“I shouldn’t have to say anything! If you love me you should spend more time getting to know me and you should know how I feel.” Sound familiar? Often a woman believes that if a man loves her, he should intuitively understand what she is thinking or feeling. This may come as a shock to some women but men are not mind readers.
Julie and John are a couple. Julie is excited and putting a lot of time and effort into practicing for her part in a play. She is excited about John coming and supporting her at the performance. However, Julie assumes he knows how important this is to her as he has observed her practicing for the play. John is not really into plays or shows, but would go if he knew how important it was to Julie.
Actual thought process:
Julie is backstage getting her makeup and costume on and knows at any minute John will come backstage to wish her well and tell her the performance will be great because she is a part of show. Julie puts him on the backstage list and asks if he has tried to come backstage. During the performance she is looking through the curtain to see where he might be in the crowd. She does not see him at all and after the performance she looks for his car in the parking lot, but John is no where to be found.
Julie rushes home and there’s John watching TV. She asks him why he did not say hi to her backstage or even greet her after the performance.
John is caught off guard and not sure how to respond, “you did not tell me you wanted me to go so I went car shopping. Besides you know I do not like plays.”
Julie is hurt, offended and mad and instead of responding to John she gives him the silent treatment.
John wonders if Julie is mad about something and assumes that she is either in a bad mood or that something went wrong during the play.
Julie thinks to herself, “You knew how much that play meant to me, if you cared about me you would have come and cheered me on!”
John: “Are you mad about something? Did the play go well?”
Julie: “What do you care, all you care about is your stupid car!”
John: “It’s not a stupid car, and what does my car have to do with anything….”
In this example, Julie assumed John knew that the play was important to her and that she would like him to be there to support her. However, she never shared that need with him. If John had known that Julie wanted him to be there, he probably would have attended the play. Wives reading this blog or seasoned husbands are cringing for John and Julie and might be thinking this situation is a no brainer and John should have known better, but there are many other situations that are less obvious.
Julie could learn to communicate her desire for John to be at her performance and John could learn to ask for clarification if he is unsure of her expectations. Once they understand the desires and expectations of the other partner, the behavior of becoming mad, sullen, and defensive would be lessened.
Of course, there are even more issues that could be addressed in this scenario. The basic message of Cognitive Behavioral Couple Therapy is that behavior follows understanding, and inaccurate understanding which may lead to inappropriate behavior.
Communication skills that can be learned are: skills for sharing thoughts and emotions, and skills for listening to your partner.
Are you having trouble communicating with your spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend? Does this couple sound like your relationship? If so please call a marriage counselor for couples therapy. Additional information on counseling resources is available from The Total Life Counseling Center (407-248-0030)
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Author: Linda Hartman