How to Train Your Brain to Combat Communication Issues in Your Marriage
By: Victoria Easa
People often mention “communication” as one of the biggest issues in their relationship. And yet, as many of us married people have realized, that is a rather broad umbrella that describes a multitude of issues. If my husband is very sarcastic and I am very sensitive, that could be a “communication issue.” If I am very talkative and he is more the “strong, silent type,” that, too, could be a “communication issue.”
Healthy communication takes effort. A lot of effort for most of us. And many people don’t want to “have to work that hard” in our marriage. We believe that “the right relationship should be effortless” or “more natural than this.”
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The truth is that any deep, intimate, vulnerable relationship is going to take a lot of work.
Some couples don’t want that type of relationship. I did. If you’re reading this, I’ll take a leap and say that you do too.
Communication techniques- How useful are they?
There are tons of communication skills and techniques that people can learn and master. The problem is that in the heat of the moment, without effort, those skills are useless because we are not in the right mindset to utilize them.
How our first consciousness brains ruin our way of communication
We tend to live our lives out of our “First Consciousness Brain.” This is the knee-jerk reaction we have to situations. The frustration we feel at times when we are set off by either a romantic partner, platonic friend or even colleague.
This part of our brain is also called our “Adaptive Child.” It was formed in our childhood by what we “adapted to.” The problem that occurs in adulthood is when the very same skills we created in childhood to manage and “adapt” tend to hurt us later in life. Therapists call these “maladaptive coping skills.”
They did serve a purpose at one time. They helped us. They “kept us alive.” But, again, they are not healthy and they hurt us and our relationships in adulthood. The agenda of the Adaptive Child is to be right, to “win.” It is all about the self. The Adaptive Child is not concerned nor focused on an improved relationship
Our second consciousness brains put things into perspective
When we can pause, take a breath, and get into our “Second Consciousness Brain,” change happens. This is where we can see things more clearly, sometimes even from the other perspective.
As opposed to the Adaptive Child, this part of the brain is called the Functional Adult. All healthy skills live here. If you cannot get into your Functional Adult brain, no change, no improvement is possible.
The agenda of the Functional Adult is to be intimate with our partner, to get back “on the same page.” It is easy to be in our Functional Adult when our partner is in their Functional Adult as well; the challenge is to remain in our Functional Adult when our partner is in their Adaptive Child.
How do I recognize my “Adaptive Child”?
Other than beginning to recognize at the moment when we are being unhealthy, there are some patterns we can look for. The bodily survival response is Fight/Flight/Freeze. The relational survival response is Fight/Flight/Fix.
First, you look at which one of these jumps out to you; one of them made you think “oh, I do that.” Then, dig a little deeper and ask yourself “what might have happened in my childhood that could have elicited that response?” This is the beginning of understanding your Adaptive Child. It is also the beginning of learning how to get yourself out of that mindset and into the Functional Adult – if my response is Flight, I can pause, breathe, and not run away or withdraw emotionally into my inner shell.
Similarly, if my response is Fix, I can pause, breathe, and not try to appease anyone and everyone around me to ease the tension in the room.
And, of course, if my response is Fight, I can pause, breathe, and attempt a healthy conversation without being hurtful and aggressive.
The best (and easiest, by the way!!) rule of thumb is pause, breathe, and “do something different.”
Your previous behaviors are what got you into these negative patterns in the relationship. The only thing that will change the patterns is “something different.”