Are you 'listening to your partner's music' in your relationship?

Communication in relationships is a lot like music - music with or without words. When you feel connected to the one you love, probably some, if not all of these things are happening:-

  • the tone of voice or words your partner is using are soothing, kind, or show in some way that s/he gets what you're feeling as well as what you're saying.
  • the quality of your partner's voice may change in response to what you do or say - s/he is aware of what's changed for you in that moment.
  • when your partner is listening to you, s/he may make empathic sounds, or even echo the words or sounds you've made.

We tend to use language that reflects our intuitive understanding of the 'music' that underlies the quality of our day-to-day interaction. We may say our partner is 'tuned in' to us, hears what we're really saying behind the words (when we may be struggling to articulate just exactly what it is we're feeling). We talk about the acts of sex and physical intimacy as 'making beautiful music together'.

When we lose the music we once had in our relationship, our sense of disconnection can be painful. We may 'turn up the volume' in an attempt to recreate the experience we once had of being fully heard and tuned into. This can become even more hurtful when our partner remains deaf to our music, or even seems to be actively blocking it out. What was once 'music to her/his ears' now seems to be received as discordant and unmusical.

What's to be done when you or your partner have become 'tone deaf' in your relationship?

While it's important to acknowledge that it takes two musicians to play a duet (or duo), it can be worth experimenting with fine tuning your instruments! You may try:-

  • Just listening to your partner (no matter how hard s/he may have become to listen to). Listen to the music behind the words - what's being expressed through your partner's tone of voice, body language etc.
  • If it's been hard to find the right words in response, fall back to the music without words - think more about your tone of voice than needing to have the right words, use sounds rather than words - such as "uh-huh", "mmmmmmmmm" to show you empathize and are fully present with what your partner is saying
  • Use words in a musical way - you may mirror with your words, how loudly you speak, or your level of intensity what your partner has either said or implied (e.g.  - in a frustrated tone....."you're so disappointed that your boss doesn't see how much effort you put into that project!").

Of course you may also need to ask your partner directly and clearly to do these things for you - to enter into these musical improvisations together! It can be hard to hear your partner's music when your own internal soundtrack is drowning it out! It's not until we feel heard that we're able to once again be the listener. It's so important to be gentle with ourselves and our partners about the inevitable missatunements that occur in even the best relationships - and focus our efforts more on re-attunement rather than blaming ourselves or each other for what's not been heard.


Till next post, Vivienne

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