Monday, November 9, 2009

Why Did He Act That Way?

Janet writes: When Tim and I were first married, I would sometimes feel this communication gap between us. I would sometimes feel that I would tell Tim about things and that later he would accuse me of not telling him or that he would often misunderstand what I was saying. I also experienced a few times where he would become angry at me over things that he said I was ignoring, when I didn’t remember him telling me about these things in the first place. While these instances were not frequent enough to break up our relationship, I did find them stressful and did wonder why we had these communication problems when we communicated just fine at other times.

After we had been married about 8 months, we attended a workshop on multiple sclerosis and marital relationships. I had attended workshops on multiple sclerosis as a healthcare professional, but never as a family member, so this was a very different and eye opening experience for me. It was at this workshop that I gained some new insight into the cognitive issues that can occur with multiple sclerosis, and I realized that the misunderstandings that Tim and I were having were most likely due to these cognitive issues. It dawned on me that he was forgetting things that I told him or forgetting to tell me things, and that he was not saying the words that he was thinking when he told me something. Even one wrong word would change the whole context of what he was trying to tell me.

I started to change the way I communicated with Tim based on this new information. Instead of just telling each other our schedules, we began writing them on a wall calendar. We began checking with each other before making any changes to this schedule and tried to cut back on last minute, spur of the moment activities. When Tim said something to me that didn’t quite make sense, I started to repeat it back to him to make sure that he had said what he wanted to say. Often, one of the words he had said was not correct and he was able to hear it and correct it. We found that these few simple changes cut our disagreements way back and made our daily lives run much more smoothly. We will write more about the changes we have made in future posts.

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