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Lisa Mcleod - Take the time to listen to your partner

But what about me?

Have you ever noticed that, whenever you complain to a friend or family member about your problems, they'll often try to top you by explaining how theirs are even worse?

I recently wrote about why some women get frustrated with their husbands and choose to leave their marriages and, I have to say, I have never received such an outpouring of reader mail.

Men and women from around the country wrote to share their anger, disappointment and disillusionment with their spouses.

Many of the men were seething with rage because I had only written from the female perspective. Others expressed regret over what they now recognized as the pattern that led to their own divorces. And some asked for the name of the counseling program I mentioned - www.gettingtheloveyouwant.com.

As for the women, most of their letters were either smugly saying "that's exactly why I left," or somewhat wearily stating, "I'm leaving this on the back of the toilet hoping he'll get the message."

But behind the bitterness and anger from both sides, I could see men and women who felt unheard, unappreciated and misunderstood. Their sadness was almost palpable through their e-mails and I wondered if they had ever poured out their heart to their spouse the way they were to me.

My guess is, probably not. Because when you try to share your sadness or frustration with your partner, they're often so mired in their own perspective, that they can't even hear yours.

I've seen it happen time and time again, not just in marriages, but in businesses and families - and even chess clubs and vacation bible schools.

Someone stands up to share his or her reality and the other person assumes that theirs is being completely negating and ignored.

But that either/or thinking is actually a false dichotomy that we nutty humans create in our own minds whenever we feel hurt or misunderstood.

More often than not, their perspective is just that - theirs - and it does not negate ours. Said another way, just because I say I'm exhausted, it doesn't mean that you're not.

We cast ourselves as the victim and everything the other person says or does is seen through a filter that validates our own point of view.

But ruminating about how you have it worse than your spouse isn't particularly helpful. However, if you can find a way to put aside your own insecurities and truly listen for five minutes it's always amazing what comes out of it. It doesn't mean you'll never get to share your perspective, it just means taking the time to listen to someone else's.

So, in the long running contest to determine which spouse wins the "I have it tougher" award, whadya say we call it a draw?

Contact Lisa Earle McLeod at www.ForgetPerfect.com.