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  • Writer's pictureGabriel Roy-Wright

Feeling Unheard By Your Partner? It May Be Due To A Meta-Emotion Mismatch

Updated: Mar 27



META-EMOTION MISMATCH


One of my most frequently used interventions in Gottman Method Couples Counselling is exploring meta-emotion mismatches. So what is meta emotion? It's how you feel about feelings. Specifically, negative emotions like sadness, fear, loneliness, and anxiety.


People generally fall into one of two groups:


  • Emotion Solvers

  • Emotion Voicers


I’ll explore these more in depth but can you guess which styles applies to you and which applies to your partner?



Emotion Solvers


Emotion solvers tend to avoid negative emotions if they can. They still experience the same number of emotions as voicers but they deal with them differently.


When solvers experience struggles that lead to negative emotion they do not want or need to talk about them. Instead, they look for solutions to get out of that feeling or remedy the situation so they don’t need to feel that emotion any longer. In other words they want to move on. They are good at looking on the bright side, counting their blessings, finding exceptions, or “fixing” things. They often, but not always, feel like talking about their emotions is a waste of time for themselves and those around them.


Solvers feel that it's valuable to be happy and that others should try and be happy as well. They see expressing loneliness, sadness, or fear as “dwelling on the negative” and as we covered above…they don’t often see the value in processing emotion through expression.


Solvers can be excellent at compartmentalizing emotions. Thats why it can seem like they move on quickly from emotional upheavals such as a fight between partners. Solvers can argue with their partner and then seem fine 30 minutes later. For voicers this can be extremely difficult to understand.



Emotion Voicers


Emotion voicers tend to be accepting of negative emotions like sadness, fear, rejection, and disappointment. They process emotions by expressing and sharing them. In romantic relationships they particularly want to share their emotional experience with their partner. They feel connection when they are able to share their feelings and have their partners reciprocate with understanding and empathy.


 Voicers, unlike solvers, are not looking for solutions when they express their emotions. Not at the beginning anyway. Later, once they feel understood and validated they can move towards finding solutions either on their own or with their partner. But in the beginning they are seeking reassurance that they aren’t alone. They want to know that their partner gets them and their experience.


 Voicers can have difficulty compartmentalizing emotions and often feel disconnected after an argument until it can be processed and they feel understood again.



How Meta Emotion Processing Impacts Relationships


As you may have guessed if a  voicer and solver end up together they may struggle to communicate through their different systems of processing emotion. Often solvers offer solutions too quickly and the voicer doesn’t feel validated or understood.  Voicers then seek to meet their needs by requesting that their partner “listen” to them. As they feel more disconnected  voicers will attempt to restore the connection by criticizing the solver about unrelated stressors in the relationship. They do not do this intentionally…they are seeking reconnection but are not aware of the event that led to feeling disconnected.


Solvers often then become exasperated because they do not understand what the voicer wants from them. So they wade in again trying to solve the problem as they would for themselves: with solutions. These get rebuffed by the voicer as they are looking to share rather than solve. They may offer a statement such as “you never listen to me!”


When solvers begin to feel critiqued by their voicer partner they feel attacked and picked on. They will often conclude that their partner is unreasonable and difficult.


If this deteriorating cycle keeps up for too long voicers will confide their emotions to others outside the relationship. Solvers start to feel like they can’t do anything right and they may end up blaming their partner's character. Needless to say neither of these outcomes is what either partner wants.



How To Address a Mismatch In Your Relationship?


If you identify with any of the above statements you may be feeling discouraged, disconnected, and unloved. But don’t give up hope. There are steps we can take in couples counselling to begin rebuilding connection. We start by identifying and understanding our partners processing style. From there I provide you with concrete steps to address the emotional communication divide and reduce the animosity and negativity you may be feeling.


If you’d like more information or help understanding your processing style feel free to book an appointment online at https://app.outsmartemr.com/online-booking/2923/gaberoywright

Or calling us at 250-362-5035


Looking for more information on what happens in couples counselling? Check out this post



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