Almost every time I have someone send me a message about couples counseling, I hear or read the same thing, “We have problems with communication." It's like they're using the same words but speaking completely different languages.

Almost every time I have someone send me a message about couples counseling, I hear or read the same thing, “We have problems with communication.” And then I meet with them, and yeah, it’s like they’re using the same words but speaking completely different languages. They feel like they’re fighting over “everything,” and a lot of times, they’re right. And wrong. Why is that?

Typically, it’s because each person knows what they mean and assumes that the other does, too. If I had a nickel for every time I heard a couple say to each other, “You KNOW what I’m saying,” then I would have an unnecessary amount of nickels. It’s like modern pop music lyrics at the end/start of a song: “Yo it’s J-Slice taking over worldwide 2017 purple monkey dishwasher, know what I’m saying?” No. I have no idea what you’re saying.

It’s not a sign of a bad relationship to feel like you’re not always on the same page. After all, if you married your clone, then that would be pretty weird in a LOT of ways. You bring different things to the relationship, and that doesn’t mean that either of you are wrong. You BOTH can be right. However, when we hear someone say something in a way we wouldn’t say it, we’re probably going to disagree by default. When it comes to these times of disagreement, try to really hear each other. If there’s something that’s causing a rift between you, don’t ignore it, address it. Sometimes you may even agree and not realize it until you put away the defenses and start listening.

You’re in this relationship because you want to be, and so does your other half. If your wife is saying something that’s offensive, then think about it, why would she say that? How does it benefit her to be rude to you? Try this very simple response, and it can save you hours of fights: “This is what I heard. Is that what you meant?” You’ll find that most often, she didn’t mean it that way, or you two weren’t talking about the same thing to begin with.

An example: You tell your husband that you didn’t get the promotion, and he responds with, “Ugh, I knew this would happen.” What it sounds like is that he knew you weren’t good enough to get the promotion and that you were stupid for even trying. Understandably, you now are looking around the room for what you can throw at him (don’t!). Say to him, “Uh, it sounds like you were saying that you think I’m bad at my job and that I shouldn’t have even tried. Is that what you meant?” Maybe it was, but unless your husband is a grade-A jerk, he probably didn’t. You will likely hear something in response like, “Oh no, I didn’t mean that. I meant that I knew your boss didn’t appreciate the work that you did and is too stupid to give you the job that you clearly deserve.” See how that went from a fight to an actual display of real support?

If you didn’t clarify what the other person is saying, then you probably and understandably would’ve taken it as a sign that you’re not on the same page about that and then applied that to everything. Because you clarified it, you found out that you’re on the same page in terms of number, just a different book altogether.

Effective communication needs clarification. Know what I’m saying?

Jason Levin is a former comedian, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and the owner of Jason Levin, LCSW located at Wellbeing on Main. He uses humor and honesty to work with adolescents, adults, and couples on getting their lives back on track. He can be reached at Jason@JasonLevinLCSW.com or (302) 464-0021.