If you have ever been a friend to someone who needed to hear some honest truth, you’ll know what I am talking about. You wracked your brain about how to say it. You did your homework (maybe by talking to an expert, maybe by talking to someone in their family, and maybe by just reading a book or finding a few articles online) so that you could support your point of view.
You put a lot of energy into finding JUST THE RIGHT words. You thought about the occasion. You might have even thought about an ideal location for the conversation. And last, but not least, you tried to figure out the timing. And based on your calculations, you did the best of all of these combined and then you went with it.
That day, at that particular place, and at this specific time. You said to them what you thought they so desperately needed to hear. You wanted to the real friend. Right?
And your words totally fell on deaf ears.
Then you tried again. Because you were convinced they needed to hear you. No luck, again. Maybe you gave it another try or two, only to realize that this isn’t going anywhere. You didn’t know how you messed up – you tried changing your approach, maybe changing your tone, maybe prefacing it with something else.
And then, on an ordinary Monday, several months down the road, as you were walking around the mall, you ran into a common acquaintance of yours who at the end of your time together said that exact same thing, almost verbatim – and your friend looks at you with eyes wide open, mouth slightly ajar, and it hits them.
You – you sit there in disbelief, thinking – that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you for months!
This same thing may have happened to you with a teenager. Or a 3-year old. Or your aging parent or grandparent who is no longer able to care for him/herself and needed to start considering other options so that, at the least they didn’t have to drive on a daily basis. And then it was the new nurse who they’ve never met before who figured out the magic combination of words (seemingly) to get through. Even though we know there wasn’t any magic and the words really didn’t matter. The timing did.
So, you may have tried to communicate something to your spouse. And you may have had the exact same experience that I described above. Why? Because – Timing is everything. And, as it turns out, I am not the only one who seems to think so.
Have you ever tried to offer marriage advice to someone else? Have you ever tried offering ANY advice to another person when they weren’t ready to receive it? Giving marriage advice is tricky -and I will be the first one to tell you that. Particularly if you are their friend or family. If you missed my previous article on the topic, read it here: Getting Relationship Advice from Friends & Family)
If your spouse is nowhere near being ready to listen and admit that — first of all — there is even something wrong with your relationship, this will also ring true. And given that you both are adults – and I emphasize this in my office quite often – I can’t make you talk about something that you don’t want to talk about. And guess what – neither can you. You can’t make them talk about something they don’t want to talk about as much as you can’t make them do something they don’t want to do. (If you and I were talking about your kids, that would be a completely different story.)
Now, sometimes that may just be PART of the big picture – some small-ish fight or incident that happened years ago, or a traumatic injury that happened to one of your during your childhood years. Or a part of my question that you prefer not to answer.
And that’s alright. I would rather wait a week or two for you (or both of you) to get comfortable with that idea, than push it on you at the wrong time and get no result. Because that’s what tends to happen when the timing is not right. You get nowhere.
IF I think that it’s something we eventually will need to get back to – I will say so. And I will also invite you to uncover that at some point in the future.
But – when I pick up on one in the couple not REALLY being ready to jump in with both feet and readily enter the process of therapy – And to tell you the truth, that happens quite often during our initial phone consultation – chances are that if we were to start counseling, it wouldn’t go very far. Because most of what would happen would fall on deaf ears. It would not produce the outcome that the other person in the relationship was hoping for.
You have to be able to admit that there is a problem and that you need, and more importantly even, WANT, help.