Saturday, November 27, 2010

Communication Styles

Not long ago, I was having a conversation with someone, and with a few simple words, she helped me understand something about myself which I really didn't know before. She said, "You need more communication than the average person. It's important for you to be in touch with people regularly, and that's why Facebook and e-mail are so great for you. Other people can go for weeks without talking and assume the relationship is fine."

This was a revelation to me. It helped me to think differently about my need for regular communication, and recognize that not everyone has the same needs as I do. Jason, like most men, is at the opposite end of the communication spectrum from me. He agrees with Homer Simpson, who says, "The problem with marriage is communication. Too much communication."

Over twelve years of marriage, I've learned that my need to talk about everything and his need not to talk about everything has to work toward a middle ground. When he was away in LA earlier this month and relatively unresponsive to my calls, e-mails and Facebook messages due to his busy class schedule, I felt inordinately stressed and separate from him. Then I pull away because I feel hurt, and any chance to talk at all becomes soured by my bad attitude.

We worked through this when he returned home, and he has made the commitment to up the communication when he is away, and I've come to terms with my crazy headspace and finding other ways to talk myself off the ledge when I feel cut off from him. With my friends and family it's also tricky, because I seem to be unusual in my obsessive need for connection with the people in my life.

Understanding anything is the first step to positive change, and what seemed like an innocent comment in a regular conversation radically altered my perspective on how I communicate. I realized that Facebook is a lifeline to me, particularly when Jason is away and I'm looking for some kind of connection with other people, and that I may use it more than others and that's perfectly fine, as long as I don't expect others to match my frequency. It's not a communication competition, but I don't think I fully understood that before. I somehow equated communication with affection, and I am figuring out that it doesn't work that way for everyone.

Taking the time to look at how we communicate and what we expect from others is an important exercise. It helps us to understand our own limitations and strengths, and to extend grace and mercy when others don't live up to what we want from them. I'm learning slowly not to panic when people fall out of touch with me. Life is busy and complicated and (gasp!) I'm not the centre of everyone's universe. I am sitting back and waiting now instead of rushing in to fix a problem that might only exist on my end. We all communicate differently, and living within those differences takes some practice and grace, but we can manage it as long as we are aware of what is actually going on under the surface.


  1. I so get you!! I am just like this and just this morning shed a tear over a relationship where the communication is lacking. It scares me and makes me want to reach out to that person. I know that if I do I will be hurt. So, I understand. Thank you for being you!

  2. This is a hard one for me too. I remember the first time I went home after we were married. I was gone for 10 days or something and Chris was not nearly as excited to talk to me as I was him, nor did he ever call. I remember sobbing on my best friends bed and truely thinking we were destined for divorce and that he must not really love me, or he'd miss me and want to talk to me. I had myself so worked up that I didnt enjoy the second half of my time with my family.

    In retrospect he didnt think a week away was that big of a deal, after all our whole dating relationship was long distance, and he figured I was busy with friends and family so it made more sense for me to call.

    This last time he was gone, he did call every night (the first time ever). I suspect it had more to do with Caleb than me :) , but the quest to middle and understanding is forever a challenge.

  3. Thank you both for sharing with me. Much appreciated. It's so hard to find the right balance here, because I can't understand why talking is so frightening for some people, and they can't understand why I want to talk so much. I think it solves problems, but others find it creates them.

    I think recognizing that I can't fix every problem on my own is a huge part of this process. I cannot make someone else talk to me any more than they can stop me from trying to talk. But as you say, Susan, there comes a point where you know you'll be hurt if you keep reaching out, so you have to hang back and let the other person reach out to you. It's not easy.

    Cortney, as for marriage, we are further down that road than you and Chris are, and I can say from experience that it gets easier. Our first few years were a real struggle as I felt unloved every single time Jason pulled away and needed his own space, and I panic less now, but still have a need to talk and feel connected to him. You find your way a little better as the years go on, but it's always a challenge to have such radically different communication requirements.