Being in a healthy, positive relationship can take hard work. Often at the root of an unhealthy relationship dynamic is unhealthy communication. While there are many ways that people communicate in relationships, one way is through listening. But there is a difference between hearing what your partner is saying and actively listening to what your partner is saying. With active listening, you heard, acknowledged and understood what your partner said and you reflected it back to them. This can be a helpful exercise with couples who are having trouble communicating. Common complaints that couples have in their relationships include feeling not heard, understood or validated. Feeling this way in a relationship can cause strain or feeling unhappy in the relationship. Through active listening you can learn to understand and validate your partner which can lead to feeling better in your relationship.
For example, your partner may share their thoughts, opinions or feelings on something and your automatic reaction may be to then respond with your thoughts, opinions or feelings on the subject matter. Your opinion may be different from your partner which is perfectly fine but by reacting and not actively listening, your partner may feel triggered. For example, maybe your partner grew up in an environment where they often didn’t feel heard or validated by their family. So when an argument with your partner starts, a past trauma may have been triggered which could then lead to an escalation in the discussion. Because this wound has not been healed and it is a painful reminder of not being heard or validated, your partner then reacts in a way that is angry causing the discussion to turn into an argument. So, by learning to respond by listening rather than reacting, you can learn to have healthier communication with your partner. This type of response allows for your partner to be heard and validated and because they feel heard and validated, can prevent escalation into an unhealthy fight.