The Relationship Expert
Licensed Psychologist in Arroyo Grande & Los Osos
I help married couples reconnect to one another. In marriage counseling, I use conflicts as an opportunity for husbands and wives to care for and understand one another. If you ever tried to be understood by your spouse, but felt your words were falling on deaf ears, I have an illustration for you.
Let’s take a look at a study that was done at Stanford. Researchers assigned participants two roles: tappers and listeners. The tappers were asked to tap out the rhythm of a well-known song for the listener: “Happy Birthday,” for instance. Tappers were also asked to guess the odds that they would be able to convey the song correctly. Their answer: 50% or 1 in 2. But in reality, listeners were only able to guess the correct song 2.5% of the time. That’s just 1 in 40.
- Tappers 50%
- Listeners 2.5%
To the tappers, it was so clear. They could hear the song in their head as they tapped: happy birthday to you… It was painfully obvious. However, the listener didn’t get the benefit of knowing the song title. Try as they might to hear a song, all they could hear was a series of isolated taps.
Why Is Marriage So Complicated?
When it comes to communicating in our marriage relationship, the song that plays so clearly in our head might be just a collection of random tapping sounds to our husband or wife. We know what we want. We want our spouse to connect with us in ways that are meaningful to us, personally. But what ways are those?
There’s no one-size answer because we are individually unique. We have our own expectations and ways of thinking that we’ve shaped over the years. We’ve been influenced by watching our parents, from our beliefs, from our faith, and a variety of other experiences.
Relationship counselor, Dr. Gary Chapman, is the author of The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. He says we crave love in five different ways—our five love languages. They are:
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
- Receiving gifts
- Acts of service
- Physical touch
Most of us can pick out our top one or two pretty quickly. The tricky thing is realizing the way we want to be loved is probably different than how our spouse wants to be loved. A wife may enjoy getting the royal treatment, but quality time is even more important to her. A husband might appreciate a gift, but what really made an impact on him was when his wife absent-mindedly ran her fingers through his hair.
Men and Women
Let’s bump up the level of complexity and add another song to tap out…that is, the song of being a man or a woman. Because men and women are different.
Wives, one of your husband’s biggest fears is that you would be ashamed of him.
The statement is obvious, but the impact is significant when it comes to communicating. Men and women, speak different languages, don’t we? Not only are we made differently, but we are also socialized to act and think a certain way.
Wives desire to be loved and cherished. Their hearts ache for security, and there’s an underlying fear of isolation and deprivation.
Men long to be respected. Some women I work with start to get fidgety when I say this. They interpret it to mean that if they give their husbands respect, they are handing over authority to them. But that isn’t what it means at all. To understand what a man longs for, let’s share with wives what your husband’s biggest fear is… Because that’s the opposite end of his respect continuum. Wives, one of your husband’s biggest fears is that you would be ashamed of him…that he would be a failure in your eyes. To him, that’s what a loss of respect means. If you doubt this, try saying to your husband, “Honey, I am so proud of you.” You may be surprised by his reaction.
What Happens in Marriage Counseling
If you could get your spouse to understand just one song you are trying to tap out, what would it be? If your husband or wife knew your love language, how would things be different? In your marriage counseling sessions with me, we will explore these questions, and help you find answers that are uniquely helpful for the both of you. It won’t always be easy. Feelings, especially deep ones, don’t play by our rules. But that’s okay. You’ll have a trained psychologist on your side. And the three of us will work together to help both of you understand one another’s song.
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“Dr. Lisa makes you feel calm, relaxed and comfortable in being able to open up about difficult issues…She taught us things about ourselves that we had not understood after 35 years of being together.” Read more…