Challenges are plentiful in a relationship, but nothing trumps Communication. I remember the beginning of many relationships, two of which I was able to salvage after I identified the complex, yet simple problem – my Communication style. Twelve years ago before I became a parent communicating my candid thoughts weren’t as important as they are today. Not because my relationships carried less significance insomuch that I had less to lose than I do now. As a submissive wife, who wholeheartedly trusted her husband, I rarely vocalized things of the heart that was largely attributed to the incapacity to process and translate thoughts to feelings, i.e. head to heart because of the fear of what would become if I did so. Hence, it was adequate for me to suppress my inner voice and starve the heart instead. The outcome? A consensual divorce.
“In my next relationship I will do everything in my power to not repeat the same mistakes, even if it means ‘telling my story to others to save their marriage.'”
My life at 35 carried a different perspective than my current age of 47. The reference point of knowing that I have less years ahead of me than I do behind me is relevant to the Why, When, What, How and Where of my Communication process today.
- Why (the relevancy): Why should I communicate this today, right now instead of later? Why is it important to know what I am thinking and feeling? Why is it significant? Why do my thoughts matter?
- When (the timing): When is it appropriate to address my (our) issue, i.e. when things have calmed or at the peak of frustration? When did I become affected by what was said?
- What (the intent | content): Will what I say break or build the relationship? Will what I say matter insomuch to improve or takeaway from the quality of our friendship? Is the What greater than the We? What is the timing of the message: do I wait until we arrive home or should I say what is on my heart here in public?
- How (the delivery): Will How I say impact us greatly – for better or worse? Will my message be received or ignored and How so, e.g. with love or anger, respectively? How do I phrase what I intend to say so that what I do say is accurately felt, spoken and delivered with love?
- Where (the venue | environment | internal space): Is the setting suitable to discuss our personal matters? From where (internally) am I gathering my thoughts – a place of compassion; a place of frustration or hate; a place of jealously; a place of resentment and the list continues?
I could continue to expand upon the aforementioned points, but the focus of Communication should always be on these five main points. Attempt to always ask yourself is my message Relevant; is the Timing appropriate; what is the Intent of the Content; contemplate the appropriate deliverance by asking ‘will it lead to harm or love’ and how so; is the setting appropriate from where the problem occurred and from where the sentiments are birthed.
Again, I never said Communication is easy but I will attest to its importance! Remember I spoke of the two relationships I was able to salvage?
The first one was my marriage of 16.5 years. Although my former husband and I did divorce, we are more friendlier to one another now than we could have ever been married. Why? Because (1) We both apologized for our wrongdoings in the marriage – realizing that beginning anew would not be possible without this step, (2) We realized we hindered one another as a couple, although we were accomplished financially, because our dual obligation to cherish each other’s hearts was inadvertently and sometimes purposely ignored in the marriage, and (3) in hindsight we’d have it no other way than to remain cordial because what was not offered to us as kids, who had parents that did not communicate, would be the very thing to combat. So our daughter will forever have what she deserves – to have genuine love in her life with parents who can look beyond themselves.
The second is my current relationship to my fiance – this second g’round. After a 3-year courtship and a 2-year engagement we broke off the relationship because we grew separate and distant in personal goals. Conversely, that one-year break up was the best thing that happened to us! It allowed him to commit to a sole person, while I dated on and off. Albeit we each missed each other and didn’t realize it until we decided to remain friends (a philosophy I had never condone) separate from our individual lives. However, had he and I not decided to take a leap of faith and express our dismay about the breakup to one another, while respecting our intimate space with others, we’d be living a part wishing we should have communicated what we missed most – us. So, despite our flaws, inadequacies and divorces to our former spouses, we believe one of the most complexities of relationships can be achieved if we dare to put forth a genuine effort to understand our Communication styles.
Note the words Why, When, What, How and Where are intently used because they are the beginners of open-ended conversations that stimulates a dialog between and not at one another. Applied and used correctly will allow the initiator and receiver of words to not only respond to each other, but possibly have a discussion unknowingly – thus, the objective. Open-ended questions are widely used to gather feedback in the most clever of ways.
Let your true self be seen. Enough of hiding! Allow yourself to be rejected by others who have only seen your masked self – the one that gives advice but can rarely sit in your own; the person who regularly defends her point of view yet fails to understand others; that girl who is loved because of what she offers as a cover up to what she doesn’t have.
Stop Hiding! Reveal the Mask! Liberate Yourself! And wait to see who hangs around when you do. You’ll be grateful you’ve crossed over. I’ll see you when you get here.
Life is full of colors. The unique thing about living is you have an opportunity to pick your palette. Will you select the color pink for your Monday or will the color blue be your preference for the weekday? Whatever your decision, you have a choice to paint your wall and create your picture the precise way you want to either be viewed by others, perceived by others, or true to others. I choose the latter. In fact, I rarely choose a color scheme. Instead, I go with the flow and accept whatever comes my way by endorsing a popular phrase you will always hear me say when things don’t go as planned and that is – it is what it is!
‘It is what it is’ is not a phrase more so than it is a way of life for me. I worry a lot, pray a lot, and wonder a lot. My mind is always thinking about the next best thing. Actually, I recently realized the way I think is a direct reflection of what happened to me in 2010 when I left my marriage of 16.5 years. Today I know of ways that I could have saved my marriage, but I also realize that reclaiming the core value of my role as wife and spouse had long left. Thus, nowadays my life is a cerebral exercise about how to discover ways to salvage and obtain the stability I once had that I must now restructure. And even though I know the answer to a stable life is through prayer and undoubted faith, writing about it and publicizing it for others to read will be my salvation because it is a confession of my faults.
