Communication key to closing relationship expectations gap

It was my first transatlantic flight. I was on my way to Germany.

I planned to enjoy the long flight by reading, writing and sleeping. Talking to people was not my top priority. I was on vacation.

Being a life coach, however, doesn’t just turn on and off. When someone talks to me, I usually fully engage. It’s a habit. I find it nearly impossible to half listen, especially when someone wants to talk, and a nine hour flight provides an excellent opportunity to be heard (or to listen).

It started in the boarding area when I noticed a young man with long hair.

Before I boarded the plane, I heard an announcement: “Passenger Fisher, please come to the check-in counter.” The airline representative handed me a new boarding pass, changing my seat. When I got to my seat I noticed the long-haired man to my right. He wasn’t chatty at first, which was fine with me.

After a movie and a nap, I drafted an article on my computer. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him looking at photos, dabbing his eyes, lowering his hat and sulking. He frequently glanced at my computer screen and then looked down.

As I finished the article, he opened a conversation. He was an American named Mark who lived in France with his wife and 3-year-old daughter.

He recently had returned to the States to visit family after his French wife told him she wanted a divorce, a complete shock. His return flights to France had been canceled repeatedly because of the volcano ash ... so there he sat, next to me.

He admitted reading the article I was writing and then talked about his pending divorce. His main concern was getting custody of his daughter and returning to the United States.

As we delved into what had happened and how he was feeling, it seemed that the problems in Mark’s marriage seemed to stem from a communication gap. Mark revealed that there was a chasm between what each of them expected and what they were experiencing — the perfect ingredients for a crisis.

After listening, I surmised that before their daughter was born, their “system” (aka relationship) was in balance.

When they added a new factor into their system — their daughter — the system became imbalanced. To complicate things further, they had less time to talk. Thus the crisis and pending divorce.

In the course of our conversation, Mark decided to talk to his wife and determined what he wanted to say. As he left the plane, he seemed relieved and motivated. He promised to follow-up with me on his action steps via e-mail.

Although I had anticipated a quiet flight, I think Mark and I were destined to sit next to each other (considering his canceled flights and my seating re-assignment).

Will things work it out for Mark? Maybe. Maybe not.

It depends on Mark and his wife’s willingness to grow individually and on their ability to effectively communicate, which will hopefully lead to cooperation and resolution.

One thing is sure. Learning to communicate more effectively is a skill that can improve one’s life no matter what the circumstances.

Coaching challenge: The next time you experience a crisis in a relationship, look at the gap between your expectations and what each of you is experiencing. When you can clearly identify this gap, talking about it can help you to move away from crisis, solve the problem and move forward.

Sheri Fisher is an intuitive life coach in Grand Junction. The situations and characters in her column are fictional to maintain client confidentiality. For more information and to access her blog, go to


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