The aspect of Understanding in a relationship is developmental in nature. It develops as you begin to know more about your partner. A lot of it is about realising the fact that you are two different individuals and thereby you’re bringing into the relationship the differences in your outlook, upbringing, exposure, background, disposition, conditioning, and baggage. It is about recognising these differences and being respectful of them. And thereby understanding involves the elements of listening and empathy.
Often when we ask our clients about what will make them feel that they have been understood – the responses are largely around ‘he doesn’t agree or he doesn’t do it inspite of me saying so.’ What they are actually saying is that for an understanding to have taken place, it needs to manifest itself in the form of an agreement followed by an action confirming the same. And here’s where the struggle begins with the growing feeling of not being understood. At this juncture therefore, it becomes important to make them aware of the distinction between understanding and agreeing. And hence reflect on how they would feel if their partner said, ‘I understand but I don’t agree.’ How about you? Do you think you would be open to this idea?
Another aspect that complicates the element of understanding is the difficulty we experience to communicate our needs. A lot of times, the communication is not expressed and articulated clearly . This could be for multiple reasons including cultural outlook. For example, there is a prevalent notion of saying, ‘if he loves you, he will understand what you want?’ Or ‘He can read through your silence.’ The inherent expectation is that the partner will hear the unspoken and respond to the expectation of the other. This can unnecessarily complicate situations considering how often we tend to change our own minds or the number of times we have been unsure of what to do next.
Then, what makes you feel that your partner will be able to anticipate your needs and respond to them?