Do you understand your partner?

by Khun Dee

If you’re involved in a cross-cultural relationship (for example, let’s say…oh, you’re an expat with a Thai wife or girlfriend), odds are you sometimes have difficulty understanding your partner. That goes for her as well. You may know everything about one another, yet there are times when you simply don’t have the slightest idea why your mate is acting strangely, is being so irritating, or won’t tell you what’s wrong.

Of course there are fewer problems if you speak Thai and your partner speaks fluent English. But the underlying cause of many conflicts has nothing to do with language or cultural differences and everything to do with knowing your partner on a deeper level.

Easier said than done, you say?

Not according to Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD, the esteemed psychologist who has written the widely acclaimed book, Insecure in Love (New Harbinger Publications, 2014). In her new, easy-to-read guide on relationships, Dr. Becker-Phelps offers an exercise entitled “Getting to Know Your Partner from the Inside Out.”

The goal of the exercise is to honestly see the world through your partner’s eyes, including what she or he observed, felt, and thought—even when you don’t personally agree.

Ready to try it? The next time your partner is talking to you about an experience (whether it’s about something seemingly trivial like a spat with a baht-bus driver or something serious like an illness in the family), follow these guidelines:

 

DO:

• Give your partner all of your attention—no multitasking

• Tell your partner you’re interested in hearing about the topic

• At appropriate times, ask for more detail or explanation so you can really “get it” (don’t just ask about the facts, also ask “How do you feel about that?” and “What are your thoughts?”)

• Pay attention to nonverbal cues that might help you better understand  the impact of the experience being discussed

• Be open to the other person’s perspective, particularly when it doesn’t match yours.

DON’T:

• Multitask (don’t even think of looking at that incoming text or glancing at the TV)

• Interrupt, unless you are confused and need clarification

• Assume you know what they are thinking or feeling

• Try to solve a problem (unless you are asked to)

• Tell them they’re wrong about their feelings or their experience.

The American psychologist tells Pattaya Today that if readers practice the above steps over time, “They will find that they feel closer to their partners and to themselves. And when conflicts arise, they will have an easier time understanding the other person’s perspective—even if they still don’t agree with one another.”

Subtitled “How Anxious Attachment Can Make You Feel Jealous, Needy, and Worried and What you Can Do About It,” Insecure in Love is available online for about 300 baht from Amazon.com,  Barnesandnoble.com and Newharbinger.com.

Though writing for the lay reader, Dr. Becker-Phelps nevertheless bases her book on the latest scientific research. She says, “I explain attachment theory and how people with anxious attachment can develop more secure attachment styles and healthier relationships (with themselves and others— especially with romantic partners). I introduce the idea of compassionate self-awareness (a combination of self-awareness and self-compassion), along with techniques for building it.”

The book guides readers in learning to recognize negative thoughts and insecure feelings and how to respond to them in a positive way, notes the former chief of psychology at Somerset Medical Center in New Jersey, where she was also clinical director of Women’s Psychological Services. “I also encourage readers to discover how to cultivate a healthy dialogue with their partner and stop reverting back to feelings of inadequacy.”

A psychotherapist with a private practice, Dr. Becker-Phelps also inspires people to change, grow, and heal through her work as a speaker, as well as a writer for WebMD.com and PsychologyToday.com. Visit her website at DrBecker-Phelps.com.

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