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.