In my post How to Improve Your Marriage without Therapy, I outline 5 simple things you can do to improve your marriage from the comfort of your own home.
Today I want to discuss the 3rd thing on my list: In order to improve your marriage, you must stop having solo conversations in your head. This sounds silly, but it happens more that couples realize. And it fuels negativity, is habit-forming, and is quite destructive.
The very process of having solo conversations, in which you take on the role of both yourself and your partner, is often based on assumptions, and can lead to increased relationship distress.
How does this work? Let’s imagine that you and your partner come home, tired after a long day, and one of you brings up a topic that often leads to conflict. And since you are both tired, you find that once again, as can be expected, this topic leads to conflict.
In your frustration and anger and hurt, you both retreat into separate areas of the house. Once by yourself you begin to talk to your partner (even though he/she is in a separate area of the house), telling them what you think and feel.
And then you assume the role of your partner and decide what they too are thinking and feeling. Most of the time when we are angry and hurt, the thoughts and feelings we assign to our partner are quite inaccurate, lean much more toward negativity, and almost always inhibit the process of repair.
Does this sound familiar?
You have these solo conversations because your brain is in a reactive state and is being controlled by the intensity of your own emotions.
Dan Siegel talks about the difference between a reactive brain vs. a receptive brain. He explains how this difference influences our responses and awareness, as well as our capacity for compassion and empathy. To learn more about this, go here:
Solo conversations keep us in a reactive state. When we make assumptions about how our partner might respond, think or feel, this prevents us from cultivating a deeper understanding of our partner and building strong bonds of trust with them.
Instead, with solo conversations, we foster negativity and blame, plant seeds of mis-trust, and damage the bond that connects us. It is important to be aware of the thoughts we create as these influence our view of reality.
Solo conversations are often the coping strategies we use when we are hurting, albeit highly ineffective coping strategies.
When our brains are in a receptive state, we are clear, calm, compassionate; aware of our emotions but not letting them determine our responses. And this is where we want to be in order to heal hurts and bring repair when experiencing conflict.
So how do we stop these unhelpful, habitual, and reactive types of conversations? How do we mover from reactivity to receptivity?
In my work with couples, I teach them how they can shift out of their patterned response of making assumptions about the other when in distress.
In this process, each partner learns more about themselves, more about the other, and strengthens their ability to manage their emotions and reactivity more effectively.
No matter how long we have been together, we cannot assume to be the “expert” on our partner’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. To do so is dis-respectful and invalidates the reality that our partner is always growing and evolving.
You can begin today to strengthen your marriage by making the decision to stop having these solo conversations.
Take a deep breath, pause, and consider that the best way to know what your partner thinks, feels, experiences and believes is by remaining open, receptive and curious, and by inviting them to share this with you. You and your partner and your marriage will thrive as a result.
If you are interested in learning more about strengthening your marriage, please call me today.
As always, peace in your journey,