“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.”
As I’d mentioned in a previous entry, Eric and I really love to acknowledge and celebrate the little things that have made our relationship & marriage so wonderful. There’s a lot more to our marriage than that, though, and over a few posts, I’m going to write about some of the practices we’ve incorporated into our marriage that help us to continue growing, together.
[Sidenote: I use “relationship” and “marriage” interchangeably since we’ve been married for less than six months, and we started this before being married.]
Open & Honest Communication
Our communication is EVERYTHING to me. I can’t stress the importance of open and honest communication enough. I really believe that all relationships (intimate and otherwise) are determined by the quality of their communication.
In the past, I used to sit on things that bothered me until the inevitable day when I’d explode at Eric. He used to do something similar to that, except he would never explode, so he was slowly starting to resent me while I was (somewhat) unaware.
I say “somewhat” because we both usually knew when the other person was unhappy with something. But we’d generally come from the super mature perspective of, “well, if they want to talk about it, they can bring it up.”
I was so busy sitting on my righteous high horse that I wasn’t creating a healthy environment for him to share his truth with me. And he was so scared I would leave him if he told me he wasn’t happy with something that I was doing that he rarely said anything about what was bothering him.
2.5 years into our relationship, a great friend of ours slapped us in the face with a reality check. She helped us to realize that if we didn’t change our communication, our relationship was bound to fail, or we were destined for an unhappy & resentful life ahead.
We did NOT want that. So we made changes. Big changes. Difficult changes.
Starting with THE TRUTH.
The truth is a totally subjective thing…one person’s truth is another person’s falsity. However, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t share it…our truth, that is. It took practice (and we are still practicing) to share our WHOLE truth with each other. Being raised in a society that teaches us we’re supposed to be responsible for other peoples’ feelings can pose a challenge to honest & truthful communication. But we’re learning.
In the process, I’ve learned that there’s a huge difference between speaking my truth and being mean — and that it’s possible to speak my truth without being mean. Of course, I’ve learned that one “the hard way” and have blundered through many a conversation where I was meanly speaking my truth.
Now, I’m learning how to be kind and still be truthful, honest, and authentic. And I’ve discovered that it feels very empowering. When I am accountable for myself and my feelings, and E is accountable for himself and his feelings, we’re able to have such wonderful & honest conversations and we aren’t worrying about the other person getting hurt.
Sure, sometimes it happens that one or both of us gets hurt, but we both recognize that we are only hurting because there’s a past wound in us that we haven’t yet healed, and that’s not the other person’s fault. I learned this analogy from, you guessed it, The Four Agreements, and it’s again the second agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally.
“You may even tell me, ‘Miguel, what you are saying is hurting me.’ But it is not what I am saying that is hurting you; it is that you have wounds that I touch by what I have said. You are hurting yourself. There is no way that I can take this personally. Not because I don’t believe in you or don’t trust you, but because I know that you see the world with different eyes, with your eyes. You create an entire picture or movie in your mind, and in that picture you are the director, you are the producer, you are the main actor or actress. Everyone else is a secondary actor or actress. It is your movie.” ~ The Four Agreements
Recognizing that it’s MY responsibility to heal my own wounds was both a surprising and also exciting discovery. My feelings were no longer at the mercy of other people. That’s some pretty big stuff right there!
We do our best to keep our communication clean, and to not sit on things for long periods of time. We spend intentional time (on our weekly date nights) connecting and talking about what’s going on with each of us. It keeps our relationship really current, because we never go more than date night to date night without talking about any issue that might’ve come up for one of us during the week.
For me, the hardest part is reminding myself to tell the WHOLE truth. I have a notorious history of only telling part of the truth, because I still love to be right (albeit less than I used to) and I believe that admitting when I’ve made a mistake is a sign of weakness. That also means that I have a hard time bringing myself to apologize. Eeks.
Of course, as I write, I fully recognize the ridiculosity of that belief & my prior refusal to apologize — I’m just letting you know what challenges I face when it comes to open & honest communication. I’m working on undoing beliefs & behaviors that I’ve had & done for a loooooong long time.
Not every conversation that we have is easy, that’s for damn sure. But I’m not in a relationship with him because I think it’ll always be easy — I’m in it because everything in my life is better with him, and the joy & happiness that I experience with him makes all of our challenges worth my while.
We often have talks that challenge each of us…usually, talks about our ways of being and how we’re currently limiting ourselves will be difficult for us. We think about things completely differently, and see the world from completely different perspectives.
Part of my biggest challenge is ACCEPTING this man for who he is, and truly loving him unconditionally. It just wouldn’t be fair for me to say “I’ll love you, as long as you agree with me and see the world the same way I do…” That’d be boring, anyways — I love that he adds new perspective to my life!
I think that sometimes people can forget how important a solid foundation of communication can be to supporting a healthy relationship. I know I’ve certainly forgotten about it in the past. But now that we focus on continuously improving our communication, I don’t know where we’d be without it!
Happy Communicating, People! I hope you go out and authentically share your truth with the world. 🙂 Go, go!