Leaving Communication Gap

I just spent the last week out of town with my two sisters and my mom.  I am blessed with an incredible family; my sisters are two of my best friends, and I’m still (gratefully) learning from my mom.  I’m surprised that I’m not hoarse for all of the talking we did.  We can and do talk about anything and everything.  We take a subject, turn it upside down, inside out, and twirl it around.  It can be an old topic talked about for years or something brand new:  family idiosyncrasies, re-decorating a kitchen, our kids’ problems/successes,  marriage troubles and joys, other people’s troubles and joys (yes, gossip!), a plan for a patio, on and on.

We’ve been doing this our whole lives:  with each other, and with our girlfriends.  We don’t tire of it, we learn from it, solve problems, help each other, lend a shoulder, and straighten each other out.  We do all of this through our spoken communication.  We are very blessed, don’t you think, to have this ability?

How about men?  You know, what about men and communication?  I’ve heard it said many different ways:  Men do, and women talk.  Sometimes I laugh when I hear this….women “do” too, it’s just that we talk while “doing”.  It’s called multi-tasking, right?  Man find it difficult to do this…all right, no they don’t.  They talk while they golf, they “communicate” while they work on a project with a friend.  So, really (NEWS FLASH!) we’re not that different after all.

But wait a second here:  Men are from Mars, and women are from Venus (I’ve never read the book).  Hmmmmmm.  When I look at this and turn it around and inside-out and twirl it around, I can see it clearly.  So do you, I’m sure….I’m just trying to slowly walk through this.  Is it that the communication between men is completely and totally unlike that between women?   Ding, ding, ding!  Yes …right?  It’s GOT to be this, otherwise why do we find communication between the sexes so damn difficult at times?

Why does the woman say to her husband:  please can you just communicate with me here?, can we talk about this?, I want to speak to you, can we have a word (or more) about this tonight?  And men groan.  Ugh.  “I don’t want to talk anymore!” he screams, if not out loud, then surely in his head.  Why, if men can communicate and enjoy doing so while playing with their buddies, do they balk at our request?  One reason and one reason only:  It’s the topic.  Must be.

Think about it.  Follow me here.

Men do the inside-out, upside-down and twist around thing, too.  In fact, they love it.  Just bring up a subject that has to do with “doing” something:  golf swing, garage insulating, (in Steve’ case) studio gear, a team’s stats, etc….I AM SOUNDING SO INCREDIBLE SEXIST WITH THESE TOPICS, it’s embarrassing.  But, from my empirical evidence, it’s the God’s-honest truth.

So what do women want to talk about and turn around and delve into and solve and talk, talk, talk about that turns the guy away (or sends him into his cave as I’ve heard the experts explain)?  THE RELATIONSHIP (and the sub category:  feeling/emotions).  Must be.

Just as we begin to roll our eyes (or nod off) when our men get into the minutest, most insignificant (my word) details of a sub-woofer…so do men roll they’re eyes when we want to talk about exactly-how-something-hurtful-was-said-and-what you-meant-and-how-you-could-have-said-it and so on.

Wait!  Maybe it’s not the same.  Follow me some more. Women roll their eyes - after all, what connection do we have to a sub-woofer?  Our husband may roll his eyes as we begin to talk (about what he said), but he also begins to retreat – because what the woman is talking about has everything to do with him (or the relationship – which includes him -  as the case maybe).

If we don’t allow them to retreat (i.e. we aren’t getting the response we’re looking for) and continue to turn it inside out and side-ways, then the poor guy starts to defend himself.  In fact, I think he stops listening.  (“Honey, you’re not listening to me!  That’s not what I meant!”)  In fact, I think he begins to respond to just the idea that he is wrong/bad/not good enough/etc…

Then what?  A fight.

Whew.  Kind of a long way to get here.

NOTE:  My writing here has taken me down a different path than I planned.  I planned to write about the need for men to have confidants like women do.  My idea is that men need someone to hash and rehash marriage problems with just as much as women do.  But, I guess I’ll write about that some other day.  Odd how our inner voice can direct us.

ASIDE ( I am a bit stream-of-consciousness today):  Men – know that most women do NOT want you to be a “girlfriend,” we don’t need to or want to talk to you in that same way.  So throw that notion out, and don’t be nervous about women trying to make you into one of them.  What we DO want is for you to be our closest ally.  This means that we want you to “have our back”, to trust us to have yours, to listen to us, respect us enough to know we have valuable things to teach you, treat us as an ally not an enemy, and really truly like who we are.

BACK ON TRACK (the fight):  So what do we do? The chasm seems so big.  I know that Steve and I have figured out a lot of this, we seem to be able to communicate in both a “guy” way and a “girl” way.  No, that’s not quite right.  It’s NOT that he meets me on my ground and I meet him on his …we have our girl/guy friends for that.  It’s more that we have created OUR OWN communication, our own marriage language.

It’s all about learning from one another (see last two blogs).  That’s it.  That’s the key – for my marriage anyway.  Part of the learning between spouses includes how we need to listen to one another, and how we need to approach one another in order to communicate.  And it is different for men and women.  We don’t grow up learning this, it must be learned within the relationship.  No wonder it’s so difficult:  adults are notoriously difficult to teach, and most of us developed all sorts of bad habits in earlier bad relationships (these need to be broken).

Those who have parents that successfully communicate have a real leg up.  On the other hand, some have to fight tendencies learned from parents with a shitty marriage.  I also think having siblings of the opposite sex can prepare us for better communication within a marriage.

But basically, we have to be taught how to communicate with the opposite sex by our life time partner.  Period.  NO getting around it.  It only makes sense that if we want to live contentedly for a life time with the same person, we must learn how the other communicates.  And once we learn, concessions have to be made, attitudes adjusted:  both parties have to change how they communicate in order to accommodate the other.

It’s just so dang complex: pitch of voice, body language, pre-conceived notions, volume, intensity, eye contact, speed of words, and of course the words themselves.  It’s a lot of work.  And it’s tough.

I think it’s a hell of a lot easier, however, if we are up front about it:  don’t make it a guessing game, or a mystery.  (Your spouse cannot read your mind!)  Specifically set out to create your own marriage “language.”  Make it a positive goal, be pro-active, and figure it out together!  Try to laugh about the differences (sometimes it is just so absurd, isn’t it?), Mars and Venus are probably laughing right along with you.

Good luck!

This concludes another view from my married life.