Relationship Advice Tips from Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

dark20pink20day20lilly - Why you don't feel understood when people say they understand- part 2

It looks like loved ones are open and understanding but it doesn’t feel good!

Photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Your partner says “I understand!’  Your friends and family members say they ‘understand!’

But they don’t!

You can see that they get it because they seem to accept your feelings. Your feelings are justified in their eyes, yet you don’t feel fully understood.  Acceptance isn’t enough. You want more than that to feel truly understood. That missing ingredient is proof that your loved ones accept you and your feelings no matter what the situation.  Proof comes in one special way. It is demonstrated through tolerance.


Randall ‘got’ and accepted his wife’s tiredness, but he didn’t like it and tried to change it.

Randall’s wife said she was tired and didn’t want to go to work. That was a regular occurrence most weekday mornings. Randall got that Daisy was exhausted taking care of two young children, and had a demanding job. He felt the same way too. He accepted that it was a legitimate feeling and tried to help Daisy. He would offer to make the kid’s lunches, do the school rides and take care of the cooking from time to time. He felt it was a way of showing that he understood and was taking steps to ease Daisy’s load. He expected that it would make her less tired, more grateful, and less complaining.

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The problem gets bigger with more and more misunderstanding blooming!

Photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

“I can’t take this. I can’t bear it. It’s driving me crazy!” is what Randall yelled in frustration no matter how well he understood Daisy’s plight.

But Daisy continued to talk about feeling worn out, overwhelmed and resentful of having to work at home and outside in a full time job. Randall’s plan failed. His efforts to make Daisy feel better and happier didn’t pan out.

Randall may have accepted Daisy’s right to feel tired and resentful.

Randall may have believed her feelings to be justified.

Randall may even have recalled times when he felt the same for similar reasons.

But he couldn’t tolerate hearing those feelings, and wanted to change them.

No matter what he did to ease Daisy’s burden she still said she was fed up, overworked and unhappy. Randall stopped short of fully understanding her experience by lacking tolerance. He understood intellectually that too much work makes you tired. So he reasoned, ‘if I take away the load, she will have more energy and be happier.’ Unfortunately Daisy didn’t react in that logical way. She wasn’t wanting a lighter load or for Randall to do her jobs.

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The air gets blue with anger, and frustration on both sides!

photograph copyright Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Daisy wanted to be fully understood by being shown tolerance for her feelings.

Not by Randall taking the jobs away so she has nothing to complain about

Not by Randall taking up arms on her behalf by doing half the work

Not by Randall placating her with words of understanding and then expecting her to perk up when he does some of the chores.

Daisy wanted tolerance from Randall that she could express her bad feelings when they came up – freely, and without fear that he would want to change them.

What does tolerance look like?

Tolerance means that Randall would just be with her in the worst moments of fatigue and resistance to do yet another job.

Tolerance means that Randall wouldn’t hear her feelings as a stick behind him pushing him to do things that Daisy normally does.

Tolerance means that Randall would recognize Daisy’s mood, acknowledge it, and let it be. He would let it runs its course without changing her or himself.

Tolerance means Randall would not see Daisy’s expression of her feelings as some message about him that he had to act on.

Tolerance means Randall would be okay with Daisy having feelings that didn’t have something to do with him and that it was fine for them both to have separate experiences at the same time and yet feel connected.

When Daisy feels understood through the big 3 – intellectual understanding, acceptance and tolerance she is fully “seen.” In that moment she is tuned into in a way that is as near perfect as can be. She is allowed to be who she is and that in itself will alleviate much of her fatigue and resentment. She will feel loved for who she is, not what Randall thinks she ought to be, and attempts to make her into. That’s what being understood is really all about.

Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Read more on emotional intimacy

Read more on empathy

Read more on staying connected

Listen to my blog radio series on fear of intimacy and how to overcome it.

Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educative purposes only. There is no liability on the part of Dr. Raymond for any reactions you may have while reading the article or subsequently. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Raymond.