The lifeblood of any relationship is healthy communication.
I’ve seen it. I swear by it. I live it.
Moreso, I’ve seen the devastation that can be wrought by a lack thereof. Too often, people are ruled by their emotions and let minor grievances get in the way of their own happiness. I grew up stealthily navigating daily landmines, carefully testing the atmosphere of each new morning. What does today hold? Is it safe? Should I make myself invisible? There’s value in learning what not to do, however, and boy – did I learn. I mention this not as a “woe is me” moment, nor do I want to delve into it specifically, but because it played an integral role in who I am today. I am thankful for the hardships I experienced because they crafted my tenets and, as aforementioned, positive communication is number one on the list.
My husband has countless great qualities, but above them all, I appreciate his sensitivity. It helps me reign in my emotions when, with someone more abrasive, I might not so easily be able to do so. After all, it’s unrealistic to suggest just not getting irritated. To be irritated is to be human; to be irrational is a choice.
For example –
One of my husband’s less-lovable quirks is the occasional forgetfulness. What did he forget this past weekend? His wallet. What was our destination? The grocery store. When did he realize his mistake? When we had a cart full of groceries at the checkout line. What was the weather like? A torrential downpour.
So – I pulled our cart out of the way, and he headed for the car to drive home and get his wallet. I sat there in the clothing section, and I was irritated; I’ll own it. I knew it would take him 15 + minutes to go home and come back, and my emotions were the devil on my shoulder trying to work me into a rage. But – as I sat there and contemplated my (mild) predicament, I realized that he already felt bad, and me making him feel worse was just putting gasoline on a fire when I had an extinguisher at hand. Furthermore, how could I be upset with him when I am also an adult equally as culpable? I could have brought my purse and not relied on my husband to foot the bill.
This, albeit, is a minor inconvenience, but it’s all in what you make it. I talked myself off of an irrational, emotional ledge, and, instead sat there mentally constructing my own version of the “People of Wal Mart” game. When he came back, obviously apologetic and expecting a moody wife, I smiled at him and shared my game, and we enjoyed our rainy drive home together laughing and rehashing the game’s finer points, instead of a quiet, tense drive home as the result of a measly wallet.
A (somewhat) more serious example is the time Ross called me, obviously distraught, to let me know he was pulled over and getting a ticket. Let’s establish something – he called me while pulled over. Instead of being upset at what was going on for himself in the present, he was more concerned with how it would make me feel – whether or not I would be upset with him. He beat himself up about that one enough for the both of us for a lifetime worth of tickets. I calmly told him it was okay. We would pay it. Life would go on. We would – somehow – live another day. What would be the point of me making him feel bad? He already felt bad. I love him. When you love someone, you shouldn’t want them to feel bad, and if you want someone to feel bad, you should reevaluate your feelings for them. Quite frankly, you should just go ahead and reevaluate yourself, while you’re at it. When you love someone, sometimes you need to let them know it’s okay to make mistakes.
That being said, sometimes things aren’t okay. Sometimes we’re not dealing with a forgotten wallet or a ticket. Sometimes – people really mess up and need to be held accountable. I don’t think it’s appropriate to make allowances for every misbehavior on account of a person’s quirks. Still – even in those moments, it’s an opportunity to make the conscious choice not to be irrational.
Anger is the enemy of communication. When someone is looking at a situation through a red haze, they aren’t seeing the situation clearly. Anger breeds anger. If you address someone on a hostile way, you’re not building the foundation for a productive communication. You’re making yourself feel better in the moment by relieving your immediate emotional turmoil, but likely extending it in the long run.
My husband and I have had serious conversations at times. When this happens, I never speak out of anger. If I’m actively angry, I wait to have the conversation. In the period where I’m ruminating on how I feel, I don’t give him the cold shoulder, either. It’s not always easy, but it is a choice. My goal is never to make him feel bad; it’s to solve the problem, get to the root of the issue. When my anger subsides, and I’ve found the words to express what plagues my conscience, we have a conversation about it – a two way conversation. He hears me out, and I hear him out, and we find a compromise. It’s not a productive communication if you are trying to be heard without listening. Everyone wants to (and deserves to) feel understood, valued, and listened to.
Ultimately, both participating members in any relationship have to subscribe to this tenet for the process to be successful. Whether it’s a romantic relationship, friendship, family – the rule still applies. Healthy communication is the tie that binds a lasting, fruitful relationship. It takes two people who care more about the other person than their own ego. If one member doesn’t contribute, the chain is broken, and the other person is vulnerable to verbal abuse. No one should live in a world where they are walking on eggshells, avoiding someone else’s emotional landmines. Life is challenging enough as it is; our own problems are taxing enough as it is. Taking the brunt of someone else’s problems is not fair.
There’s a difference between releasing your truths in a cathartic, productive, necessary way and unloading on someone as if they are your human punching bag. Remaining rational is a choice. The first step is picking your battles wisely. Are you simply irritated, or are you angry? If you’re irritated, make the choice to move on. If you’re truly upset, find a way to communicate your feelings that doesn’t hinder your goal. If someone isn’t receiving your truth with empathy and compassion, reevaluate that relationship. Life shouldn’t be a battlefield. Don’t make it one.
Yehuda Berg said –
Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.
Every word we say to another person is a choice. We can choose to allow ourselves to hurt another person, or we can choose our words carefully with the knowledge that words are powerful and can have destructive or restorative qualities. Honest, healthy communication is the lifeblood of a functioning relationship. It carries oxygen and nutrients to every other system. Without it, our relationships wither away; in the worst cases, we wither away as alongside them.
Be kind; it’s that simple.
So – I leave you with this: