“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
It is an enlightening view, sitting in my chair in my office as a mental health counselor. I am honored to sit with clients as they share about their lives and their relationships. In this process, I see themes unfold.
We have ended the year and are into the New Year. As I look ahead at new beginnings, it reminds me of one of the most common themes. When working with couples, I notice that, for most, by the time they enter my office, it’s too late.
Too often one of them attempted continually to communicate with the other, without being heard. Sadly, I watch their last attempt to keep the marriage together. The partner, let’s say the man, who has not really heard, but has listened as if she was nagging or on a rampage over something, finally understands. It is too late now for him to realize that what she was saying was important. So important, that the marriage is now over. I see him groveling and trying to make sense of it all. In the safety of another person (me) she says, “I’m sorry, but it is just too late.”
Many of us have ended relationships before the New Year. I remember myself, many years ago, sitting outside Nordstroms, having coffee with my lover on December 29th. I said, “I am sorry, but it’s over.” This was difficult to say and it was painful. I had felt though, that what I said over and over, didn’t matter and I was “pushing the river,” in order to create a change for us. It didn’t work. Once I was honest and ended the relationship; although painful, it was also exhilarating.
When I am with clients and they are suffering over a relationship, I often ask, “when did you first know this was not the right situation for you?” More than I would like to hear, they say, “in the beginning.” If not, they knew years before they decided to make a change.
Whether it be a love relationship, a work relationship or a family situation, “when you begin to lose your voice, your self-esteem, your sense of personal power; it is time to make some kind of a shift.”