Here are some thoughts that I have been thinking about communication.
I used to think that communication would be comparatively easy within marriage. In my mind, before two people decide to go out with one another, the time leading up to that decision can be filled with all manner of awkwardness, and dancing around. How do you subtly let someone know that you might be interested in them? And then once you are actually in the relationship, more awkwardness, as you diplomatically try to define boundaries, and work out whether you are both genuinely going in the same direction, and whether marriage would actually be a good idea. And then, to my mind, marriage would be a golden period, where you have actually managed to work through all these issues, and learned how to talk to one another, and you get to enjoy the relatively easy and straightforward communication. After all, you already know how you feel about one another, you have both already stood up to declare yourselves publicly. What else is there to feel awkward or vulnerable about?!
Because of this, I actually used to wish that I could just wake up married one day, with all the awkwardness dealt with and behind me.
However, from listening to what people say, it seems that that is far from the case. From what people say, it seems that for many people, real difficulties in communication only begin within the marriage itself. This might be why communication remains one of the big difficulties of marriage. I can only deduce that many people actually did sleepwalk or dream their way into marriage, so that instead of much of the awkwardness lying behind them, when they finally wake up within marriage, all those big difficult things are there, waiting to present themselves. What I mean is that for many people, the period before their marriage seems to be a merry dance of fun, laughter, flirtation, looking good and having good times and the main questions that people seem to worry about are “Are you available?” and “Are you attractive?” So even where these big issues might be there, they can effectively be brushed aside, especially if you’re both concentrating on getting down that aisle. However this is not the case within marriage, of course; when you are both going to the same house there is no longer anywhere to hide from one another.
At any rate, this is not what I really want to talk about today. What I want to talk about is what communication is, or is not.
I used to have a friend, a guy, and I thought that he and I shared fantastic communication. He was not really an eligible option for marriage to me, for one very obvious reason which I am not going to discuss. However, in my mind I always thought that he and I could talk about anything. I am a deep person, and I like to think deeply about different issues. This is part of the reason why I write blog posts which are sooooooooooo long. As part of that, I like to have people with whom I can discuss these deep issues. I love to get embroiled in discussions and even arguments for hours…. This guy was someone with whom I could have these discussions. At times we literally did argue for hours. In fact, the very first discussion we had was about a somewhat awkward subject. And yet we managed to discuss it with no embarrassment. Because of all these things, I thought that he and I had great communication. It is only recently that I realised that being able to talk about deep issues, being able to talk about “life, love, the universe and everything” does not actually mean that you have great communication.
Truly great communication is about trust, and vulnerability. It is about being able to talk about disappointment with one another. That is, about being able to tell your friend that you are disappointed in their behaviour, and then also being able to listen when they also express their own disappointment. These kinds of things are difficult enough when you are dealing with another girl, but when you are dealing with a guy…
It is also about being able to talk about expectations for your friendship. When it is a guy, I so often ask myself “Is it OK to tell a guy this?” Is it OK to tell a male friend that you miss him, or am I just overthinking things as usual?! (I did go ahead to tell him this anyway, whether or not it is ok!)
And then again, you have to define the boundaries of your friendship, and why the friendship can never expect to be anything more than a friendship… And then what if your friend has been giving you “certain vibes”, but never actually comes out to say anything? How do you handle that? If you know that you are not interested in him that way, do you just ignore those vibes? Is it still OK in that situation to tell him that you miss him, (or am I just overthinking things, as usual?!) – would that be unfairly leading him to get the wrong idea?
These are some of the difficulties that I have encountered with guys, and I am realising that this is what defines great communication, or otherwise. I am getting to realise that it is not about whether you can string together some intellectual arguments and argue your case coherently.
I am also starting to realise that some character traits make for great communication, and others not so much. Sometimes, when talking about communication, I used to think that being able to communicate showed that I had a lot in common with another person, that there was a lot of natural chemistry between us, so that we got on effortlessly. However, these are the character traits I am now starting to identify as being necessary for genuinely great communication: traits which let the person know that it is OK to be human, like being patient with one another’s failings; also genuinely listening, and if necessary making changes when the other party complains; and then also letting the other person know that you will still be their friend even if they don’t want to marry you! And then you can also endeavour to be the best person that you possibly can be. I don’t know how people can expect to encourage great communication from those around them if they are busy being mean or unkind. And then you also have to be willing to be vulnerable yourself, and to be totally honest, so that the other party knows that they can trust you. And then you also have to make it clear that you are not going to share their secrets with the world.
All of these things are relatively easy to type out. However, to attain this in actual friendships takes a lot of hard work. And then of course you are constantly trying to work out which of your friendships would be worthy of this level of commitment and vulnerability. My basic rule of thumb these days is that for girls as well as guys, I will take my time to evaluate who they are and what they stand for before I try to build a friendship with them. And then I will take the thing step by step, carefully, watchfully, so that I can be confident that the people with whom I desire excellent communication truly are people who would equally desire the same thing, and who will be ready to put in the same amount of effort towards this goal as I will put in.
1 Peter 1v22:
22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit[a] in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart…
I do not know the name of the artist, however I am sure that the painting will be in the Public Domain