By Chrissy Richman.
Happy New Year.
I have been running life changing holidays in Thailand for seven years and my grasp of Thai language has a lot to be desired. Actually, that’s putting it very politely. I’m terrible at Thai language. To give you an example, I’ve just had a long, funny, muddled but most enjoyable conversation with a Thai taxi driver, with whom I share very little language in common. I totally accept it’s my responsibility to learn his language, given that I live in his country but have found Thai very hard to learn. Many words which mean totally different things based on the tone and note of the word sound exactly the same to my rather dull ears. Basically, I managed to arrange to pick myself up, by myself, by taxi yesterday!
This started me thinking about the even more complex business of attempting to understand the subtleties of both language and tone, spoken by a person we love and share our life with, who might, or might not, share a common language and, or culture.
When counselling couples in culturally mixed relationships, all parties , (that’s including me and sometimes a translator) expect to explore and attempt to understand issues of language, values, love, commitment, culture, to name but a few. The fact that this is sometimes bloody hard, does not come as a surprise.
What might come as a surprise though is that when I’m working with couples who share the same culture/language it’s sometimes it’s a lot harder. There is often a totally misguided assumption that through a mutual linguistic understanding there will naturally follow a whole other area of emotional language which will sort of come naturally. This doesn’t always follow.
Obviously many couples learn how to read each other’s emotional cues and learn each others language over time and without counselling.
Couples who come here though, whether from a shared language and culture or not, often fall into a very common trap of believing that when they communicate something, the other person hears what they believe they have said rather than what they actually mean.
When our loved one speaks, we tend to hear them through several filters; our own past experiences, our personality type, our long held beliefs, our insecurities, and of course our own perceptions of our beloved’s experiences, personality, beliefs and insecurities. Now take that recipe and double it as the other member of the couple joins the conversation. Stir that lot around and add a cupful of each person’s family of origin issues, values and parental relationships, and you have two people, each speaking their own complex emotional language. No wonder it takes a bit of time, and effort and counselling to unravel and find some common ground. I think its a minor miracle that we all cope as well as we do.
I do hope you are not feeling discouraged.
Just as hard working, diligent students can learn languages with unfamiliar script, unrecognisable tonal differences as well as words, and learn to make sounds that don’t even sound like words to a beginner, couples, some of which have been together for may years can re-learn each others language and begin to recognize vulnerability, love and care in their partner’s words, which a little while ago may have been heard as nagging or demanding or even dislike. I know this is true because I’m lucky enough to work as a translator for many many couples while they learn or re-learn, each other languages.
Happy New Year to everyone.
If you are interested in our Couples Counselling Holidays please just send us a line.