Monday, November 8, 2010

An Elephant in Every Room

There is a lot of mystery in human relationships. I grew up experiencing tension in my house on a regular basis, so as an adult I like to have everything cut and dried when it comes to my relationships. I don't like secrets and mysteries and loaded conversations where an engine is churning underneath the words and I'm working to figure out what is really going on.

Not everyone likes clear and honest communication. I find safety in it, where others find panic and too much vulnerability. I must respect the preferences of others, as they must respect mine, and in that middle place is where the mystery resides. I hate guessing with my friendships - wondering what the other person is thinking and feeling because it isn't clear to me, and I don't feel I can ask as that will make the person uncomfortable and defensive.

I don't know how to work these grey areas out. I know what I want, but I don't know what the other person wants, and asking them seems to go badly. Very slowly I'm learning something about myself as I work through these roadblocks. I'm discovering what I can give up and what I cannot. There is a time to pretend not to notice what's under the surface, and a place to back off so I have space to recover, be myself and find those I can be real with.

Lowering our expectations is a never ending battle. We think we have done the job, and then something else comes at us and we must re-evaluate and see where we have taken a detour and expected too much from someone who isn't able to give what we need. These things take time, and patience, and layers of grace to work our way through them. I'm relieved to know that I can look to other people for the needs I have for friendship, authority figures, mentoring and support. We can build a community of people, over a long period of time, who can meet some of our needs and heal what is broken from our childhoods.

We can also improve ourselves so that our children have less to work through when they become adults. I love that my kids are growing up in a home which is free of the kind of unresolved tension I lived with. Jason and I have many disagreements and arguments, but we talk them through, compromise and find a resolution that brokers peace in our home.

I am more afraid of unresolved conflict than I am of the fight, as I know firsthand how unsettling ongoing tension is for a child. I don't want an elephant standing in the corner of every room of my house. In this way, I am creating a better experience for my kids to grow up in.


  1. Hello -- I'm in Laura's writers' group (although we haven't met for months) and I accessed your blog from her new website. Pretty cool to have two writers in one family -- must be fun to exchange ideas and encouragement.

    I just read this post and the one following but I know I'll be back for more. I really like your easy-reading style. Plus I have experience as a too-tightly-wound director of church drama productions (while hosting an elephant in my living room). It'll be interesting to see what else we have in common.

    I also noticed that you have posted EVERY DAY for the past 9 months! How do you do that?


    ps. I have no idea why I keep coming us as anonymous! Any pointers?

  2. I learned from my friend Andrea to ask a simple, "What do you mean by that?". It works so well; allows someone to clarify what they mean (or backpedal) without feeling too defensive. I use this one on my father-in-law all the time!

  3. Hi Maxine! Welcome and thanks for checking out my blog and reading a few posts. I made a commitment to blog daily for 6 weeks when I started in January, and I got so much from the discipline of sitting down each morning to write, that I simply continued, and thankfully a few of my friends and now several others have been faithfully reading and commenting.

    I know you need to create a Google account using your e-mail address, a screen name (mine is Writer Mom) and a password. Then you can follow my blog as well and choose how to get updated when there are new posts. Hope that helps. I checked out your blog and love your writing on self publishing in particular. I'll be back to yours to read more and thank you for your comment.

    Karen, I love your friend's quote and have used that a lot. This particular situation is more of an undercurrent where we have both cooled off in the relationship due to some unresolved conflict, but then when there is contact I'm not sure if we should be going into the issues or just leaving it at the surface and making the best of the situation.

    I still don't really know, but I'm slowly feeling my way through it. I find unresolved conflict very stressful but I'm having to learn better ways to handle it for myself. Thanks for your comment, my friend.

  4. Hello again - see? I can't even make it back in a timely fashion to reply to your comment! I am so impressed with your ability to write so eloquently EVERY DAY. Thanks for popping in to check out my space, especially for your feedback re: the self-publishing thread. I've been playing around for a few months trying to figure out what I want my blog to be about and your comment reaffirms that that is where I need to put my focus. Okay - now I'll have a look at what new offering you have today.