Thursday, December 20, 2012

Miscommunication en Masse

The gun control debate that is coming back out of hibernation as a result of last week’s tragedy is an interesting case in point from the perspective of a couples therapist. So much of the trouble I encounter in the therapy room is due to partners addressing the issue on their own mind instead of the issue on the other’s mind.  John is angry about Marsha’s spending habits; Marsha feels unloved; and neither one is speaking to the problem that the other sees.

So too in the argument over gun control.  The loudest piece of the debate goes like this: proponents cry for safety and protection for our youth.  Opponents point to the second amendment.  Proponents insist something needs to be done before more children are killed.  Opponents point to the second amendment.  It is but two ships passing in the night.  People who are desperate to save children’s lives don’t much care for the supposed freedom to carry big, scary assault weapons.  People who cling to the right to bear arms don’t seem to have much to say about children’s safety.  And so the debate hobbles on, neither side addressing the concerns of the other.

Of course, there are those who oppose gun control because they believe some of the laws being pushed will actually lead to more violence.  There are those who support some gun laws without suggesting that trying to outlaw guns in general is a good idea.  But those voices, unfortunately, are the quiet ones.  Instead of meaningful dialogue between sincere people who want to make the world a better place, we have large-scale shouting matches between extremists on both sides.

If John could speak to Marsha’s fears and Marsha could address John’s financial concerns, they would likely see a lot of progress.  That’s often an important part of the work I do with couples.  Now if only I could get the pro- and anti-gun control groups in a room together…



  1. There are some good points here but I disagree on the following:
    Well there is no one who is going to say "I would kill as many children as I need to have a gun" and there is no one going to say "I don't care how many rights they take away to protect children".
    I feel that a lot of times in therapy the person doesn't understand the concern, here the concern is very obvious and both parties agree.
    When a woman says "I want to feel more loved" a guy has no idea what that means.
    When someone says "I want to protect children" I would venture a guess that most gun enthusiasts know what that means.

    1. I don't think it's as clear-cut as you claim. When someone says "we need more gun control," what does that mean? If someone says they support the second amendment - to what extent?

      Here, as in the therapy room, not only do people define things differently - they have different opinions on what needs definition!