Miscommunication between partners is fodder for comedians, but not funny at all for the people involved at the time.

If there has been an on-going pattern of misunderstandings, the relationship can become quite damaged. Frustration, anger, and mistrust resulting from incomplete or confusing language can poison a once joyful partnership.

Part of the difficulties lie with the fact that there are hard-wired gender differences which impact the way we experience the other gender’s words, tone and body language. (Of course, I understand that I am generalizing here and that there are many different ways that this could/does play out.)

For example, when a woman is upset about an event, she may express her feelings with sad or angry emotions. Her only desire may be that her partner listen to her. What she doesn’t know is that her visible suffering may be triggering a specific gender response in her partner. Men, in general, are wired to fix things, make things work well. An upset woman may mean to a man that something needs to be fixed. It is a well intentioned idea, but is directly opposite what the woman may be seeking. In the end, the woman doesn’t get what she wants which is non-judgmental listening and empathy. The man, as well, does not get what he wants which is approval/appreciation for his efforts in trying to solve the problem and restore happiness. The bottom line is that no one feels understood or valued.

Learning to speak with “I” messages, with self-descriptive language, is challenging because probably very few of us learned that skill in childhood. At first, it seems unnatural and fake. The results, however, are dramatic. Sometimes just a few sessions can make a big difference in the way we speak to each other.

It is never too late to try something different.