Conscious Communication in Relationship: Men vs. Women
Even though we might seek conscious communication in relationship. The truth is when it comes to relationships between men and women, we simply don’t understand each other. And, we think we do. We think we do because we imagine our partner is just like us. On top of that, we think our way is the right and obvious way, yet have no idea that in our “rightness,” we make the other person and their way wrong.
It’s unconscious. Yet the moment you think your perspective, your approach, is right, it inherently makes their perspective, their approach, wrong. This divides us. It creates the unending battles that often remain unspoken and unexpressed – sometimes for decades. At the same time, it might seem like these frustrations have been expressed over and over and over again. But expression, communication, only actually happens if the communication is received.
If the communication isn’t spoken in a way the listener – the receiver – can hear (and more importantly experience), they will never actually receive our communication. Then, not feeling heard, we’ll continue in sometimes overt, sometimes deeply subtle, or even passively aggressive ways to fight for what we want, for our perspective, for our feelings. Even when our partner can’t hear anything we’re saying. That’s the antithesis of conscious communication in relationship.
Conscious Conversations in a Conscious Relationship
I worked with a couple last week who love each other deeply, who have a beautiful relationship, and they want more. They know where they’ve disconnected over the years. They know where it’s not as fulfilling as it could be. In our coaching last time, without looking for it, we spontaneously found ourselves exploring a recurring challenge they’ve faced for 30 years of marriage.
She had shared her perspective many times. He’d listened many times. But not heard. He had his perspective. He didn’t “get” hers, but he had listened. And nothing changed.
She hadn’t felt “gotten,” received. She hadn’t felt heard in nearly 30 years. The upset stayed quietly unresolved, until the next time it arose, and the conversation repeated. And nothing changed. The reason nothing changed – time after time, year after year – was because they couldn’t hear each other. They couldn’t hear each other because the differences in their experiences were so extreme. They were from two different worlds – as John Gray put it, as he described conscious communication in relationship, nearly 30 years ago in “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.” Yet, we’ve spent decades in our society trying to prove we’re the same.
We are the same on many, many levels. And, we are different on many, many levels. We have very different needs. We have very different ways of communicating. We feel and experience life differently.
As long as we are willing to stop resisting the differences between men and women, if we’re willing to stop thinking that our way is the right way, then our differences can become a source of joy and pleasure, rather than pain and misery. When there is conscious communication between men and women, you might never directly say to him or her, “Your way is wrong,” but remember that if you’re proving you are right, you are also proving they are wrong.
Again, in most relationships, this is not happening overtly or directly. Often, there’s great kindness and really good intention. But your great kindness and your good intention still create resentment and distance, decrease your sexual attraction, and sometimes kill your love.
Conscious Connection Between Men and Women
In our coaching conversation last week, I offered the couple an uncommon perspective on relating. When participants at the Soulful Relating Retreat look at the multi-faceted Communications Model, they are typically blown away by the glaring reality that we truly do speak so differently.. If every person in relationship, everyone who wants to be in relationship, understood that Communications Model, upsets would end so much more quickly.
You’d hear each other in ways that allowed conscious conversations to flow, your smiles to grow, your laughter to deepen. But we’re not taught that men and women speak differently and argue differently.
On top of that, that masculine and feminine beings have truly different needs. We may think our needs are the same, yet as the Needs Models from the Activating Soul Love program shows, once again we’re different.
I reminded the couple of these core needs of men and women, and combined that with an invitation to speak from their feelings (which, again, is not something we’re taught to do, yet feelings are the language of intimacy. Understanding feelings resolves hurts quickly. And, that’s why emotional literacy matters.)
For them, the combination of understanding the need in her that wasn’t being met as well as her ability to speak about how that unmet need felt (in a way that he could hear) changed everything for the first time in 30 years. That’s the power of conscious communication in relationship.
Through his active listening with her, she felt heard, saying, “I feel like you finally got it.” He agreed, saying words similar to those I’ve heard time and time again from clients, “I’ve never seen it that way before. I had no idea that’s what you were going through. That’s the last thing I want you to experience.”
Their challenge related to what we call in the Needs Model, a “sense of safety” for her and, ultimately, a “sense of control” for him.
The Feminine Needs to Feel Safe
You see, in a conscious relationship, when there’s masculine and feminine embodiment in the two partners, there is an unending dance of the feminine needing a “sense of safety” and the masculine needing, and more importantly, embodying a “sense of control.” When those two dynamics of “protect” and “be protected,” actually work, it’s extraordinary. Yet, again, most men I work with struggle to “get” what safety actually means to a woman. (Guys, it’s worth the effort to really receive that communication from a woman.) To be specific, when we talk about the feminine feeling safe, it’s physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually safe now and in the future.
The Masculine Wants to Protect
Back to this couple, there had been a particular dynamic that created a sense of unsafe for her. He had no idea that a behavior that seemed so simple and even insignificant to him, had a huge impact on her ability to relax and truly feel safe and supported.
When he heard the impact on how she felt, he again said words like so many other masculine men, “I spend my life committed to you and my family feeling safe. So, to hear that this thing, that I thought was no big deal, was actually making you feel not safe, makes me feel sad and even ashamed.”
Conscious Communication in Relationship Eliminates Unresolved Conflict
That’s hearing each other. That’s being real. That’s being vulnerable. That’s where conflict turns into communion. The repeating unresolved conflict of over 30 years wasn’t completely resolved in that little-over-an-hour conversation, but their connection deepened significantly. It deepened not because they were working on the connection, but because they shared real-ly and authentically. They listened to each other’s feelings and experience.
Maybe that seems hard or complicated, but it’s actually not. When you learn how.
Fundamentally, as you can, conscious communication in relationship makes all the difference between days, or even years, of disconnection vs. days and years of deepened love. So how did this couple have this conscious conversation exactly?
Here are the 3 key steps to resolving old hurts through intentional communication. First, and this is not as easy as it seems, you have to admit there’s an upset, an unresolved hurt. We have to admit it to ourselves and then we need to admit it to our partner. Second, as partners we have to be willing to do what’s called active listening. Active listening means that, as the listener, we are taking equal responsibility in the conversation to ensure that the intended communication is received. One specific way to listen actively invites the listener to respond with a reflective summary of what he or she heard, called reflective listening. Third, even when it’s not easy to hear, we need to be willing to hear the impact our actions or behaviors have on the other person. And, if appropriate, we need to be willing to understand their person and, maybe even apologize. Both people are responsible for outcome and experience when there is conscious communication in relationship. And, that means the number of happy days far outweighs the number of unhappy days.
Men vs. Women
We’ve heard about the battle of sexes for far too long. These same men and women who battle are fighting because the want love. They just want love on their own terms, within the bounds of their comfort zone. Unconsciously, men can’t want women to be less emotional, more rational, more focused. Or in other words, more like men. On the flip side, women can seek the sensitive, vulnerable, and receptive in the men they love – wanting them to be more like women. And, none of the qualities just mentioned are bad in any way. It is simply important to notice our tendency, sometimes our strong tendency, to want our partners to be more like us. These attempts to change our partner end up perpetuating the men vs. women battle that can never be won in love.
It can no longer be men versus women, or even you versus me. Those are the subtle and unconscious ways that we separate and divide, defend, and often destroy our relationships because we don’t see, understand, and appreciate our differences.
So let’s shift men versus women, me versus you, into us, united in love (which, by the way, is the only thing that allows us to stay united in passion.)
*At Ecstatic Intimacy, an all-inclusive website for singles and couples, we welcome all sexual orientation(s), gender(s) and relationship expressions. In this article we utilize the pronouns he/she/him/her.