Your partner always has something to say. They seem to be able to remember every detail of your last argument, of what you last forgot to do, in fact of every mistake you have made in the relationship since that time you forgot to text to say you would be late home… You know you’re not perfect, but neither is he/she…..but when your faults are thrown at you, instead of answering back quickly with all the reasons you’re really not so bad, in fact quite a good partner really, you just can’t find the words. And your partner has moved on to the next thing before you have been able to get a sensible sentence together.
You’re the quieter one in the relationship, you try to think things through logically and to decide whether there is truth in what is being said before you answer, but you just can’t hold your own in a quick-moving verbal ‘spat’, so you go quiet, distance yourself, try to contain your emotions, but occasionally, feeling really overwhelmed, you lose it and really shout back. Battle is joined, neither of you is communicating anything but anger and frustration, nobody is listening, and, particularly if you’ve got children, you are in a situation which is unacceptable to everyone involved.
To your more verbal partner, it feels like you just ‘go quiet’ when they express their frustration or unhappiness and so they have no idea if you are hearing them. In their eyes you’re being stubborn, or superior, or deliberately using logic to block their feelings. As they become more agitated, you withdraw even further and either distance yourself completely or finally become as angry as they are. Stalemate.
If you are the ‘quiet one’, a Relate-trained couple counsellor will make it possible for you to even up the conversation, to talk and be listened to just as much as your ‘noisier’ partner, to make sure there is time in the session to express those feelings which are hard to put into words, to find a way, together, for both to hear and be heard, possibly for the first time in a long time.
Good couple counselling is about the safe expression of each partner’s needs and wants. In every day life, nobody teaches us that it’s vital to talk about what we need individually, in order to be happy as a couple. Working on the relationship involves both partners listening; it’s the counsellor’s job to help you as the quieter one to find your voice too.