Misunderstanding in love

Misunderstandings in Love Relationships | Psychology Today

In nearly four decades of counseling distressed couples, it’s become clear to me that a lot of the conflict between partners, and, indeed, the pain that partners inflict on each other, starts with simple misinterpretations of differences.

The most frequent mistake in relationships is the illusion of sameness — assuming that events and behaviors mean the same (or should) to both partners. But partners may differ in:

  • Temperament
  • Metabolism
  • Hormonal levels
  • Core vulnerability
  • Family history
  • Life experiences
  • Developmental course (matured at different stages).

At first the “disillusion of sameness” bewilders: “How could he do that?” Or, “How could she possibly feel that way?”

Eventually, it leads to: “I wouldn’t react that way, so my partner is inappropriate.” Or, “Unbelievable! It must be a personality disorder!”

Here are the common differences which, misunderstood, lead to chronic resentment and erosion of intimate connection:


Mental focus requires shutting out distractions. People who don’t focus effortlessly—most of the population—have to work harder to shut out distractions and maintain mental focus. When focus is interrupted, the concentrated mental energy funnels into frustration. The sharper the focus, the more effort it takes to refocus, due to frustration.

The frustration of refocus is mostly physiological. Blaming it on the partner who feels ignored or rejected is not only unfair, it lowers frustration-tolerance and makes refocus nearly impossible.

The toxic misinterpretation of focus and refocus-frustration:

“You’re cold, rejecting, and selfish.”

“You’re needy, demanding, and selfish.”

The sense of rejection felt by the shut-out partner and the frustration of the interrupted partner is easily ameliorated with an attitude of connection. This is simply regarding yourself as connected to your partner, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. It fosters small, connective gestures throughout the day–brief touch, gentle eye-contact, embraces—or what Barbara Fredrickson calls “micro-moments of love. ” In addition to making both partners happier, an attitude of connection reduces the impulse to interrupt and the frustration when interrupted.

Misunderstandings of Mental Processing

One partner processes bits of information by parsing them into categories. Flowers are in one category, clothing in another. They’re likely to have a declarative verbal style:

“This is the way it is.”

It’s easy to misinterpret this style as dogmatic or oversimplifying, even arrogant. In reality, it’s easier for categorizers to process information and tell things apart when they fit into categories. The categorizer is likely to marry a relational processor. The flowers might relate to the dress because both have purple in them. The relational partner is just as organized as the categorizer, but with a different logic, based more on similarities than differences.

Misunderstandings of Verbal Processing

One partner processes thoughts before expressing them. The other processes thoughts while expressing them. One might appear laconic and the other, gregarious.

Partners must accept and respect each other’s styles of mental and verbal processing. For example, one must be patient in silence; the other must be patient in a rush of words.

Different processing styles can greatly benefit a family. What the categorizer lacks is provided by the relational partner and vice versa. The partner who thinks while talking adds creativity and spontaneity. The partner who thinks before speaking adds thoughtful consideration. But the great advantage of diverse processing styles is lost when partners compete over which style will dominate. It’s not a question of one style being better than the other. Together, they’re better than either is alone.


Innate temperament determines, in large part, what it feels like to be you. It has many dimensions, but we’re most aware of varying levels of energy, anxiety, and calm.

Partners often experience anxiety from opposite triggers. What lowers anxiety in one raises it in the other. One partner focuses on details, while the other sees the “big picture.” A focus on details raises anxiety in the big-picture person; losing sight of details raises anxiety in the partner.

To lower anxiety, one partner is more organized, orderly, punctual, and rigid, all of which raises anxiety in the other. If it’s very important for you to be on time, you’re almost certainly married to someone prone to lateness.

“Opposites attract” turns out to be a myth: We’re attracted to moderate differences in temperament. We want potential partners to “fill our gaps.”

In courtship, highly organized people admire the spontaneity and ability to “think outside the box” of less organized lovers who, in turn, enjoy the stability and “feet-on-the-ground” qualities of potential partners.

The calm date: “I feel more alive with you!”

The intense date: “I can relax with you.

While we’re not attracted to opposites, living together makes us more extreme in reaction to each other. Anxious partners worry that their less anxious lovers don’t worry enough:

“Why don’t they get all that can go wrong?”

Sensing the rise in household anxiety, less anxious partners try hard to calm things down:

“You should be more concerned! I have to worry for both of us!”

“You should learn to relax before we all have heart attacks!”

The subtext of their arguments:

“You have to be more like me! Think the way I do, feel the way I do, see the world the way I do.”

Instead of making specific behavior requests of each other, they fruitlessly try to change each other’s temperament. They try to change the very qualities that initially attracted them.

Core Vulnerabilities

Core vulnerability is the emotional state most painful to an individual, prompting the strongest and most rigid defenses. Under stress, we see the world through the lens of core vulnerabilities and make projections onto others based on our core vulnerabilities. Projections make it hard to see partners as complex persons with vulnerabilities of their own, independent of our projections.

For example, one partner has a core vulnerability of fear – anxiety about isolation, deprivation, and harm:

“No one cares, I’m unsafe, cut off from the things I need and love.”

Meanwhile, the other’s core vulnerability is shame—the dread of failure, inadequacy, exposure.

Core vulnerabilities are rarely experienced consciously. We most often see the defenses against them.

Common shame defenses:

  • Aggression (overt or passive)
  • Withdrawal (ignore, stonewall, distract, evade, shut-down)

Common fear defenses:

  • Hypervigilance
  • Controlling the environment
  • Criticizing

In intimate relationships, most conflict starts not with anyone doing anything wrong, but by the unconscious interaction of core vulnerabilities. Shame-defenses (anger, shut-down) automatically trigger fear-defenses (hypervigilance, control, criticism) and vice versa. Although it seems to each partner that the other is doing something bad, in reality, the dynamic is happening to both of them simultaneously. It spirals out of control when they blame their discomfort on each other.

But the same dynamic brings them closer when they understand and sympathize with their core vulnerabilities and when they support each other to overcome them.

Happy vs. Unhappy

In unhappy relationships, partners blame each other for their personal qualities. They see each other as opponents, and eventually as enemies.

In happy relationships, partners accept each other for who they are. They negotiate about specific behaviors but never about who they are. They see each other as teammates, with different aptitudes and strengths, cooperating to make a good life for the entire family.

Keys to Successful Relationships

  • Appreciate as many differences as you can, and tolerate the ones you can’t.
  • Request changes in behavior, not in personal qualities.
  • Cooperate to use your different strengths.
  • Improve, don’t blame.

5 Misunderstandings in Relationships to Avoid

Misunderstandings are the root of conflict in many relationships.

It can range from minor misunderstandings (“I thought you said left!”) to toxic misunderstandings (“Were you flirting with her?”).

They cause stress, frustration, turmoil, and probably the worst perpetrator, not feeling heard or understood.

Over time, if a person continues to feel unheard by their partner, distance takes over.

While every relationship encounters a misunderstanding from time to time, they plague some relationships.

Misunderstandings, simply defined, are when two people’s perceptions collide.

Your partner thinks of the situation in one way, and you see it in another.

As a couples therapist, my job is to help couples communicate and to teach effective strategies on how to navigate through these miscommunications.

Here are the five most common reasons couples, or those in relationships, misunderstand each other.

Misunderstanding Pitfall #1: Mind-Reading.

Mind-reading” is a cognitive-behavioral therapy tool that speaks to the idea that we sometimes mind-read other people, and we also expect others to mind-read us.

Misunderstandings root from the very idea that we expect others to simply “just know” what we are thinking or feeling without ever speaking to them about it.

Take, for example, you’re at work, and your co-worker is being distant.

This is not typical of her, so you think to yourself, “maybe it’s because of that meeting we had yesterday.

I was a little aggressive.”

In response, you get a little peeved that your co-worker is being so sensitive.

You create distance.

You don’t mention the issue, but suddenly, both of you are distant from each other.

Now imagine, just for a second, that you don’t really know why they’re upset.

You have a hypothesis.

Simply that.

You might be right, you might be wrong, or you might be somewhere in the middle.

Maybe she had a bad day.

Maybe her cat died.

She might have gotten terrible sleep.

Perhaps you were aggressive in the meeting.

The point is this: often, we mind-read situations and then base major relationship decisions on them.

To make matters worse, we could be completely wrong!

