“How could you be so hurt?  That was not my intention! I just wish you got me and knew my heart. I feel so misunderstood”  This is a classic example of how there has been a miscommunication, with an unintended negative impact, and both people end up feeling hurt. Why does this happen so often? There are a couple of reasons. One is that miscommunication is inevitable.  John and Julie Gottman’s research has found that 70% of the great couple’s interactions don’t go as intended. It’s normal and no one should be shocked.  You are two different people, with different histories, cultures and personalities.  At any given time there is a 50% chance one of you is going to be in your  own world, not aware of your  partners needs. Again, normal.


Intentions and Filters

Secondly, the reason why intentions do not always have the intended impact is because of our filters. About a month ago I asked Dr. Gottman what to do about couples who get into fights over their intentions being misunderstood.  He simply drew a diagram that looks like this.  Well, to be fair his was with stick people, but the point is the same.


What often occurs is an unintentional tone or wording that changes the message. In this situation it is Homer’s positive intention that  travels through his Filter, and before it has a chance to impact Marge it must also go through her Filter.   In this case, the filter is some history of him being critical of her housekeeping. Maybe there has even been a fight where Homer may have said she is lazy or useless. Hard to imagine, I know, but it could have happened.

Darren Wilk, Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) and Co-founder of Bestmarriages.com, has been working with marriages and families since 1988.   This includes being a foster parent providing care as a professional parent loving and inspiring children with various challenges.

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