Two years ago my husband and I found ourselves trapped in a cycle of miscommunication and hurt. His business was in a transition period and he was working long hours. I was home with our four young children and still climbing my way out of postpartum depression. We were in survival mode and our marriage was feeling the effects.
Though circumstances were preventing us from spending much time together, miscommunication was hindering the little time we did have. On the occasional night out or quiet moment on the couch, our conversations would often begin with me expressing emotion about how little he was home and how overwhelmed I was by our current life circumstances. To this he would nearly always respond with a reply about how it is not as bad as you say it is and here are some ways you can make it easier.
This response would exacerbate my emotions and they would become unmanageable. We both would end up speaking irrationally and become stuck and hopeless, eventually changing the subject to something less volatile and less important. This cycle repeated itself for months.
My husband’s intentions were not to hurt me.
So why did his response exacerbate my emotions?
My desire was to share my heart with him and connect with him.
So why was a gap growing between us?
Around that time, we started learning about The Connection Codes. It was while talking with Dr. Hill (who happens to be my dad), that one of us expressed the frustrating cycle we were stuck in. Learning about The Connection Codes helped us slow down our cycle and see what was happening in those moments of miscommunication and hurt.
So what was happening?
My husband's role as provider is important to him and his identity is intertwined with this reality. When I expressed emotion about how little he was home, he experienced his identity being attacked. Instead of holding space for my emotion, he felt the need to defend his identity. Thus he disregarded my emotion and quickly suggested things I might do not to feel that emotion.
Once I understood that he felt attacked by my statements, I was able to communicate very differently. My language changed to that which honored his hard work, while still allowing me to be honest about how overwhelmed I was by our life circumstances.
Likewise, in those moments, I needed him to listen and hold me and tell me he loved me and was on my team. I felt disregarded when he said I was exaggerating and gave immediate suggestions for how I could make our life easier. I also felt guilt and shame for my inability to make our life easier and not feel so much emotion about our life circumstances.
Once my husband understood that I appreciated him and that I felt disregarded by his response to my emotion, we were able to slow down. When he regarded my emotion and engaged me in conversation about what I was feeling, I felt regarded! Then we were able to work as a team to navigate our circumstances.
Having the tools needed to connect and communicate has helped us create a space where honest dialogue, active listening and radical empathy can occur. This has been invaluable for my marriage.
Connection and communication can happen for anyone and everyone. The Connection Codes offer the tools needed to make this a reality.