To end mind-reading, we simply ask our co-worker, our spouse, or partner: “I want to check in with you about something…” and through not assuming and being open to the myriad of responses we might receive, we’ve opened up a major channel of communication—and avoided a misunderstanding.

Misunderstanding Pitfall #2: War of Perceptions and Memory.

Another pitfall that many relationships fall into is the battle of perceptions.

Some people believe that their perception is the absolute truth.

There is a core belief that the perception is a fact and NOT arguable.

While this may feel right at the moment, it can cause a misunderstanding.

To complicate matters, people will often go into their memory banks and say, “but this happened, and then this.

The other will say, “no, this happened.”

And off to the races.

You must know this.

Memory is faulty; it is not as reliable as we’d like to think.

Research shows it repeatedly, yet so many of us are defensive about it and don’t allow for any wiggle room.

Also, rigidity in your perception can cause misunderstandings to worsen.

Perceptions are subjective, not objective.

The core relationship skill is to open yourself to this complexity, which ultimately allows you to hear your partner’s experience without battling it out over details that may or may not be true.

Misunderstanding Pitfall #3: Being Right.

Another common misunderstanding pitfall that will ruin any relationship is an obsession with being “right.

If you are in a conflict, and your goal is to prove the other wrong, you are setting yourself up for an even bigger fight.

The reason that letting go of “being right” is so important is that people want to be heard.

People want to be understood.

It rarely has to do with whether you’re right.

The more important skill to harness is uncovering the missing information that your partner holds and not getting trapped in the “you’re wrong and I’m right” vortex.

When misunderstandings occur, we want to ask our partner, “What happened?

Why was it important to you?

What can I do differently?

What upset you the most?

Let go of being right; it is a battleground that results in very little, and if done enough times, can cost you your relationship.

Misunderstanding Pitfall #4: Preoccupation with Self.

So many relationships fall into the victim trap.

People will say things like, “How could they. .OR, “if they would just listen to me!

While the victim’s stance makes you feel justified, it is often a roadblock to resolving a misunderstanding.

When individuals become preoccupied with themselves, they miss the opportunity to understand the other partner’s perspective.

How will you know when you’re in this place?

The best tool is to check in with yourself during the conflict.

Ask: “how interested am I in learning about what happened to my partner?

If you find you are only concerned with having your story heard, then you are in a state of being preoccupied with yourself.

Stop, take a deep breath, and as compassionately as you can, listen.

When your partner is done speaking, then talk to them about your experience.

Misunderstanding Pitfall #5: Assumptions.

There are so many misunderstandings that are based on assumptions.

Terry Real, a famous couples’ therapist, taught me this skill to teach my clients.

When you’re in a place of making an assumption about what your partner is thinking or feeling, say this phrase: “What I make up is….” OR “What I’m making up is…

This simple statement allows you to get out of “assumption land,” and into your perceptions about the event.

You don’t know how someone is feeling.

You don’t know what someone is thinking.

And you also don’t know if you have all the facts.

Why this tool is so helpful to couples is that it tells your partner how you internalize your relationship.

It allows your partner to correct your narrative.

Perceptions are what we want to work with when we’re in a place of misunderstandings, not, assumptions.

Because that’s really all a misunderstanding is: a perception difference.

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Where does misunderstanding in a relationship come from: reasons .



The most popular reason for parting, as we know from celebrity news, is "irreconcilable differences." Offhand, what is illogical here? Of course, mismatches are to blame for everything: she is a careless art nature, he is a real control freak; he brings his mother out weekly, and she deliberately pushes relatives out of her life; she loves walking in the hills, he hates nature; he's outgoing, and she hates parties. Not surprisingly, although they were flammably in love, they ended up having to break up. nine0003

This explanation is based on a non-obvious, but very common theory: the reason for the appearance of a couple lies in the similarity of characters, and if people get divorced, then they are clearly prevented by the difference. The international credulity of this theory is confirmed by the algorithms of dating sites: by throwing you a photo for a swipe left or right, the application determines the most suitable candidates based on information from your account. The selection engine analyzes the database to match you with the "right" person who shares most of your tastes, interests, and views. According to the optimization course, the smaller the difference, the more likely the relationship will develop. nine0003

