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Why Doesn’t My Partner Understand Me?

Zoe Mittman, Licensed Social Worker

Have you found yourself asking the question, “why doesn’t my partner understand me?” If so, this blog is for you. I get it. It is extremely upsetting to feel misunderstood and not heard in a relationship. You can see your perspective so clearly that it is so frustrating when your partner cannot view a situation in the same way.

Exploring Relationship Dynamics

I want you to pause for a moment and visualize wearing a pair of sunglasses. The lens is how you view life. It is influenced by your childhood experiences, upbringing, significant events, and so much more. Your view on life is different from that of your partner. You have not had the same exact experiences. Now, imagine a pair of sunglasses on your partner. Imagine sitting outside in the sun across from your partner with your sunglasses on. You are having a conversation that begins to become a little contentious and the frustration settles in when you feel misunderstood. You are trying so hard to get through to your partner, but it is simply not working. The lens from which you view life impacts how you perceive situations. You and your partner each have your own lens for how you view the world. 

Despite having different lenses from which you view life, it is possible to improve communication to better understand your partner’s point of view and to feel heard.

Strong communication is at the foundation of a successful relationship. Your partner cannot read your mind and you cannot read your partner’s mind. You are only in control of yourself — your thoughts, your feelings, your behaviors. Therefore, it is so important to express how you feel and not make the assumption that your partner knows exactly what is going on in your mind. Your partner cannot know your needs and wants unless you directly convey them. 

When a disagreement arises, it is important to remain calm. This may look like practicing mindfulness, taking a drink of water, or asking for space. The reason is that when our emotions start to take over, conversations then become not only about the original discussion, but about the responses and reactions to one another. Also, when our emotions are on high alert, it is difficult for our logical brain to recognize what is going on. That is why taking a step back and recognizing you need space either before or during a conversation is key.

It can be tricky to do this. One helpful tool is to come up with a code word. It can be something silly, special, or just a random word. Whenever you or your partner recognize an emotional conversation, use the code word. With that said, you and your partner can also agree upon what the code word means beforehand. For example, it can mean that you give each other 10 minutes of space, 20 minutes, an hour, or whatever that may look like. During that time is when you can practice mindfulness and grounding techniques to get back into the present moment. Having the expectations of what will happen when the code word is used is beneficial because it was already agreed upon. It reduces the chance of another disagreement, since you know that it is time for space and you will reconvene soon. 

Ultimately, no two people have the same exact lens from which they view life and that is why your partner may not be understanding you. In addition, a lack of effective communication may be contributing to this barrier. Making a conscious effort to minimize assumptions and having a game plan for when emotional conversations arise are two great steps that you can start to implement today.

If you would like support in strengthening communication in your relationship, couples therapy can help. Explore our counseling services online, and contact Symmetry Counseling to connect with a Chicago therapist today. 

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