Allow me to replay a recent scene between me and my beloved: While upstairs working, my cell phone, which is downstairs, begins to ring. My partner, Aging Gal, who is also downstairs lying on the couch cocooned under a blanket in what is arguably the coldest house in the free world, refuses to move a muscle to answer my phone. I race downstairs, but to no avail, as I am too late to catch the call. I then proceed to yell at my little love muffin for not answering the phone. She lets my hostility roll off her back and says, “Look, it’s your phone, your problem.” I retold this story to an acquaintance whose response was, “Sorry you two aren’t getting along.” “Au contraire,” I said, “We’re good.”
My message to you on this day of love is that couples’ communication styles vary. Ours is reminiscent of the old radio show The Bickersons or Modern Family’s Cam and Mitchell. You may be one of those couples who don’t appear to communicate at all, hiding behind your iPads and lattés. Silence, for some, is an acceptable form of communication. Still, relationship problems can result from communication gaps or errors in perception.
Too frequently, people cling to the negative aspects of a conversation and view them as a personal affront. When in fact, the conversation’s intention is constructive criticism directed towards a behavior change, as opposed to a character assassination. I cannot tell you how many people suffer low self-esteem resulting from the repeated misinterpretation of words, facial expressions, or body language. All of these forms of communication can have lasting effects on all types of relationships, not just couples. Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to miscommunication or misperception.
When in doubt about one’s communicated intention, speak up and ask for clarification. Maybe the perceived strike wasn’t that at all. Moreover, the next time you utter a slur, roll your eyes, cross your arms, or storm off in a huff consider the receiver’s feelings. The two of you could be closer than you think if you would just communicate which, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary, means “to express oneself in such a way that one is readily and clearly understood.”
Still confused? I hope not. But if you need further clarification, ask me. Lord knows the Aging Gal does.
Linda holds memberships in the American Psychological Association and the Council of Nephrology Social Workers. Feel free to visit her website at www.therapyandlifecoach.com.