When I think of communicating with MY spouse, I think back to several conversations we have had over the years and one particular discussion sticks out in my mind. Even though my military man is a communicator by profession, this does not mean he could always communicate with ME! At this point, I had been trying to talk to him for about five minutes.
Kelli: “Do you hear me? Seriously are you even listening?”
My cute fella: “What? I’m sorry what were you saying?”
Kelli: “What do I need to do here? Hook up an antenna? Strap a walkie-talkie onto my back? Get some encryption thingy and tell you I’m only talking to you on the sippy net? Should I get buttons and knobs and wire and a data package and call myself a RADIO???”
At this point, I was full on pantomiming the use of comm gear. I was so worked up I didn’t even realize I was mutilating communication jargon. I seem to remember my husband’s eyes widen in surprise and then amusement as my rant continued along with gestures and comm term mutilation. I believe his response was to correct my use of the term sippy net to whatever it was supposed to be.
Needless to say, every couple must figure out the language of their relationship and discover how to communicate so the other really listens to what is being said (or not being said).
January 2014 will mark our 25th wedding anniversary. I think we have been pretty successful in communicating with each other. If you think success means we are still married AND like each other, we qualify. If you think success means calm, non-heated discussions, then we have failed. In my world, I consider us a success because we still like each other AND still have heated discussions.
I’ve found over the years that we’ve learned to read each other and give more than we take when communicating. Our way may not be right for you. The point is communicating strengthens and grows a relationship—how you and your partner do that is just as individual as each of you are. However, here are a few ideas to try out as you work to discover what works for your relationship:
Take a timeout. It is never a good idea to talk about things when one or both of you are emotionally distraught. It’s OK to delay a decision or a discussion until cooler heads can prevail. Grief, anger and anxiety do not typically lead to rational or productive discussions.
Tact. I had a hard time with this one. I felt like the sooner I got something off my chest, the better. This didn’t always work for my husband—especially if he wasn’t ready to talk or was involved in something and I was demanding immediate attention. It wasn’t always about me expressing my concerns or nagging him. Sometimes it was me trying to apologize or work out an issue, but I learned that I needed to be more aware of his timetable and his needs too, not just my own desire to fix whatever it was right away. I’m a fixer; he’s a muller. He needed his mulling time.
Timing. I have also had a hard time with this one. After a long day, my husband would come home and I would wait panting at the front door. He would walk in and I pounced. I began recounting my day, in great detail, and also listing off everything I needed him to do, fix or take over. The poor man walked through the front door and was verbally attacked. I was just so glad to see someone that I didn’t have to say “Use your words” to 10 times in a 2 minute period. I recommend giving your spouse some transition time. Now my husband has a long drive home and during that drive he is able to switch gears from work to home. However, I still stand back 10 feet and give him 10 minutes before I pounce.
Issue time. We used to set aside a time each week when we would “meet” to discuss any “issues” that the other was having. For instance, his issue might be we are spending too much money on takeout food. My issue might be I hate cooking and need help grocery shopping. At the agreed upon time, we knew we needed to look at helping each other and our family in an objective, non-angry, and more importantly, non-hungry way. Wednesday night at 6 p.m. when I was asking what window they wanted dinner from was NOT the time for him to lecture me on money and nutrition. Respectively, 6 p.m. on Wednesday night when he just walked in and was starving was not the time for me to poke him in the eye about help in the kitchen.
We did this for a little while. It didn’t last long because we kept having children and our windows of time became smaller and smaller. However, because we practiced and set the tone for good communication, we were able to get better at these types of discussions without having to have a set time and place each week. (I still throw popcorn occasionally…)
We are imperfect. Recognize this and own it. Loving each other isn’t all roses and glitter and magical lusty nights. It also involves dirty boot socks, broken dishes and bowls of popcorn hurled across the room. Loving each other also includes broken hearts, disappointment and hurt feelings.
Communication, real communication, takes work, patience and consideration for each other. Once you figure it out, it intensifies the magic of the lusty nights, wraps around the broken heart and eases the hurt feelings. Ultimately, it is the tie that truly binds two hearts, propelling you together through the more difficult times life can offer up.
If you want the world according to Kelli, I would even dare say it’s where true love’s seeds are planted and fertilized with all our “discussions” and “issues” (the fertilizer), growing strong and carrying us into the years of retirement and beyond. Yep, I have my own Buzz Light Year…