Occasionally, it is helpful to get a reality check about how we are perceived by others. We may think that because we love our partner that they know it and feel it. But if we were to take a step back and consider our behavior and the messages we send and how those are received by our partner; we may find there is a disconnect between how we want to be seen by our partner and how our partner actually sees us. If we want to be seen as loving, generous and kind; are we behaving in loving, generous and kind ways?

For one day keep track of the messages that you give to your partner. At the end of the day, sort the messages into positive and negative. Be completely honest with yourself. I am less interested in the words you spoke, than I am in how you said them and what feeling was behind your words.

I often have clients say, “All I said was . . .” followed by an innocent sounding remark. But their partner insists that that was not how they said it, that their tone and body language was different, changing the meaning of their statement completely. Couples often find themselves playing the you said this, no that is not what I said game.

Some possible reasons that we find ourselves disagreeing about who said what and what was meant include the following:

We hear what our partner says through our internal filter system.
How we hear and interpret what our partner says, may depend on how they and others have behaved in our past. It also depends on the beliefs that we have formed about our partner over time. If, for example your partner has lied to you in the past or has disappointed you frequently you may begin to hear everything they say through a “Yeah right, I'll believe it when I see it.” filter.

We are affected by the feelings inside of us at the time.
If we are tired, hungry, frustrated (by our partner, children or someone else), stressed, etc. we will be much more likely to react badly to something our partner says. We are much more resilient when we are well rested, comfortable and feeling positive.

We are affected by the feelings inside our partner at the time.
The verbal component of communication provides only a small portion of the meaning. The exact same words spoken by your partner when they are cheerful and happy, will take on a totally different meaning if they were spoken when they were despondent, angry, or frustrated. Whether your partner is open about their negative feelings or not, you will get the underlying message as well as the one they deliver.

The words, “I just love the way you did that.” change meaning depending on the underlying feelings, tone of voice, facial expression and body language. Body language often gives clues to how people are feeling. That message delivered with crossed arms, snarling lips and feeling of exasperation means the exact opposite of the same words delivered while leaning slightly forward, smiling and feeling grateful. The first instance is definitely giving a negative message and the second is an example of a positive message.

It can be sobering to discover that our behavior is not what we would like it to be. We may discover that we are treating those we love the most, worse than we treat strangers. But awareness, even though it may be unpleasant, creates an opportunity for growth. We can change what we need to change, so that the answer to the question, what is it like to live with me? is positive rather than negative.

Author's Bio: 

Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.P.C., C.P.C.
Professional Counselor & Life Coach
Co-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course
Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples
Offers a free Nurturing Marriage Ezine