October 17, 2007

Fresh Starts.

You know how people always tell you that communication is the most important thing in a marriage? I've heard it so many times. But I've always shrugged it off and thought, "Chris and I communicate just fine. We talk. No worries."

A couple of days ago I realized that I had been, in short, fooling myself. I am horrible at communicating, and I suddenly found myself in a place that I really really didn't want to be. It was one of those moments where your eyes are suddenly opened to see the other person's perspective, you take the time to put yourself in someone else's shoes, and you can see that they've been getting the short end of the stick. For far too long. And it's no one's fault but yours.

It felt awful.

Chris is an amazing communicator. He always has been. In disagreements, he is level-headed and fair. He does not clam up or disappear (like yours truly.) He does not act like it never happened and shove it under the rug until it sticks (like yours truly.)

I am difficult to communicate with verbally. It makes me uncomfortable and I feel attacked when asked questions out of the blue like "How is your heart?" or "How have you been feeling about God lately?" It's literally like the words stick in my throat and I want to run away and lock myself in a room somewhere. Chris, on the other hand, is very much a verbal processor. It helps him think clearly when he's able to talk about things. Outloud.

Here's the catch: The only way I've found for me to really get myself across well is through writing. I can write my heart out onto paper without batting an eyelash. That's why this medium has been intensely healing and freeing for me. So, we've got a VERBAL processor and a NON-VERBAL processor living under the same roof. Eeegad.

The other night, I was feeling like I didn't really know Chris very well anymore, and I started to think it was all because he wasn't talking to me very much. Hmmm. I wonder why.

He then gently told me that he feels like I don't enjoy listening to him when he tries to talk to me about serious things. He feels like I clam up. (I do.) He feels like I don't ask him questions about his day or his life or his heart. (I don't.) It's like I'm afraid of engaging with him in that way because I am not able to express myself as well as he does- and then I feel puny. Misunderstood. Frustrated. Attacked.

I realized the other day how selfish I have been. My husband needs engaging questions and a listening ear in order to communicate. In order to feel heard and appreciated. And I have been completely withholding that from him just because it's uncomfortable for me. And our communication has suffered greatly because of it. And for him, I can imagine it is somewhat disheartening to learn new things about his own wife's heart by reading it on this site along with all of you guys. I'm sure he'd like to hear it from my own mouth first. Intimacy is lost when he is learning about me from a computer screen.

So, I need to learn how to communicate better with him. And when I first realized this, I felt really freaked out. I felt like I had to force myself to open up in a way that has frustrated me so thoroughly in the past. But then Chris reminded me that there are LOTS of ways to communicate. And there are ways to be creative about it too, so that I don't have to feel trapped by it.

This is one of the beautiful things about marriage. We have a whole lifetime together to adjust and change and figure these things out. It's hard work, but it's the only way to survive. It's about flexibility and realizing when you need to scrap the old way and start all over again. It's about knowing that, in fifty years, you might need to go allll the way back and start from square one again. And again. And again. There is no plateau, no cruise control, no retirement track where marriage is concerned. And that is completely freeing for someone like me.

Because I need all of the fresh starts I can get.

15 comments:

Andrea June said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrea June said...

It's awesome that you can recognize your communication differences and try to fix the gap.
Have you ever thought of making a private blog for just Chris to read? Although it definitely can't substitute for good conversations, it might still be helpful. :)
And if you feel like you don't have enough questions to ask when you guys talk, check out this website. It might give you some ideas:
http://www.changingminds.org/techniques/questioning/probing_questions.htm
Ok, communication studies person rant over.
Great blog!

Amy said...

Same same. I clam up, I get freaked when he asks questions and I feel attacked. He would learn about me (good grief, when I think about some of my blog entries!!) from reading my daily thoughts and struggles. Thanks for this. I'm going to work on it too. (How old are you? Like, 800 years worth of insightful and profound?)

Jeninacide said...

Very well put! Bravo!

Court said...

Another beautiful, honest blog! Love it!

dawn224 said...

Now you know...

I saw this today ... maybe it would work for you for the little things ... I think it will help me.

http://shalees.blogspot.com/2007/10/wfmw-reading-writing-on-wall.html

Rimarama said...

I often fool myself into thinking that just because my husband and I don't often have arguments, we are good communicators. But in reality, we have a lot of work to do. My stupid problem is that I often feel that explaining things the way I really feel them just takes too much effort. I'm a lazy communicator.

Thanks for the thought-provoking post. I hope you find a way to work out your communication issues. I like one of the previous poster's idea about writing it down for him.

sufferingsummer said...

This resonates. My husband and I have had this conversation over and over except I'm an over communicator..verbal and written and he is a non-verbal processor. He will gladly talk when he has had the time to think through his thoughts but otherwise he clams up...it is something we both have to be aware of so that I don't attack him with wanting talk NOW and he understands and has patience for my need to talk and talk and talk before resolving anything.
I like and agree wholeheartedly with your take on marriage having no plateau. Another friend of mine is in process of divorce because she and her husband after 6 years and 2 kids just aren't 'happy' anymore. Just seems like if you look at it like one big happy party (even if that means not communicating so as to stay passively happy) you never get at what really matters in marriage, growth, change and refinement as human beings. Learning what love truly is and getting the closest glance of unconditional that you will ever have the chance to have on this earth.
Sorry for long tangent of a response, guess this stuff is on my heart lately.

Misguided Mommy said...

is it odd that i wanted to comment on the aftermath post that chris looked out of sorts..but then didn't' because it didn't seem like my place?

Emma Sometimes said...

Communication is a learning curve, for sure. Mr. Coffee and I are both very verbal, but I have to say blogging has allowed me to become more verbal.

The wife of a couple that was married 60 years was once asked if she ever felt she fell 'out of love' with her husband. She replied so beautifully, "I never once thought I didn't loved him......" she smiled a quick grin, "...murder however?..."

bravenec said...

You are definitely not alone. My husband is very verbal and I like to clam up like you. But, like you said, we have a lifetime to work on that with our spouses; i think that makes marriage so much more enjoyable too!

Flo Oakes said...

that photo of you is precious.
We are like you guys, but reversed.
Sometimes Josh just wants me to be quiet for 5 seconds and I'm like, "What do you think, what do you think, what do you think!!!???"
We understand:)

Tara Jones said...

i love your honesty! it's so refreshing! and it's nice for me to see things from your perspective (a non-chatty type). thanks for helping open my eyes-eegad:)

Secret Agent Mama said...

My husband and I hit a patch of miscommunication a while back. It was rough, but we got through. You and Chris have something special. It's evident. This blog goes to show just how evident.

MaryBeth said...

I appreciated your post, it was an encouragement to me. I have been married for a whopping 5 months (OK so 5 months on Saturday!) and I thought prior to marriage that i was pretty good at communication. Well its been quite a 5 month course in how mistaken I was. Luckily I married a very, very patient man, who is quite good at communicating and forgives my communication blunders. Thanks again for the encouragement!