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How to Deal With Misunderstanding in Courtship

by Maura Banar

Misunderstandings are a part of life, especially when two people come from different frames of reference and have different experiences. Despite the commonality, misunderstandings can be embarrassing and awkward. In the midst of courtship, you both want to put forth the best impression but something said in error or in a way that is not easily understood can affect your relationship. While prevention is the ideal approach to misunderstandings in courtship, there are ways to clarify misunderstandings when they do occur.

Approach your love interest and ask about the misunderstanding. Instead of simply taking his explanation at face value, the University of Maine explains in its online publication, "Effective Communication," that it's important to ask open-ended questions such as "Can you describe how you feel about what I said to you last night?" In contrast to yes-and-no questions, open-ended questions provide the opportunity to explain perspective. Remain nonjudgmental when asking about the misunderstanding, because indications of judgment can cause him to become defensive.

Explain the misunderstanding from your perspective. According to the University of Northern Iowa in its online publication, "Communicating Strategically," the best way to reveal misunderstandings based on differences in perspective is to share your unique perspective. This approach reduces the risk of an unaddressed misunderstanding escalating into a conflict. These unstated misunderstandings and subsequent conflicts tear away at the fabric of the relationship you are creating. When explaining your perspective, use "I" statements and focus on what you see, feel or perceive. Avoid placing assumptions, blame or judgment on your partner.

Resolve the misunderstanding to both of your satisfactions. Psychotherapist Jonathan Sibley explains in his blog, "How to Improve Communication -- Dealing with Miscommunications," that it's important to not blame or judge your partner. Instead, he explains, negotiating a resolution creates a win-win situation that supports the relationship. The resolution depends on the nature of the misunderstanding. For example, you thought you should have been invited to his sister's birthday party and he didn't invite you because he thought you'd feel uncomfortable. Resolution in this example would involve your assuring him that although you might feel a bit uncomfortable, you'd prefer to have been invited to the celebration.

Monitor your partner's behavior following the negotiation of the resolution. Ideally, the misunderstanding won't become an issue again but it is possible that your partner may develop resentment or animosity toward you and in turn, continue the behavior. In this case, it's necessary to explain your concerns about the apparent lack of change. Remain nonjudgmental and provide your partner with respect and undivided attention. The dynamics of your courtship may have been altered by the misunderstanding and it's important to address whether the relationship remains healthy and intact. Challenges serve to test the strength of your relationship and your ability and willingness to negotiate and enact change will mean the difference between making it or breaking it.

About the Author

Maura Banar has been a professional writer since 2001 and is a psychotherapist. Her work has appeared in "Imagination, Cognition and Personality" and "Dreaming: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams." Banar received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Buffalo State College and her Master of Arts in mental health counseling from Medaille College.

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