of practice until your overactive “fight or flight” sensors learn to calm down in the heat of a moment. But over time, it could be your best tool to prevent the “snappy retort” or “Yes, Dear” responses that leave you angry, disengaged or lonely after a big fight. At the very least, L-O-V-E can slow the process down long enough for you both to see what is happening in the room. Then, we can talk about this further as we work together to build more connection between you.
Next time you’re having trouble communicating, try a little L-O-V-E.