Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page
One of the big differences between two people in a relationship can sometimes be in the way they express their emotions. Some people are very comfortable with “letting it all out” – indeed it is important for them to do this in order to cope with strong emotions. On the other hand, some people find it hard to express emotions, preferring to deal with things internally and “just get on with it”.
Neither of these approaches is right or wrong, they both have advantages and disadvantages – disadvantages particularly if taken to extremes. The person who lets it all out can be seen as emotionally very demanding – it can seem to their partner that they can’t cope with anything on their own, and that their emotional outpourings will never stop. On the other hand, the person who keeps it all in can be seen as cold – and their emotions can sometimes come out unexpectedly in a very emotional way, sometimes through anger or intense sadness.
There can be differences too, in the way we listen. Some people tend to dive in with solutions, adopting a very business-like attitude to emotional issues. Others maybe adopt a more neutral, comforting approach. For some, listening can be very difficult and they may end up avoiding such conversations. There are not necessarily any magic answers here – sometimes your partner might need advice, at other times a cuddle is the answer. It can even be helpful, on occasion, to tell them to stop making such a fuss and pull themselves together, though I would not recommend this as a standard approach!
In a couple relationship, these different styles – both in how we share emotions and how we listen – can clash, but they don’t have to. The first step in living with such a difference is accepting that your partner is different – not wrong, but different – and respecting their way of dealing with things, not trying to change them. The next step is for both of the couple to try to be flexible and to adapt. By this I mean that the person who tends to let their emotions out can say to themselves “I know my partner is different, and when I get emotional they find it difficult to hear and understand. So I am going to try to burden them less, by dealing with more stuff internally, or by using other people to support me”. And equally, the person who keeps their emotions under tight control can say “I know my partner is different, and when I withdraw they find my silence cold and distant. So I am going to try to share more of my feelings with them, even though that doesn’t come naturally to me”.
We can adapt our listening styles as well, and rather than attempting to be telepathic about this it can be very useful to ask your partner what they need if you are unsure : “I can see how awful this is for you, and I’d like to help but I’m not sure what you need right now…is it advice? Do you just want to talk about it? Do you want a hug?”
When both of a couple are able to adapt their styles to meet their partner’s needs, it can help them to understand each other better and communicate more openly, while recognising and respecting the differences between them.