In fact, such a weighty aspect as the coincidence of interests does not guarantee a happy life together. Initially relying only on compatibility, you will inevitably step on the tail of your perfect “match”, discovering one day that, although you are phenomenally similar in love for ballet and salted butter, you are killed by his passion for Monetochka songs and throwing dirty socks. You suddenly realize that it is difficult to understand, forgive, and even more so to live with it. It doesn't matter what the last straw is, but as your matches/mismatches inevitably escalate, you'll find that disagreements annoy you much more. And at this stage, there is nothing more important than the desire to deal with the discrepancy that has arisen - without casualties and destruction. nine0003

“People in love can disagree with each other for a thousand different reasons—from the optimal frequency of sex to the pattern of the bathroom curtains—and still stay together, while the other couple agrees on just about everything but is unwilling to compromise on minimal mismatches,” writes New York-based sexologist Sarah Shapiro. In an article for The Cut, the doctor confirms a fundamental truth that we usually ignore to our own detriment: it's not about differences. Couples break up because one of the partners is tired of not being heard. nine0003

What matters for happiness in your personal life is not whether you have differences, but how you deal with them. As Teal Swan, a mentor, lecturer, and savvy, explains the many facets of being human on tealswan.com and on her own YouTube channel, “Stop trying to love and start trying to understand.”

"I'm getting used to the mismatch," the heroine of the Soviet series sang, and, as is known from the plot, there is not an ounce of use in this hint. “The notorious inconsistencies should not be tolerated, they should be discussed,” Sarah Shapiro explains. - A sincerely loving partner may not share your point of view, but seeks to understand why you think so and not otherwise, because he respects your right to a different opinion and is ready to listen to it - with patience and benevolence. He will not avoid uncomfortable topics, get offended or annoyed, stating that you deliberately piss him off, and you are always unhappy, and he already had a hard day. nine0003

In general, it's time to publicly announce the rehabilitation of incompatibility. A loving person that everyone desperately needs is not an aesthetically literate idol on a white horse who shares all your tastes and interests, but an open and kind person who is ready to listen and understand without aggression, sarcasm, denial and going on the defensive. This principle works both ways and is not guaranteed to be easy to adopt. You may have to change something in your habits for the sake of each other, but this is the essence of the relationship, isn't it? nine0003

Smirnova Natasha


  • relationships
  • Love and sex
  • Psychology

Misunderstanding of psychological differences destroys love | Relationship Psychology


Relationship psychology

→ Misunderstanding psychological differences destroys love

Views: 6083

February 23, 2019

Let's continue the theme of the difference between men and women. I want to say that in this topic I will consider examples without deep psychological trauma from childhood, that is, exclusively natural differences in the worldview of two different sexes. nine0045

It will be useful to know the differences between male and female psychology not only for spouses, but also for women who are free at the moment.

Why is it so important to know the differences between men and women

Some women who have experienced great disappointment and resentment towards all men usually say: “Why should I know about any differences? If he does not understand me, does not hear my desires and requests, why should I hear him? Will anyone think of me?" nine0003

And I can answer this question very simply: if you understand how to talk to your loved one, then he will eventually learn to understand you. This means that your relationship will become better, the level of mutual understanding, respect and trust in each other will increase. As a result - a relationship filled with healthy love, harmony, mutual desire to avoid conflicts and find compromises.

Understanding the differences between the female and male worldview, psychology, will radically change your outlook on relationships. nine0067

You will see where your mutual misunderstanding caused a senseless scandal, becoming another brick in the wall of resentment and distrust between you. If your chosen one is really dear to you, those feelings that were between you at the beginning of the relationship, you can take a step towards happiness.

Knowledge of psychological differences will help to reopen each other's hearts, revive the desire to give love and strengthen confidence in reciprocity on the part of the chosen one. nine0067

And remember: there are very, very many cases of breakups due to misunderstanding of each other! Women measure men by themselves and expect ardor, emotionality from them, and men expect simplicity and certainty from their chosen ones. Therefore, the former so often accuse partners of coldness and indifference, while the latter consider the fair sex to be too demanding, unpredictable and incomprehensible.

How to start a new level of communication

As I already wrote, the first step is the fact that you recognize that differences between men and women are much more global than just physical structure. We build a system of values ​​in different ways, the concepts of “love”, “care”, “understand” imply completely different actions on the part of each of us.

