We Don’t Say What We Really Need to Say
We do not enter this world with a filter about what to say or not to say. Spend time with a two year old and you will know exactly what she is thinking, usually as soon as she thinks it. If she is hungry, she will let you know in a demanding fashion. If there is perception that someone else is getting attention or taking something that she deems as her possession, she will show anger or sadness without reservation. And if there is someone in the environment she perceives as a potential threat, fear will drive all her behaviors to move away from and protect herself.
Somewhere along the way we develop a filtering mechanism… our attempt to hide what it is we are really thinking and feeling. It happens when a parent, teacher, coach, older sibling, minister, or other important person in our life tells us…
- “Don’t say mean things.”
- “Don’t cry… only sissy’s cry.”
- “Don’t say things that hurt other people’s feelings.”
- “Don’t tell someone something like that. It isn’t good manners.”
- “Don’t let him see you are afraid of him. “
This important lesson is good for society. Imagine if everyone shared all their thoughts and feelings at all times with all people and in all situations. Oh, my! For good reasons, most of us learn to be more discerning about what thoughts and feelings we share with whom and when. We hide what we really think in order to fit in socially in a peer group at school and with our family and friends. When we meet that someone special, we do our best not to offend them, in order to impress them. We put our best foot forward in order to hopefully land a second date or attract their attention.
As the relationship develops, the story we attempt to write together begins to reveal what we have attempted to hide. And sometimes it takes a very long time of story writing together until we learn the truth about what we actually thought or felt about something early in our relationship. As our story develop together, we begin to learn more about what our spouse actually thought or felt about something early in our relationship.
Sometimes we learn to not bring up a subject because our relationship history tells us that it is not safe or it ends up not being worth the effort. If you ever try to have a conversation with your spouse but are met with stonewalling, criticism, contempt, cynicism or defensiveness, you have probably decided not to bring up that subject again. People who engage in these “Marriage Killers” do things like…
- Walk out and slam the door
- Look for fault in anything the other is saying/doing
- Roll their eyes and sigh
- Hang up without saying goodbye
- Makes excuses
- States how defective you are
- Treats you like you are worthless
- Refuses to negotiate or compromise
- Denies responsibility
- Spouts put downs
- Has no regard for what other options might be
- Tells other people how horrible they think you are
- Communicates hostility and disgust toward you
- Blames you and others for their actions
According to the latest relationship research, if either or both spouses engage in forms of stonewalling, criticism, contempt, or defensiveness, communication begins to slide into violence and hurtful conversation which begins the downward spiral into divorce. These “Marriage Killers” stand in the way of our ability to speak and hear truth.
The secret to a lifetime love, to doing life together forever, to creating the type of relationship we have always wanted and that our hearts most desire is not better and more sex, nor having no in-laws, nor having him always agree with all my decisions, nor enjoying all the same activities, nor whether or not your spouse is changing whatever it is that you are blaming your unhappiness on. No!
What we have learned in our work with countless couples is that the secret to a lifetime love is learning and practicing the skills of being able to communicate my truth so that my spouse really gets it and having the ability to really understand and “get” my spouse. That is what we simply call “speaking my truth” and “hearing my spouse’s truth.”
What do you have to say?
We love to hear from readers. Do you believe speaking and hearing the truth are at the heart of marriage problems? Have you experienced communication gaps in your marriage due to “the Marriage Killers”? What advice do you have for couples who cannot seem to talk to each other any more?
This article was written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”. Learn more at www.LifeTogetherForever.com © Roy and Devra Wooten 2015. All Rights Reserved. You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution. Written permission for other use may be obtained at Secret@LifeTogetherForever.com.