By Chandrama Anderson
E-mail Chandrama Anderson
About this blog: About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and grief and have lived in Silicon Valley since 1969. I'm the president of Connect2 Marriage Counseling. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in ... (More)
About this blog: About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and grief and have lived in Silicon Valley since 1969. I'm the president of Connect2 Marriage Counseling. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in Silicon Valley for 15 years before becoming a therapist. My background in high-tech is helpful in understanding local couples' dynamics and the pressures of living here. I am a wife, mom, sister, friend, author, and lifelong advocate for causes I believe in (such as marriage equality). My parents are both deceased. My son graduated culinary school and is heading toward a degree in Sociology. I enjoy reading, hiking, water fitness, movies, 49ers and Stanford football, Giants baseball, and riding a tandem bike with my husband. I love the beach and mountains; nature is my place of restoration. In my work with couples, and in this blog, I combine knowledge from many fields to bring you my best ideas, tips, tools and skills, plus book and movie reviews, and musings to help you be your genuine self, find your own voice, and have a happy and healthy relationship. Don't be surprised to hear about brain research and business skills, self-soothing techniques from all walks of life, suggestions and experiments, and anything that lights my passion for couples. (Author and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Calif. Lic # MFC 45204.) (Hide)
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Repeating is a sign that we don't feel heard, or we feel misunderstood; that our mate is brushing aside our words and the meanings behind them. So we repeat (turn up our volume) in the hopes of being heard; often it just leads to escalation, and then our primal brain kicks into fight, flight, or freeze.
Repeating ourselves is pretty straightforward; we say the same thing multiple times. I'm not sure how aware we are of repeating ourselves, as when I bring it up to a wife or husband in couples counseling, he or she seems surprised. So begin to notice if you are a repeater.
"You" sentences, on the other hand, are either poking at our spouse, or are another way of brushing aside what our mate has said; by turning it back on him, getting the heat off of me. They are accusatory, critical, or contemptuous.
Let me give examples of the "You" sentences: You never listen to me. You never take my feelings into account. You're too emotional. You don't pay attention to money. You always do what you want. You don't load the dishwasher properly. You don't drive right . . . fill in the blank.
Our brain is wired from earliest evolution to survive, and when it perceives threat, we will either fight (yell), flight (walk away from our mate in the midst of an argument), or freeze (go silent, hunker down until it's over).
Often couples have differing reactions to perceived threat (i.e. one yells, the other either freezes or flights). So in addition to not feeling heard or understood, their primal reactions are misunderstood and that can escalate the interaction even further.
Note: These differences can show up on the intimacy side too, often called the pursuer/distance or wave/island dynamic.
We have to get out of these cycles
Recognizing them is the first step. Try just this one experiment this week: If you are the talker, say, "I don't feel heard," or if you are the listener, say "I'm not sure what you mean by that, can you tell me more?"
Leave out all the rest (the editorial, as we like to say at our house). No repeating, no "you" sentences.