How we’ve made it work

I read this the other evening, and I think the advice is solid. (Hot and smart… *sigh*)

Granted, what do I know — only relationships I’ve had longer than 10 years are with people I call “Mom and Dad” or for whom I have rude nicknames. 🙂

I admit, though, that the first piece of advice made me sad. Too necessary, and too familiar. Or, rather, too unfamiliar. I tried to think of a relationship I’ve been in where that level and compatibility of communication has been the case. FAIL.

Well, Sherry and I pretty much share a brain, but we don’t share a bed, so she doesn’t count.


Perhaps it’s my inevitable attraction to geeks, perhaps it’s my own psychological shortcomings, perhaps it’s just bad luck, but the familiar pattern is to end up with guys who don’t talk. Who won’t talk. Screw compatible communication. How about any communication?

While I have pretty good patience for some things, for that? Not so much. Bullying tendencies: not helpful. Also, I don’t fight well. Never learned. My parents never fight, so I didn’t learn from them; my brother and I fought ugly and often, so I didn’t learn with him; and you can’t fight with boyfriends who won’t engage enough for an adult conversation, let alone for an argument. Additionally, for various reasons, I’m far more flight than fight. I’ll try to brush off all kinds of things before I’m pushed far enough to engage. Just another part of the skills I’m lacking.

I also have a “talent”, of which I’m not particularly proud, for knowing just what to say. Knowing just where to stick the knife, as it were. It stems from being able to read and learn people fairly well. Combine all of these and you do not want to be my significant other if I’m unhappy. And, of course, once you’ve had a dose of that, you wouldn’t be inclined to open up any more, either.

The exception is when things get to a point where the significant other can’t stand it anymore — it being whatever issue might be at hand — then they spew anger and frustration and awkwardness and misery and… after that it inevitably ends. Cheery, no? Ironically by this point I’ve already given up even trying to discuss whatever’s been going on.

Of course, when you don’t communicate until then, by that point, it’s pretty much too late. It’s almost impossible to dig yourself out of deep ruts and old habits and aching hurts and new scrapes and figure out how to do this right. Let alone get two people on the right track.

Plus, there’s a pretty good chance that in that spewing there’s something deadly. Something so unfair, or so hurtful, or such a shit nugget of revisionist history that it leaves a mark. A big one. And those are really hard to see around and even harder to heal up. Even if it’s worth it to try.

Of course, forgiving as a grownup never seems to be as easy as doing it as a kid. Would that it were. Couple kicks each other in the shins, shares a box of Smarties, and it’s all okay again.

It’s even harder to forgive when you don’t really get the chance. You don’t get to frame everything that happened in the context of the greater (prior) relationship. You don’t get to calm down, process, and discuss. (If you had gotten a chance to discuss it prolly wouldn’t have happened in the first place.) You don’t get to say your piece. And neither of you gets a chance to be or say sorry.

And that sucks. It’s not nice living with residual anger and/or mistrust against someone. Cuz it’s not consistent. Some days it’s nowhere to be found. Other days it makes you say really bad things out of the blue. It’s utterly hair-trigger. The dumbest, tiniest thing can yank it right to the forefront of your consciousness and ruin your day. And when it’s been years, rather than days or weeks, experiencing that makes you feel pathetic and petty. Get over it. Somehow? Eventually?

That residual toxicity is actually powerful enough to hijack the intended functionality of the human mind. Seriously. Memory is designed to decay. Memories to fade. For many reasons, though really, it can be boiled down to this: if it didn’t, we’d all go mad eventually. That much intense emotion and experience can’t be piled up inside one body indefinitely.

However, when that toxicity is present, it prevents memory from fading. It keeps hurt and anger bright and sharp. It keeps words clear and makes you obsess over them. It distorts perceptions so you start to convince yourself that things are, were, and ever shall be one way, which is, usually, crazy talk. Living like that ain’t good for nobody.

And yet, the divorce rate is around half, so there are pretty good odds there are a lotta people out there walking around in some degree of that state. Sad, no?

Communication is like a big wooden spoon. Used well, it stirs, constantly and thoroughly. It keeps all the elements of a relationship mixed together, evens things out. Prevents things from falling to the bottom and getting missed. Prevents the flavour from being altered because the ingredients aren’t well distributed throughout. Prevents things from clumping up and being unpleasant. Prevents things from burning and getting thrown out.

Communication keeps things in perspective, good and bad. But, as Ariel notes, the key is compatible, similar communication. Waving the spoon in the air isn’t going to make soup. There’s gotta be a spoon, there’s gotta be a pot, and they’ve gotta be working together.

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