How often do you say exactly what you mean? When we're in conflict with someone, instead of risking our feelings by saying what we mean, we instead attack with an insult or avoid the truth. This can be especially true in a divorce, when you may be at your lowest point in your relationship with your spouse.
What if instead of attacking, we risked revealing our true feelings? How would that change the conversation? I know that sounds particularly challenging if you're in the middle of a divorce or separation, but it can make a huge difference in how you interact with your former spouse or partner.
How would your world change if instead of saying something like "You always put the kids (or our friends, or your family) in the middle when you should be talking to me directly," you said, "I want you to feel like you can come to me about stuff, and that you don't have to ask other people to be your messengers. I know we've had problems communicating in the past and I haven't always been the easiest person to deal with. I am committed to changing that, and if I slip I want you to let me know"?
Or "You always have time for your friends and no time for me," turns in to "I feel really left out and lonely when you're texting and laughing with your friends and I'm out of the loop. It makes me sad and I wonder whether we really belong together or not."
Speaking your mind by using confiding communication turns your conversation partner into an ally. It turns an argumentative or adversarial discussion into a problem solving session. It's very difficult for one person to continue to be difficult and continue escalating the tension when the other person continues to be honest, open and reaching out.
And if you can't confide, you end up avoiding or attacking. Sound familiar?
A couple of months ago I went to a seminar called Collaborative Couple Therapy. The speaker was Dan Wile, Ph.D. and this is how he helps couples in his own practice. It's interesting and powerful stuff. He explains more in an interview for www.psychotherapy.net.
This confiding communication style is something anyone can try. When you're feeling upset or attacked, instead of just reacting and escalating the fight, tell the other person how you really feel. Be honest without being judgmental or sarcastic. Got a difficult conversation you really need to have but can't quite muster the mettle to bring up? Here's how to navigate difficult conversations:
"When we fight about money and property I worry we'll never get through this divorce and we'll be caught in this awful limbo forever. I want to be fair and I want to move on but all this fighting makes me think that if I am reasonable that I'll get taken advantage of. And I don't want that for me, or for you."
Sounds a lot different than "One more word out of you and I'm calling my lawyer!", doesn't it!