I want to warn you - the process of moving to a new level of relationship will not take a day, not a week or a month. But every day your relationship will get better, and you will feel it. nine0067

Both partners should be involved in the relationship. Therefore, when you understand how you differ from your loved one, it is necessary to correctly explain to him how you differ from him. And continue to be more sincere and definite in explaining your feelings, desires, thoughts.

Disappointment is the result of not understanding that we are different

What makes us different? Yes, absolutely everything: needs, a model of behavior in various situations, thinking, inclinations ... As soon as we forget that we are completely different, disappointment immediately comes. We reproach each other, offend, get angry - we are disappointed ... And thus we kill the love between us. nine0003

Men and women make the same mistake - we compare others with ourselves. And we believe that if he / she loves us, he will behave the way we ourselves behave in relation to a loved one.

But we love differently! Not stronger or weaker, just different! In the future, I will consider in more detail each of our differences, subsequent mistakes and the correct solution to any situation. You will be surprised, but the solutions are sometimes so simple and obvious that the thought comes: “Why didn’t I do this before? After all, in the depths of my soul, I felt that this is exactly what needs to be done . .. ”0003

The main mistake of any relationship

The main mistake of any relationship is the principles that guide partners, looking for a way out of the situation.

Men, guided by logic, offer a solution in any situation, without taking into account feelings. Women, as a rule, guided by fleeting sensations, give advice, even when no one asks for it.

Consider the following situation:

- Honey, I was in such a hurry to get to work today that I tore my favorite blouse! Now I don’t even know what can be done with it - it’s silk, it will probably be difficult to repair ...

- Let's go tomorrow and buy you a new one.

- But I don't want a new one, this is my lucky favorite blouse! I was in it when we met, and I perfectly defended the project in it! She brings me luck!

- Then just sew it up, what's the problem?

- I'm telling you, it's unlikely to be perfect! It's not cotton! nine0003

What do we see? The girl laments that her favorite thing, associated with many happy memories, has fallen into disrepair. She rather expects sympathy, consolation, and the man simply offers a seemingly logical solution - to buy a new thing, exactly the same, but whole. He does not take into account that we, women, endow things with a certain range of emotions and feelings, and the new thing will no longer have the same value in our eyes, because it is “not the same”.

As a rule, such a simple conversation ends in a quarrel - the girl did not receive the necessary understanding and sympathy, and the guy is offended that his beloved not only did not appreciate his decisive actions, attempts to help her, but also accused him of indifference. nine0003

He really wanted to help! From the whole speech, he caught the main essence for himself: the chosen one lost her favorite thing, that is, she had a problem, and she turned to him for help in solving it. However, she rejected his decision.

A man does not associate the concept of a favorite thing with emotions, feelings, memories. In his understanding, a thing should have more tangible characteristics - be comfortable, outwardly attractive. So the old blouse can be replaced with a new one.

In such a situation, it is important to say that for you this thing is dear to your memories, and even a new one will not replace it in terms of sensations. Explain to your loved one that you are upset at the moment, but do not require specific decisions from him in this situation, you just want to share your little sadness.

Of course, not every woman will grieve just because of a blouse. But think about it: how often, after coming home from work or after meeting with friends, do you start sharing your impressions with your loved one, and he hears a call to action from you? How often does he respond to your emotions in monosyllables, as if solving a problem? All because he does not understand - at the moment you just want to share your worries. nine0003

Some men are especially direct in their perception of women's words. If your chosen one is just like that, try to say before the next desire to share your impressions of the past day that you want to share your impressions with him, ask him to just listen. If he can “turn off” the “solver” function, he will perceive your story not as a request for help, but as news that does not require a solution.

Gradually you will learn to share thoughts and news without trying to offer solutions and without giving each other a lot of unnecessary advice on how to do something better and more correctly. nine0003

A common problem for women is the belief that she knows “how best” and “how right”.

Such confidence often leads to the fact that a man loses confidence in his ability to solve problems, in his masculinity. After all, we usually meet their decisions very categorically, offering a lot of alternative options that seem to us much better.

Sign up for my course “Man and Woman. Force of gravity". Also on my website you will find the book “15 recipes for a happy relationship without cheating and betrayal”, which helped many of my readers to become happy and loved. nine0003

Who has not yet read my previous publications on the psychology of men and women, pay attention to the following articles: