Are you stuck in unhappy hurtful cycles of despair as you try and make your point? Only to feel rejected and unheard as an argument escalates out of control.
What started out as a simple request begins a foray onto the battlefield of being heard and understood. Trouble is no one waves the white flag; instead both of you dig in and the trenches get deeper and deeper. You both are fighting for right, as is your right. Yet somehow you feel stuck in this battle drama and it really doesn’t feel right.
With both feeling wrong or wronged and the gridlock em-battlement continuing you form a siege mentality. This is where you find yourself bunking down in your respective foxholes, so far you can’t see or hear anything but the battle cries.
There is always a message in these interactions that gets lost in the fallout of grenades launched to your partner that harms. Once you take the pin out of those things it always seems they just have to explode and leaves your partner in pain. And then you feel the pangs of regret and remorse knowing you’ve taken it too far.
American marriage psychologist John Gottman estimates that 60% of all problems couples encounter are ultimately irresolvable. This is because the issue isn’t the problem itself. Rather it is how couples learn to manage the perpetual chestnut problems over the distance. This point is vital to take on board in your marriage.
Stop the fight today. Yes that’s right you need to stop the fight by using your words in a new way.
Yes different words and actions will create new outcomes in your relationship. Learn new skills, deactivate your buttons and release those old trigger points.
It is a total myth that arguing means trouble. What it can mean is dialogue around an issue, which is vital in understanding problems and working together as a team.
Often what gets in the way of this is the circuitous loop of lament as you constantly relay things repetitively without getting each other. It gets boring I am sure not just for you but your partner as you will not feel heard by your partner.
Luckily communication is the most easily remedied issue in couple therapy.
Unhelpful habits can be redirected and channelled into newfound paths of comprehension for you and your partner. Yay!
Sure it will take time, practice and effort but the rewards are there for the taking and begin immediately you change your actions in response.
Once you are aware of your unhelpful habits and patterns you can then progress to creating new neural pathways by changing your interactions.
Yes you will be rewiring your own brain – which I think is pretty neat really.
Wow I can hardly believe when I studied psychology and counselling we thought the brain only had a limited number of neurons for use within one’s lifetime. And if those got damaged or destroyed as in the case of a brain injury with the likes of an accident or alcohol, that was it. There were no more brain cells to be had to recreate connections and atrophy sets in.
Now we know from the neuroscience that our brain has the most amazing capacity to heal and repair. For me this is feels akin to being in a time when the world was flat and discovering then it’s round. Thank you Aristotle, Pythagoras, Copernicus and go Columbus for setting sail!
Time to interrupt those habits by using the E.V.A.N approach. E.V.A.N is a simple formula for hearing your partner to practice and become instinctually a great listener. Yes this is possible!
So let’s meet E.V.A.N.
E stands for Empathy. This is where you let your partner know you get their feelings. So you have a go at guessing what they are feeling. Get it wrong no worries let your partner help you and reflect this.
V is for Validation. With your tone and words you convey you understand or are trying to. (Does not mean you agree though!)
A is both for Appreciation and Acknowledgement. You thank the person for sharing this and acknowledge to courage it may have taken to say something uncomfortable.
N is vital for establishing the Needs. In assertive communication we want to get our needs across to our partner without damaging or setting them into defence mode. Find out what your partner needs by asking them gently.
Putting E.V.A.N into practice.
Partner A: Gosh it seems we sit in front of the telly a lot honey on a Saturday night. (Said in a heated manner)
Partner B: (using E) Honey it sounds like you might be (be tentative not absolute here) feeling frustrated and possibly be a bit bored.
Partner A: Yes now you say it I am frustrated and bored.
Partner B: (using V) You know I can understand that. (This is all you really need to say). It has been a while since we had a night out and we have been working hard) Notice how there is no defence – this partner shows understanding, not problem solving though or agreeing or disagreeing.
Acceptance and Acknowledgement
Partner B: I appreciate you letting me know this.
Partner A: Yes you got that. (Tone softened, snuggles into partner on the couch feeling heard and appreciated.)
Partner B: So honey what can we do about this? What do you need? (Uses teamwork to help the relationship by asking for partners input.)
Partner A: Maybe next week we can have a night out.
Both partners can be proud of the way they managed this interaction and avoided what can often be a typical fight and escalation into hurt. This with the added bonus of coming up with a plan to work on reconnecting their relationship.
So why don’t you practice it and let me know how you went. I would love to hear about it. Plese add your comments and thoughts on your trials of E.V.A.N.