Communication issues come up all the time as the main referral reason clients come to see me. I certainly appreciate this. Even when at my calmest, saying what I may believe is something beautiful, it may not come across that way to someone receiving the message. I believe much of this comes from thoughts and emotions swirling inside of us that we may not be addressing. What this can mean is that we are not going into our next conversation or interaction as mindful—focused only on that moment—as we may think.
Too often, I hear, “We argue over little things all the time. Is something else bothering him? I just don’t get it!” I say good for you in reaching out and wanting things to be better. Many times, if we are not addressing the core issues, other (even little) things appear as problems. For example, let’s say he is having difficulty at work but not sharing this with you or feels overwhelmed with it. He may become irritable with other things (how you cook the potatoes that evening, your attempt to talk with him, how you parked the car, etc.). This might happen and, in that moment, you might naturally be confused and even upset. You might think something like, “Here I am helping, and he is not even appreciating it. How dare he!” Meanwhile, he may not recognize in that moment that he is still affected by his work issue. Try to take a step back.
This may be the time to reflect on what is happening in his life. Are there issues he is struggling with (or recently had)? Work, family (even extended family), expectations of ourselves and our lives that we may not be meeting (including what we believe others have of us), past (unresolved and/or painful) issues, and the future (are we on target for expectations?) are common struggles for many of us. Now, most of us are not consciously reflecting on what is on our minds or in our hearts and actively trying to address these things. Instead, denial may be in effect, as when even the slightest memory of something uncomfortable arises, we try to change the subject in our minds to distract ourselves.
Unfortunately, many men are not comfortable sharing our feelings and what bothers us. Generally, we struggle with the idea that we should be able to handle it (whatever it is). Essentially, we do not like asking for help. I will take this thought a step further and say I think this is a common theme for both men and women. When we reach out for help, we are exposing ourselves in terms of how we think others may then view us, and we fear we may appear weak.
Has he shared anything that may clue you in? Sometimes, even I need to be a detective and think about recent events, stressors that may plague or continue to plague my partner. Is there something you or anyone else may have said or done that could be negatively impacting him?
If you have shared with him your concern, I am curious as to what he may have said. If not, please share your hope and ask for his thoughts. This is so valuable to explore. Let him know you are there for him. Try not to react if you feel attacked. Remind him you will get through this together. Reach out to family, friends, and so forth for support. Consider counseling. Don’t give up, and good luck!
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