Most of us have two ears, but in marriages couples often easily use only one or neither when it comes to resolving communication conflicts and misunderstandings.
We often hear what we want to hear, especially when we are hurt.
When we have baggage from the past, we oftentimes hear with filters as well, which increases the potential for misunderstandings. These filters can easily warp the content of what is being heard. For example, if we are in a state of low self-esteem and feel that others are not accepting us, then when someone says simply, “Have a great day,” it could be misconstrued as a sarcastic jab.
Sound ridiculous? Not really. This is exactly what happens in relationships and couples when one is hurt and hearing what might be a confirmation of yet more hurtful words.
What we hear is often dependent upon a lot of factors.
For example, if we are feeling insecure, we tend to hear what would confirm someone, in particular the one we love and count on the most – our spouse – and hear a negative, hurtful comment. So, since we are in this insecure filter, we will also repeat back this dreadful thing we heard – over and over again – until we simply are not able to bear such pain.
Many problems occur in couples that have a high ratio of conflict and unresolved issues. They have a propensity to “think” they heard something negative and instead of verbally repeating and asking their spouse if that’s really what they said, they will internally repeat it back. In essence, echoing the painful messages that we pre-interpreted and confirmed.
Then that couple may attempt to “hold it in” and not verbally communicate the hurt that they perceived was coming from their partner. In doing so, they build up anger and resentment only to explode at a later date.
When we do not verbally communicate what we thought we heard, we take ourselves out of the conversation by internally repeating the perceived hurtful words. Then we take a stance of defensiveness, and are not able to participate in the discussion with an unbiased perspective because we’re on the defensive. Now… everything after this point either “proves” the first point, or “adds insult to injury”
Yet in the same token, if we have a healthy relationship and are confident in our spouse and stability of their love, we tend to hear the other person with the predetermining factor that they have our best interest in mind. And again, by default, we repeat what we heard back to ourselves. Therefore in this case, reaffirming the positive, loving words we just heard.
We hear what we want to hear. So, we encourage you to make sure all of your conflicts are resolved. And then you will again be able to hear with positive filters instead of negative filters.
Mike & Trisha Fox
Marriage for Today