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How Couples Sometimes Fight Like Cats and Dogs

20130401-185811.jpgFighting like cats and dogs can be one sign that a couple may be heading toward divorce. Often, couples get caught in the trap of over-analyzing, misinterpreting and building resentments because of simple errors in communication. These errors lead to conflict, resentments and oftentimes contentious divorce. Men and women often think differently, whether the cause is the brain or behavior. It is no wonder that within our conflicting patterns of communication, the wires get crossed. When communication begins to break down, there is a simple solution: stop searching for hidden meaning.

Relationships are fraught with language, and frequent breakdowns in communication can cause major challenges. There are words we use to directly communicate, the non-verbal cues of facial expressions and body language and even the shorthand of shared experience that couples use when in private. Language, however, has its issues. In any mode of communication, there is a disparity between the intent of the message and perceived meaning of the message. This can cause problems, as we try to find meaning in words or actions that may essentially be meaningless. Within a relationship, this search for meaning can be dangerous. Misunderstanding and manufacturing intent for a perceived message lays the foundation for eventual divorce.

Think of a dog and a cat. Their language, in fact their brains, read meanings in completely different ways. When a dog wags its tail it is saying, “I’m happy; let’s play.” When a cat’s tail flicks its tail it is saying, “I’m hunting; I’m about to pounce.” You can see the language barrier clearly when observing pets interacting. When a dog approaches a cat, tail waving excitedly, the cat will shy away. The cat perceives the dog’s actions as a threat. The same problem occurs in reverse. A dog will approach a cat with a waving tail thinking that the cat wants to play — until it gets a swat in the face.

We’re the same way when interpreting the meaning of language, whether it’s words, expressions or tones. Like the dog and cat, we need to keep from over-analyzing meaning behind the actions and words of others. When your significant other comes home from work with an attitude, it probably isn’t you he’s angry with. Or when your partner forgets that dinner with the Jones’ is tonight, that doesn’t mean she wasn’t listening. They probably have other things on their mind and trust you to keep them on track.

Read more: Allison Pescosolido, HuffPost

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