The Breaking Bad Habits in Relationships Series — (Part 4)

In the movie, White Men Can’t Jump, there’s a scene where Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson are in the car talking about Jimi Hendrix, and Snipes tells Harrelson he can listen to Jimi, but he can’t hear Jimi.

When Snipes told Harrelson he couldn’t hear Jimi, he was referring to a depth of connection.

Anyone can listen, but not anyone can actually hear.

In relationships, couples listen to each other all of the time, but the problem is that they often do not hear each other.

When you listen to the words coming from your partner’s mouth, but you already have fixed notions about what they are thinking, feeling and believing, you aren’t really taking in what they are actually saying unless what they are saying coincides with what you believe.

Hearing is a skill that needs to be developed. It implies putting your own thoughts and assumptions aside and creating space for new information.

This is really hard to do, especially when the information has to do with you.

That is the variable that makes hearing so much more complicated and challenging.

When our antennae detect threatening information, signals are immediately sent to activate the defenses. When the defenses are up, they protect you from attacks, but they also prevent new information from coming in.

You know that this is happening when you are arguing and feeling the adrenaline rush and you’re going back and forth attacking each other and parrying blows.

This is not the time to hear each other. You have to wait until the dust settles to create the space to hear ​each other.

Here’s a short video clip of the scene from White Men Can’t Jump (if you are reading this on the Love After Kids website). ​


David B. Younger, Ph.D is the creator of Love After Kids, for couples that have grown apart since having children. He is a clinical psychologist and couples therapist with a web-based private practice, and lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, 12-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old toy poodle.

Originally published at on June 29, 2017.

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