Are we 2 years old again? Relearning how to take turns for improved Connection in your Relationship!
Do you and your partner tend to get into battles that sound like two people trying to speak and be heard at the same time? You aren't bad people. You want to connect with this person, because he or she is the Most Important person in your world. You just want to feel heard and understood by the person you love and you will do anything to say it in different ways and in different volumes in an attempt to be heard and feel connected to your special person.
The thing is, your partner is trying to do the same thing. So, instead of responding to what you are saying, your partner starts in on his or her perspective and tries to be heard with new words and louder volumes too! Does this competition to be heard sound familiar? Well as a Couples Therapist I have spent years hearing this same thing from many couples. It is not about not loving the other person, it tends to be just needing a reminder to do that skill we hopefully learned at an early age of Taking Turns!
This may seem like an obvious answer, but if you think about difficult conversations when you did not feel heard and it did not feel like you were getting anywhere with your partner, this might make more sense to you. There is no magic solution for deciding who gets to go first in a conversation, and you do not want to get stuck in a cycle of tit for tat and having to take turns about who goes first each time. This is about those times when one of you begins a conversation and shares something with your partner, and then expecting your partner to take the time to show genuine interest in what you are sharing - ie:
"Tell me more about your experience".
It also means Validating your experience and your feelings:
"That sounds like a difficult experience"
"Wow, are you ok?"
"Is there anything I can do to support or help you with this?"
When we hear this kind of validation we tend to feel heard, supported, important and loved by our partner. When we get this kind of validation and support from our partner, we feel better connection and closeness. Feel connection and closeness opens our hearts and our hears to then ask about how are partner is feeling. This may be about our partner's experience of the same situation, or it may be a completely unrelated experience. Either way, we can then provide the same listening ears and support.
When we remember that skill of taking turns our caregivers tried to teach us when we were two years old, and we put it into action in our relationships, it can make a world of difference in our connection with this loved one!
Cindy Frederick, MA LMFT
MN Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
MN Couple Therapy Center - Burnsville Site Director