Why Is It Important To Slow Down Communication With Each Other?
How does a conversation with your romantic partner move so quickly from a simple request to a devastating, painful conversation?
Just a simple glance, a dismissal of something you said, and you’re in as much pain as any physical pain you could have.
This way of interacting sets up patterns that get worse and worse, unless you interrupt them. So that’s what we’re going to do together, interrupt these patterns.
One of the things I tell my couples is that they get to slow down their conversations. I often get asked what the reason is for this.
The main reason is that to reconnect with each other, you must learn how many very fast feelings occur between your words with each other.
You must slow down to begin to see the patterns and each move that you make with each other.
Now here’s an example that happened with a couple that I work with, Kate and Jack. They’re a great example because they’ve identified their patterns entirely, and are well on their way to rebuilding their relationship. So I’ll be able to use them for some good examples.
On one of my weekly counseling sessions, Kate explained that she wished Jack would be more open with her.
Now immediately Jack let out this big gasp, and was rolling his eyes at Kate, and then did a sarcastic little laugh.
I want you to notice how many things happened in between Kate’s request to be closer, and Jack’s sarcastic response. And how fast this happens.
From my observations, Kate made a request to have more emotional openness, and she was being sincere. And then Jack IMMEDIATELY displayed anger, frustration, and was really sarcastic.
So now I want to move into slow motion here, and describe how much is really happening between them.
When Kate describes her need for closeness, she’s really walking on eggshells and scared all the time.
She feels very unsafe to make any kind of request of Jack. She gets punished with angry emotions from Jack almost every time she reaches for him, and she truly does not understand why this happens.
This all moves so fast, and Kate knows she’s uncomfortable, but isn’t yet aware of the reasons why she’s so uncomfortable, because we haven’t slowed it down enough yet.
And Kate has absolutely no idea why Jack gets so mad at her.
Now remember how fast Jack got frustrated and sarcastic with Kate? And I said that is seemed sincere? Well, actually, she is transmitting annoyance and resentment with her tone of voice, even if it’s not with her words.
She actually is criticizing him constantly, and putting him down for his inability to be close with her.
She’s criticizing him all the time, and she doesn’t know she’s doing it. She just knows she’s frustrated.
And Jack can’t quite articulate that he’s being criticized. He just knows the way she approaches him feels awful.
So Jack’s annoyance with Kate’s request for closeness is very accurate, and makes a lot of sense. She actually is transmitting her annoyance to him, even though her words seems sincere. She is resentful, and this comes across to Jack.
Kate is also EXPECTING a negative response from Jack, which contributes to the problem.
Now why does Jack respond to Kate with such a sarcastic, negative response?
Each time Kate approaches him, at this point, he anticipates that she will criticize him. And all his memories about how unloved he feels happens very quickly.
So by the time she asks him something, he’s waiting to defend himself, and then attack back.
Jack has been criticized and put down so many times that is has become a primary way of relating to Kate.
The only thing that makes him feel in control is getting sarcastic and mean towards her.
When Kate requests that Jack open up to her, Jack experiences a rush of feelings about how often she criticizes him.
And when she risks asking for him to be closer, he can’t even hear it. All he knows is that he gets put down all the time for how he’s emotionally distant, so when she asks him to be close, all he has is a negative experience happening inside him.
From one perspective, this is normally how communication works. We’re always anticipating the best way to be when relating with another person.
And the longer our history with that person, the more we try to guess how to make a connection. But with romantic love, because so much time is spent together, these negative patterns form, and it becomes very stubborn to break these habits.
So I’m going to ask you now to attempt the very first thing at recognizing if this pattern happens in your relationship.
I want you to have a discussion with your partner about this video, and ask each other some questions.
Do you both agree or disagree about anything I have explained here?
Do you think that you’re both in any kind of pattern like this, where things move too fast?
And here is the exercise I want you to try with each other.
I want you to simply name if you think something is moving too fast.
You don’t have to analyze or name exactly what’s happening.
Actually, I want you to be very careful here to not criticize your partner and say all the things that they’re doing wrong, which is what got you here in the first place, right?
The next time you get into a conversation and one of you can recognize this pattern, just say that you think things might be moving too fast.
Just see if you can make the slightest interruption in the negative pattern by naming it.
If you can do this, it is more than enough. You have interrupted the pattern and you’re aware there is something to change here.
That’s the start of interrupting one of the main things that is harming your relationship, the very fast reactivity, criticizing and defensiveness that you both have with each other.
To heal that with each other, we’re going to break it down into each feeling that you both need to share with each other. That is the start of reconnecting.
OK, I’ll see you soon. Make it a great relationship.