Communication Problems: Rooting Out the Real Issue

woman-and-man-having-problemsCommunication 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!

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Stuart A. Kaplowitz, MFT, therapist in Chino, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • E Donald

    E Donald

    July 2nd, 2013 at 8:58 PM

    For me speaking what’s on my mind is almost second nature.but although I always adhere to this my wife is not quite into it.she does not speak out if there is a problem and it is often reflected in how you deceive it.little things seeming more important than they are.sometimes I wonder how we even got along and got married while being so different.but I guess ill just have to point her to more things that benefit through good communication.

  • stepahnie

    stepahnie

    July 3rd, 2013 at 4:12 AM

    This is one of those problems that often gets too far gone before either one realizes that they need some help.

    Most of the time I would say that the root of these types of communication issues will come from how the one partner was raised. How did they see their own parents communicating? Have they ever been exposed to a role model after whom they can learn the real secrets to effectively communicating with one another?

    If there are habits that have to be broken that have been established and entrenched since childhood then this is going to be a relationship that has a lot of work ahead of it.

  • Maghan

    Maghan

    July 4th, 2013 at 6:08 AM

    We hear what we want to hear most of the time.
    It’s almost as if we are not struggling with our need to communicate with each other, but instead that we struglle with listening to each other and nhaving a firm grasp on what our partner really has to say.
    I honestly believe that so many of us are too focused on being right and making our point, while our parners’ thoughts and feelings are being swept aside as insignificant as compared to our own.

  • Stuart Kaplowitz

    Stuart Kaplowitz

    July 4th, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    Well said Stephanie. Thank you for that.

    E Donald — I wonder if there is a better way she would like to receive the information? Perhaps she can share this with you

  • Stuart Kaplowitz

    Stuart Kaplowitz

    July 4th, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    Hard to disagree Maghan. Thanks for adding that

  • Lisa

    Lisa

    July 5th, 2013 at 3:01 AM

    Most people, regardless men or women prefer talking to listening. They always have something to say when sometimes it’s good to LISTEN more and truly understand the other party. Most of the times, this can solve communication problems.

  • Stuart Kaplowitz

    Stuart Kaplowitz

    July 7th, 2013 at 4:06 PM

    Hard to disagree with that Lisa. smile

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