On Monday mornings I volunteer with a really worthy organization, the Raleigh Rescue Mission. (Just by the way, you guys should all volunteer too. They’re wonderful over there.) Now, when I’m trying to startle myself awake at 5 a.m. in the morning for my shift over at the mission’s front desk, I need some jazzy music to set the tone for not crawling directly back into bed. This week, however, my IPhone decided that I needed to listen to “Save a Prayer” by Duran Duran on repeat and I was too exhausted to be bothered with changing it. Besides, I know all the words.
What I have always liked about this tune is that the lead singer of Duran Duran, Simon Le Bon, describes it as a song that is not about romance but rather about, “seeing things as they really are.” Y’all can go look up the lyrics now and draw your own conclusions about what kind of realities he is describing. Yeah. I know, right?
I think the process of looking at things as they really are from your partner’s point of view is a tough proposition. For the most part, we all want to fight back against interpretations that aren’t favorable to us. But how can you mount a successful opposition or encourage collaboration if you don’t have all the pieces to the other person’s argument? You can’t. And for that reason, we all need to learn to shut it on up.
But why don’t we want to quiet ourselves enough to do that? It’s because we have the idea that listening thoroughly is in some way tacit agreement. That is, that if we entertain our partner’s lunacy all the way until they have finished saying what they want to convey, we will inappropriately give the impression that we concur. While that is a pretty reasonable fear, I find that it is not actually what happens most of the time. Rather, you clear the floor for an honest discussion. And, your partner will view you with a softer, more vulnerable stance. When you cut someone off to advise them of their insanity you end up fighting with him or her about the interruption rather than the issue. And that, gentle readers, is how good people end up fighting about fighting rather than addressing the topics on which they would like to get movement.
Sometimes people stay in fighting about fighting because they are afraid to address the real topics at hand. Couples must shift out of those kind of surface conversations in order to really get their fingers in the salient parts of the argument. If an argument about the dishes is really about feeling badly that your partner doesn’t see all you do, arguing about the dishes alone won’t cut it. If an argument about the frequency of sex really relates to a lack of emotional connection, arguing about how often to make love is just the representative doorway into that topic. When you find yourself lacking the ability to shut up ask yourself why that is. What are you afraid you will (or won’t) hear if you focus quietly on your partner’s complaints and agenda?
Do you need help becoming patient enough with yourself to listen well? Do you want to mine beneath the white noise and fighting about fighting to better see how things really are? Why don’t you come on in so that we can talk about it.
Your Partner in Healing,
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