If you ever want to witness relationship miscommunication, watch what happens when one person is talking about things and the other is talking about relationships. A woman says her son is incompetent because he did not feed the cat. The mother is not talking about a chore, but is attacking the child personally. She hasn’t considered she is angry at her husband for forgetting their anniversary. A couple wants to work together in the yard. The wife offers suggestions about shrub placement only to be told that her ideas are poorly thought out and she has no experience in landscape design. She does not hear “no experience”. She hears incompetent. So why do people talk about things when they want to talk about relationships?
Eric Berne called it games where the purpose was to create a way to pass time between people with no intimacy. The feelings are avoided, but the interaction continues. As a result, people talk at cross purposes and nothing changes. People start talking about an issue, such as getting kids to do homework, when what they really want to talk about is why their spouse said a hurtful thing last night. Anytime a person is talking about things, expressing them in an emotional way, it is highly likely that they are really talking about some issue in the relationship. In other words, talking about a thing when your concern is a person.
So how do you know if you do this? Take a minute before you speak. Breathe several deep breaths. Scan your body and see if a feeling is present. If there is, what is it? Identify the feeling and, in a calm voice, express the feeling. Watch the difference in the reaction you receive. Patterns operate in a repeating fashion. They repeat in the same way and produce the same goal. And the reason the pattern exists is to negotiate stress. If a husband is angry about sex deprivation, and criticizes his wife’s cooking, the goal is to notify his wife that he is not getting what he wants. Think this action will produce a willing partner? No, the outcome is continued frustration. The husband produces the very thing he does not want by talking about things when he needs to talk about the relationship.