I suggested last time, that when we are hurt or angry, or both, we stop listening to each other, and start defending our own corner as soon as our partner speaks. How can we start listening to each other again? If Step 1 to becoming intimate again is stopping all the wounding remarks we make when we are frustrated, then the next steps are looking at each other, and listening, really listening, and feeling ‘heard’ in return.
‘Active’ listening is easier said than done; we want to interrupt, disagree, criticize, walk away. But there is a lot of research evidence which shows that couples who practise it also feel understood, less defensive, closer; become more intimate. So because it’s so hard to ‘just listen’, I have put together Ten Steps to Getting Closer. Give it a try, I have seen lots of couples who find it helps. It’s probably easier to practise it the first time with a counsellor, but if you can’t see one at the moment, have a go anyway!
Step 1: Stop insulting each other – it takes 5 positive remarks to make up for 1 negative one
Step 2 : Sit together somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed for half an hour
Step 3: Turn to look at each other, hold hands (unless you really can’t), keep eye contact
Step 4: Partner 1 (the quieter one) says how they feel about whatever is on their mind, for up to 5 minutes. It can be about anything, your relationship, family, work, whatever you need to say. It helps to use ‘I feel’ some of the time
Step 5: Partner 2 just listens, doesn’t interrupt, just keeps eye contact going until their partner has finished
Step 6: Partner 2 says ‘I have heard you say that……….’ without giving own opinion, or adding anything, just reporting back on what you have heard. You can ask if you have forgotten anything.
Step 7: Partner 1 says ‘thank you’
Step 8: Partner 2 talks, including how they feel about what they are saying, for up to 5 minutes.
Step 9: Partner 1 repeats back what they have heard and checks if they have forgotten anything, all the time keeping eye contact
Step 10: Partner 2 says ‘thank you’
There is no discussion afterwards. You may want to go on holding hands and looking at each other, or just sit quietly together for a few minutes. It’s about feeling ‘heard’ as much as it is about talking. So often, we feel no one really listens to us; it’s the greatest gift we can offer each other.