As human beings, we all have a deep-seated need to feel heard and understood. Whether it’s in our personal relationships or professional ones, feeling like we’re being heard is essential to our well-being. This is particularly true in intimate relationships, where the need to feel heard is paramount to creating a deep and meaningful connection with our partner.
As a counsellor, I’ve worked with countless individuals and couples who have struggled with feeling heard in their relationships. They often come to me feeling frustrated, disconnected, and resentful, wondering why their partner doesn’t seem to understand them. It’s a common issue, and one that requires warmth and empathy to navigate.
Why is feeling heard so important? Feeling heard is a fundamental human need, and one that is particularly crucial in our intimate relationships. When we feel heard, we feel seen, understood, and valued by our partner. This creates a sense of connection and intimacy that is essential to a healthy and fulfilling relationship. On the other hand, when we don’t feel heard in our relationships, we can feel disconnected, resentful, and unimportant. This can lead to a breakdown in communication, which can ultimately lead to the breakdown of the relationship itself.
In addition to impacting our emotional well-being, feeling heard (or not) can also have a significant impact on our physical health. Studies have shown that chronic stress, which can result from feeling unheard and unsupported, can lead to a host of physical health problems due to the stress hormones released into the body. This also leads to a slower recovery time from illnesses.
Despite the importance of feeling heard in a relationship, many of us struggle to achieve it. There are several reasons why this is the case:
We’re not actively listening.
In order to feel heard, we first need to be actively listening to our partner. This means paying attention to what they’re saying, rather than just waiting for our turn to speak. Unfortunately, many of us are guilty of not truly listening to our partners, which can leave them feeling ignored and unimportant.
We’re not communicating effectively.
Even when we are actively listening, we may still struggle to communicate effectively with our partner. We may have difficulty expressing our thoughts and feelings, or we may use language that is defensive or aggressive. This can lead to misunderstandings and a breakdown in communication.
We’re not validating our partner’s feelings.
In order to feel heard, we need to feel like our partner understands and validates our feelings. When our partner dismisses or invalidates our emotions, it can leave us feeling unheard and unsupported.
If you’re struggling to feel heard in your relationship, there are several things you can do to cultivate a more empathetic and compassionate approach to communication:
1. Practice Active Listening
The first step to feeling heard in a relationship is to actively listen to your partner. This means paying attention to what they’re saying, and reflecting back to them what you’ve heard. It also means asking questions to clarify any misunderstandings and to demonstrate that you’re genuinely interested in understanding their perspective.
2. Communicate Effectively
In addition to actively listening, it’s important to communicate effectively with your partner. This means expressing your thoughts and feelings in a clear and non-defensive manner, and using language that is respectful and compassionate. It also means being willing to compromise and find common ground when disagreements arise.
3. Validate Your Partner’s Feelings
Put yourself in your partner's shoes and try to understand how they are feeling. It's important to validate your partner's feelings without trying to fix the situation or their emotions.
Another effective tool for helping couples feel heard and understood is the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy. One of the core principles of the Gottman Method is building a strong foundation of friendship and trust within the relationship. This involves cultivating a sense of mutual respect and understanding, and actively working to support each other’s emotional needs.
Another important aspect of the Gottman Method is the use of specific communication skills, such as active listening, validation, and empathy. These skills help couples to more effectively communicate with each other, and to feel heard and understood in the process. For those who may need additional support, the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy can provide an effective tool for building stronger, more fulfilling relationships and is utilised in marriage counselling redlands sessions.
If you are looking for some tools to start with helping to break the cycle of feeling unheard in your relationship then have a look at my shop here.
Debra Bragança is a registered Counsellor with The Australian Counselling Association and works with both adults and couples impacted from trauma, anxiety, chronic illness, depression and relationship issues, including affairs. She is trained in a number of evidence-based therapies including CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy), ACT (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy) and Gottman Couples Therapy.