So where do we go and how do we handle the luggage of clutter we have unloaded? The answer can be found in the same manner we unpack our clothes, one piece at a time. Expressing our inner-self is better achieved in small, regular chats when we are more in tune with our inner self, i.e. emotions so that what we feel, instead of think, can be fully expressed. Therefore, talking about an argument that happened 10 minutes ago is better resolved soon after the incident or when all parties are calm because datum is harder to retrieve days after. So, having discussions about how to resolve a negative discourse – when thoughts are recent, current and fresh – may present opportunities for better listening and communication so that honesty and transparency are the result.
My former premarital counselor talked about a process called ‘flooding’ that happens in our mind at a time when we may want to resolve differences but our convoluted thoughts forbids. A process, commonly known as information overload, could inadvertently and unnecessarily invite stress and ambiguity to a situation or relationship. Conversely, it is presumed that humans are unable to process multiple data at once, although we might refute the task of being able to. Perhaps my partner expressed it best when he said, “you cannot successfully hear and talk at the same time” because the brain is flooded with unsorted expressions without knowing what belongs where at what given time. So, the goal as speakers should be to express ourselves in a way that is easily heard and understood to avoid misunderstandings that could potentially lead to disagreements, or worse – emotional, physical or mental distance.
Good Morning! I. Love. You.
These three words are often exchanged on the phone between me and my dear father. As he rises each morning I am certain that he keeps me in prayer, as he has done for many years. This is a practice I also reciprocate! Hence, God tapped me on the shoulder one day and whispered that I should text him more often to share this same greeting; but, my mother also needs to hear I.Love.You more often because she is the person I have emotionally missed for many years because of our differences and our inability to communicate with each other.
Additionally, my close friend, turned fiance who has three sons and one daughter, once told me that a little girl’s first love is her dad. This statement is so accurate, as I am told to be my father’s female version. In contrast, the same cannot be said, or isn’t regularly voiced when speaking about the relationship a daughter has with her mother. Ahem. With that said, I do speak of my mother with similar endearment because she was, and still remains my first role model, although communicating this to her is so challenging – most of my time is spent defending myself from her unconscious belief of my taking advantage of her guarded heart.
So, until she believes otherwise, I will continue to write with hopes of meeting her there! If she only knew! One day, though … One day.
Written as a Facebook Note, June 6, 2013.
I heard her once say that she could not afford to leave because it felt so right. And then I begged the question “What is so right” about a situation already gone wrong? She explained ..
“I have a place to stay. I don’t want for anything. I receive personal appeasements on a regular. Our arguments are few and far between. He treats me great at times, although I am one of many others. We’ve dated for quite a while, so starting over may be difficult. I am completely in love, and he knows this.”
My response: “My friend, you have a lot going on. Although I am not one to give advice, I will say that we all have a threshold of tolerance. And until you meet that intuitive feeling that tells you ‘You cannot continue on the path of self-unworthiness, poor-self esteem, and self-blame,’ you will continue to get what you have always received (and rightly so) – nothing.”
If you have not heard of Dr. Brené Brown, let this be a formal introduction to her work.
This article is about how our ‘messy flesh’ is worthy of embracing. If you have followed my previous posts, there is one specifically that hits a home run with vulnerability where I aired all of my personal laundry for public consumption, realizing that how I may be viewed and perceived by others could completely change the way you see me today thereby altering the relationships I have with each person who perceives me as having it altogether. Writing that single post was my complete moment of vulnerability because after its release I felt free of bondage and that dark cloud of 30 years was lifted.
As I wrote about that painstaking article, titled Sharing my Personal Scar, God held my hand through every keystroke, wiped my tears through each memory, whispered in my ear that all would be okay and shook me back to reality, assuring me that He forgives me regardless. I had to write about my younger years to release myself from the hurt and pain that I held for way too long – so long that I was threatened by a few who would go public about my intimate experience. Hence, I was fearful not so much that the story would be narrated by another, but more so because I knew of its accuracy of events and the emotions were mine to release – no one else’s.
So back to Dr. Brené Brown, who is a scholar, researcher, author, public speaker and eloquent researcher of story-telling, among many titles – the core of her principles are hinted at letting go of what may hold us back so that we can ultimately be loved and accepted for who we really are and can be, beyond our masked self. So what does that mean? Let me put this in context. In my younger years I so wanted to be accepted by others that I would go along to get along because I feared that I would lose friends if I didn’t conform. Candidly, complying to fit in was not the issue at all nor did anyone demand as such; yet, in hindsight, I was reserved to reveal my true self: flawed, oddly different, insecure, immature, inexperienced and the list continues that hanging with friends who were anything but would exclude me from the crowd.
Conversely, it’s been nearly 11 months now since I published that article and today I couldn’t be happier in my skin because all of my skeletons are out in the open for anyone to see. My message? If I, who was undeserving of forgiveness (i.e. a thought I convinced myself of for many years), yet asked God and finally forgave myself and was thus forgiven – Why not you? Why are you incapable of not only forgiving yourself, but the flaws of others?
Do you really know what being vulnerable requires? Do you believe you can feel liberated from the flawed self that no one else knows about, aside from you – if you only, if you really understood and trust that it is your ability to profess your mistakes, admit your transgressions and realize your misgivings, then (and only then) you have fully exercised the art of vulnerability! Make the commitment today and don’t be reluctant to seek assistance along the way. I sought professional counsel and still ask for guidance from those who believe in me, despite. So it is now your turn.
I am forgiven because of HIM, My God!