Improve Relationships Through Communication
- Love: The Word, The Meaning
Love is more than just a word; love is...the single most important thing in life.
In most surveys conducted about the reasons for divorce, lack of communication is inevitably in the top five. Man and woman, gifted with the power of speech, are seemingly incapable of communicating at times. Why is that? Go to any public place and you can see people conversing non-stop about the weather, the price of gasoline, their health and a myriad of other subjects. Why, then, are we so tongue-tied when it comes to communicating with our mate? Perhaps it is not lack of communication that is the problem in so much as lack of meaningful communication.
With a divorce rate in the United States above 50% it appears that there needs to be a National Communication Advocacy Group to aid our citizens in the lost art of communicating properly. Just what we need, right, the government stepping into the fray! If ever there was a dysfunctional group it would be the U.S. Congress so perhaps we should leave them out of this discussion. Still we are left with the question of why? Courtships are undertaken, promises made, vows pronounced and yet somewhere down the road of marriage couples find it difficult if not impossible to communicate.
No, it is not just in marriage that we see this problem. Friends argue, siblings break off family ties, nations threaten and cajole, wars are fought and feelings on an individual level are irrevocably hurt, all because the most loquacious species on earth cannot properly communicate. So again, what seems to be the reason?
LOOKING BACK IN TIME
I speak, of course, from vast experience on this subject. I was raised, although not intentionally, to keep feelings tucked deep inside. When we are young we learn from watching our parents and we naturally copy that which we see. My dad was a loving father but was completely incapable of expressing his feelings until the inevitable time would come when anger would be the only response available to him. He could not communicate what he was feeling and by extension no one would know what he was feeling. The natural product of that would be frustration and eventually anger. Unspoken words would lead to a torrent of inner turmoil until the only outlet was anger. It was as predictable as Old Faithful. You could see it happening in his expressions and then sullenness would follow; once sullen the anger was soon to erupt.
For quite a few decades I followed this pattern. I knew it was coming; I could feel the rising temperatures inside of me but unlike my father I could not release it.
Looking back on It now I can see the reasons why. Of course, part of the puzzle had to do with behavior I had witnesses as a child. I do not blame my dad; he was dealing with his anger in the only way he knew how just as I did in later years. My reluctance to communicate my feelings, whether they be sadness or anger, had its origins in a fear of showing weakness. If I did not show my emotions then I would appear strong and men should always be strong. Add to that the fact that I felt by hiding my feelings I was preventing anyone from getting close enough to hurt me. Put the two together and you have a recipe for disaster; put them all together in an alcoholic and you have the recipe for a very slow death.
You could not hurt me if I did not allow you inside of my psyche and the best way to do that was to let everything roll off of me like rain off a duck’s back. Dad dies? Carry on like a good soldier! Lost a marriage? Carry on like the brave man you are! Feeling the stress of the job? Fake it until you make it and for God’s sake don’t let on that you are afraid and incapable! Alcohol kicking your butt? Strap on some balls and be a man! It was a simple formula that appeared, to those on the periphery of my life, to be working for me; but inside of me, in my heart and soul, the feelings of emptiness, fear and insecurity were overwhelming me. I was losing control and my formula for success was failing miserably.
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
I finally found safety in those who loved me. Through their acceptance I found that I could express myself without worrying about repercussions or judgments. Through their love I found the freedom to just be me and that led, or course, to the freedom to speak openly about my feelings. Make no mistake about it: this all took years to happen. One does not immediately break down walls overnight; one does not toss away a lifetime of defensive barriers simply by willing them to crumble and disappear. It takes time and effort to do so; it takes a willingness to do so; it takes hard emotional struggle to do so. We have all heard of Pavlov and his programming of dogs; that is, in effect, what I had to do to myself. I had to program my thinking so that I offered my feelings to others and risked the outcome, whatever it might be, in order to free myself of the self-imposed chains that constricted my emotional growth.
It was difficult to do; it was frightening to do; it was liberating to do. Of course it wasn’t always well-received by others but there were enough times where it was and it was upon those positive reactions that I was able to build a foundation for a better life.
TODAY THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT
I am in a deeply satisfying love affair with a beautiful woman today. We have both had to work at communicating for the old barriers still surface for both of us, preventing at times open communication and sharing of feelings, but we are committed to making this relationship work and last a lifetime so we do the hard work. We are willing to push aside the fear and open our hearts to each other. We are willing to push aside our egos and truly hear what each other is saying and feeling. We do not play the Blame Game but rather make the attempt to see issues through the eyes and hearts of each other. It does not always go smoothly but that is a part of the process that is to be expected and it will pay benefits for years to come.
I have found great peace today! It is not necessary that everyone agree with me nor is it necessary that everyone approve of me or even like me. It is only necessary for my growth that I speak my feelings and not let them stay bottled up inside of me where they will inevitably fester and fuel my dis-ease! I absolutely refuse to return to my old way of thinking and responding. I have found happiness and that happiness is fueled by love. In love there is safety! In love there is freedom. In love there is finally, for this man, peace of mind.
I cannot solve the world’s problems regarding communication. I cannot, in fact, lessen the divorce rate in this country or counsel others on proper communication. I can only work on myself. I know today that the major roadblocks to communication for me are ego and fear. I have to be willing to face that fear and push aside my ego in order to properly communicate. I have to be willing to admit that someone else’s opinions are every bit as valid as mine and when they are sharing it is not my job to pass judgment but to simply listen to them. I have to hold onto the realization that life is not all about me and that I am just a small piece to a very large puzzle. Yes, my feelings are valid, but so are the feelings of those I interact with, and as such they deserve to be heard and understood.
If I am willing to make that effort then perhaps others will be willing to make a similar effort towards me and that, my friends, is the beginning of communication.
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)