You might both speak English, but you still may feel like you need a translator in your relationship.
Although each person in the relationship might speak perfect English, individual experiences lend particular words different associations and connotations. Simply, this means that when one person says one thing, the other understands the statement as something else. While years of shared experience can help bridge this communication gap, individuals in both old and new couples remain just that - individual. No matter how connected you feel to your partner, your partner still is not you. Different words mean different things to different people.
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We also bring to our perception our experiences. For instance, if you are used to being criticized, a simple question like "Did you buy butter?" can be perceived as an accusation or critisizm for you forgetting to buy it the last time you shopped. So, instead of hearing "Did you buy butter?" your mind can quickly turn it into: "Did you finally remember to buy butter this time?" Before you know it, you feel resentful and respond with something that you regret later. Within minutes a simple question about byuing better turns into a hurtful exchange and possibly even a fight.
So, if your partner says something that you find upsetting or hurtful or just confusing, before you throw yourself into a tizzy, take a deep breath to come yourself down, and play back in your mind the exact words that you heard. And, instead of jumping to a conclusion and giving him/her your final verdict, ask your partner about his/her intention and the meaning of what was said.
Here's a simple exercise. Can you think of something that your partner says about you (or the way he/she addresses you) that gets you upset? Find an appropriate time to speak about it (when you two are alone, there are no destractions, and your partner is well rested and fed) and say: "When you say______, I feel _____and I think______. What do you think and feel when you say that to me?” This is an invitation to an open and thoughtful conversation and is a step towards a better and more meaningful communication and relationship.
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Stay tuned for more communication tips and exercises coming next week.
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