Once upon a time, there was a girl who created a list. This list wasn’t any ordinary list. This list was full of future perfect thinking.
Every line on this list described the qualities she wanted in her husband. She described absolutes, hopes, and day dreams of what her husband would be like. Some things were necessities like having a growing relationship with God, actively serving in some ministry, and being full of integrity. Others were more sigh-inducing like having strong hands and being taller than her six-foot frame.
This girl had spent 24 years waiting on her future husband so she was confident about the things on her list. She was also certain about the qualities she wanted to avoid. One of those things was a bad communicator. She had witnessed the pitfalls and pain of mis communication in relationships and deeply wanted to avoid those trials.
When she met her tall youth pastor (with strong hands!), she was pleased at his communication skills. He didn’t shy away from tough topics and was willing to spend a date night talking over coffee instead of hitting the movie theatre. Her heart was swollen with delight that God had given her a communicative man who fit her list.
The girl and her man got married. Soon the girl realized that even with a good communicator boyfriend/fiance/husband, the two weren’t immune to communication issues. What this girl hadn’t anticipated was her own struggles with communication and what effects they would have on the beginnings of her marriage.
Yup, that girl is me.
One of the most oft repeated pieces of marital advice I received was to “communicate, communicate, communicate!”. Despite being an English major who felt pretty confident in my ability to articulate opinions and beliefs, being single had left my relationship communication skills untested for a quarter century. In my focus on someone else’s qualities, I neglected to examine if I had some of those qualities. Turns out, my communication skills had much room for improvement.
While Tim and I don’t have trouble talking, communicating is a different creature – one that I seemed to shy away from entirely.
I’m what you would call a reluctant communicator.
When faced with uncomfortable feelings, I withdraw. I don’t like to verbalize embarrassing emotions or express needs. Those things may create conflict and I have an extreme aversion to conflict. Not a realistic or healthy attitude for any relationship…
My sorry tactic for conflict avoidance is to have conversations with myself, processing internally. As a result, I leave Tim in the dust wondering why I’m upset or how I’ve arrived at certain conclusions. My journal gets more conversation time than my husband sometimes.
Here are two habits I’ve tried to adopt to combat my communication reluctance:
- Include your husband when you process. I will always be an internal processor, but that doesn’t mean I have to exclude my husband. Once I’ve had some time to think, I try to reiterate my train of thought to Tim. Not only does Tim gives valuable feedback, often hearing my thoughts out loud brings a whole new dimension to my though processes. Even if you’re processing something potentially conflict producing, sharing where you’re at and how you arrived at those thoughts and feelings does more for a relationship than resolving the issue internally.
- Share your heart with your husband first. As a blogger who values transparency, my posts are very real and very indicative of what’s currently in my heart. It’s easier for me to articulate with pen and paper so writing is my communication style of choice and is often where I turn first. I need to share the inner workings of Emily Gardner with Tim before I share it with the blogosphere. Husbands commit their lives, hearts, and bodies to us, and we should show that commitment respect by giving them first dibs on our hearts, lives, and bodies.
Those two habits are habits – they don’t come naturally to me and I don’t always succeed. However, the fruit born from these habits is oh so sweet. Important details of doing life with someone can easily be glazed over when you’re a reluctant communicator. I don’t want to miss out on sharing myself with Tim because I was reluctant to speak up and let him into my life.