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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: Do You Really Want to Know?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Do You Really Want to Know?

Sometimes here's what happens when couples talk to each other.

Woman: Why do you love me?
Man: I don't know. I just do.
Woman: No really, I want to know. Why do you love me?
Man: You're a good mother.
Woman: Seriously? Really? You love me because I am good mother?
Man: Yeah, why?
Woman: That's not an answer. Why do you love me?
Man: Well, because you're you.
Woman: What about me?
Man: I like being with you.
Woman: That's not even about me. It's about you. And you don't even sound sure. You can't even tell me why you love me.

Or it goes like this:
Woman: Why don't you come home for lunch more often? You have time to go out with the guys but won't come home to have lunch with me.
Man: We just go grab a quick bite, and we talk shop.
Woman: Well, you could come home for a quick bite and talk to me.
Man: (silence)
Woman: Tell me, really. Why don't you come home for lunch more?
Man: Do you really want to know?
Woman: I am asking you aren't I? You won't even be straight with me about a simple question. Man: Okay, well...


Man: You look so down all the time.
Woman: What are you talking about?
Man: You never want to do anything or go anywhere. Is something wrong?
Woman: Well, since you asked. I don't like going out with you when you drink.
Man: I don't drink that much...

So the answers vary of course. And the conversations can go either way. They can take a turn for the good, the connective, the loving. Or they can take a turn for the worse and lead to a disconnect, a distance, an argument. Usually when a woman starts asking her man about why he loves her, or why he does not come home more, or why he is with her, she is looking for an emotional connection. She is looking for some kind of real affirmation of their love, their commitment, their feeling for each other. Sometimes, it means she is angry with him for some reason and does not know how to, or want to, or is afraid to come out and say it outright. Men too are looking to keep things connected, though sometimes with slightly different goals.

The thing is, there usually are good answers and good outcomes to the above conversations but sometimes partners don't really know, on the spot, how to answer, or what their partner is actually looking for or needs. Or how to cultivate a good dialogue. Also, sometimes the answer is not exactly what the asker wants to hear. Sometimes men will say, "well, I don't come home for lunch because when I do, you talk to me about all the things I do wrong, or give me your list of things I need to fix in the house." Or a wife (or husband) will say "well, when you do drink when we go out, it takes away something from the evening. " Sometimes when we ask, we may hear something we may not want to hear, may not like, or may not agree with. Even if perhaps, our partner is saying something true, or is telling us what is in the way of closeness or problem resolution. How we respond can make all the difference in finding out what our partner's perception is.

Sometimes we hesitate to say the truth because we are afraid that if we do, we will hurt our partner's feelings, or trigger rage, or criticism, or defensiveness. It's not always clear what the best answer is, or what answer will be the most conducive to creating closeness or working out real issues.. Sometimes couples have to help each find the right words, uncover our motives and be willing to hear the answers, even if they see it differently or want a different result. If we really want to know the answers to our questions, we have to be willing to hear the answers with respect and curiosity, even when feelings and wishes run high, even when we may not agree, and even when we may have to take a look at our own role in things.

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