When Your Partner Says, ‘I just want you to listen’

Somewhere along the line this has probably happened in your relationship:
Your partner, upset about something, vents their frustrations, saying something like, I just want you to listen.

What do they really want from you in that moment?

Here’s the important part, friends. Generally, what they don’t want is you telling them what to do – unless they specifically ask what would you do? or What do you think I should do?

The real problem is simply that your partner is stressed about something. Helping them with stress can involve some simple steps:

Listen! Don’t interrupt. Let them finish their train of thought.
Make eye contact, nod, use your non-verbals to communicate “I am listening and you have my full focus.” 
Ask open-ended or clarifying questions so you clearly understand the situation. Say, “Help me understand what you mean,” then ask your question. Avoid Wolf-in-Sheep’s-Clothing questions such as: “Have you tried…?” These are actually just your efforts to solve the problem, dressed up as a question. 

Deep down you really just want to help. But consider this: When we are frustrated or upset and complain to our partner, we are seeking emotional support, and that makes us vulnerable. When our partner jumps to problem solving instead of listening and validating, it has the opposite effect.

Express Empathy
Say things like I get it, or That sounds stressful/frustrating/irritating, or my personal favorite: That sucks, babe. Express support and camaraderie. Say things like, I’ve got your back, anything that conveys an Us vs the World approach.

Validate your partner’s feeling or thinking. We all want to know that we’re not crazy in feeling what we do. It is comforting to hear a loved one say: I understand why you feel that way.

Before you move into a problem solving mode, ask whether advice is actually wanted. Say something like: Would it be helpful for you if we come up with some solutions together? Convey that you care more about your partner than solving the problem. But remember: If this comes too early the conversation, it won’t be helpful at all. 

At the end of the day, it’s their problem, and probably perfectly capable of finding a solution. They may have already thought through most of the suggestions you would make, and are just not emotionally ready to take action yet. 

Just Listen.

Have questions or want to learn more about Couples Therapy? CLICK HERE to contact Dr. Parker

Intimacy: When Your Expectations Don’t Align

The question of intimacy, for many couples, is sort of like the age-old question, Which Comes First, the Chicken or the Egg?

One partner needs quality time, romance, and connection in order to feel turned on for intimacy. The other feels the act of intimacy is what turns on their sense of romance and connection.

Intimacy is like so many other aspects of your relationship. You need to understand that you are two individuals with differences in personality, style, worldview, and emotional needs. We can’t assume that two people will align completely. And that’s okay!

So the question becomes: How do we cope/manage the differences?

One of the secrets to success of happy couples is the realization that all interactions flow into each other. Courting, flirting, and foreplay is a continuous cycle throughout the life of the relationship. There really isn’t a beginning or an end.

What I mean by this is: When dating, you have your courting, flirting, and foreplay in “doses” – date night, an afternoon together, maybe a weekend away – then you each head back to your own home.

Things don’t work that way when you live together. Taking out the trash, commenting on how nice, sexy, beautiful, or handsome your partner looks, holding his or her hand when you take a walk, even the way you deal with personal stress, is part of the flow of your continuous courtship, flirting, and foreplay.

How Couples Therapy Can Help

There are many strategies couples can use to cope with differences of all types. I work with couples on finding ways to:

  • Prioritize time for the relationship because intimacy, for many busy couples, isn’t something that just happens, but needs to be nurtured. In a sense, you should never really stop dating each other!
  • Cultivate a culture of appreciation so you are more assured of a sense of teamwork and support in your daily lives.
  • Speak more openly, directly, and effectively about intimacy so you can start to work together to honor each other’s needs and style.

Have questions or want to learn more about Couples Therapy? CLICK HERE to contact Dr. Parker