You know how people always tell you that communication is the most important thing in a marriage? I’ve heard it so many times. But I’ve always shrugged it off and thought, “Chris and I communicate just fine. We talk. No worries.”
A couple of days ago I realized that I had been, in short, fooling myself. I am horrible at communicating, and I suddenly found myself in a place that I really really didn’t want to be. It was one of those moments where your eyes are suddenly opened to see the other person’s perspective, you take the time to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and you can see that they’ve been getting the short end of the stick. For far too long. And it’s no one’s fault but yours.
It felt awful.
Chris is an amazing communicator. He always has been. In disagreements, he is level-headed and fair. He does not clam up or disappear (like yours truly.) He does not act like it never happened and shove it under the rug until it sticks (like yours truly.)
I am difficult to communicate with verbally. It makes me uncomfortable and I feel attacked when asked questions out of the blue like “How is your heart?” or “How have you been feeling about God lately?” It’s literally like the words stick in my throat and I want to run away and lock myself in a room somewhere. Chris, on the other hand, is very much a verbal processor. It helps him think clearly when he’s able to talk about things. Outloud.
Here’s the catch: The only way I’ve found for me to really get myself across well is through writing. I can write my heart out onto paper without batting an eyelash. That’s why this medium has been intensely healing and freeing for me. So, we’ve got a VERBAL processor and a NON-VERBAL processor living under the same roof. Eeegad.
The other night, I was feeling like I didn’t really know Chris very well anymore, and I started to think it was all because he wasn’t talking to me very much. Hmmm. I wonder why.
He then gently told me that he feels like I don’t enjoy listening to him when he tries to talk to me about serious things. He feels like I clam up. (I do.) He feels like I don’t ask him questions about his day or his life or his heart. (I don’t.) It’s like I’m afraid of engaging with him in that way because I am not able to express myself as well as he does- and then I feel puny. Misunderstood. Frustrated. Attacked.
I realized the other day how selfish I have been. My husband needs engaging questions and a listening ear in order to communicate. In order to feel heard and appreciated. And I have been completely withholding that from him just because it’s uncomfortable for me. And our communication has suffered greatly because of it. And for him, I can imagine it is somewhat disheartening to learn new things about his own wife’s heart by reading it on this site along with all of you guys. I’m sure he’d like to hear it from my own mouth first. Intimacy is lost when he is learning about me from a computer screen.
So, I need to learn how to communicate better with him. And when I first realized this, I felt really freaked out. I felt like I had to force myself to open up in a way that has frustrated me so thoroughly in the past. But then Chris reminded me that there are LOTS of ways to communicate. And there are ways to be creative about it too, so that I don’t have to feel trapped by it.
This is one of the beautiful things about marriage. We have a whole lifetime together to adjust and change and figure these things out. It’s hard work, but it’s the only way to survive. It’s about flexibility and realizing when you need to scrap the old way and start all over again. It’s about knowing that, in fifty years, you might need to go allll the way back and start from square one again. And again. And again. There is no plateau, no cruise control, no retirement track where marriage is concerned. And that is completely freeing for someone like me.
Because I need all of the fresh starts I can get.