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My Marriage

Communication Breakdown

It happens to the best of us. Communication is such a fickle thing, and the lines of communication can become blurred every so often, especially when love and feelings are involved. Even those who think that they are immune to the confusion of conflict can find themselves drawn into a communication breakdown when they least expect it, and chaos ensues.

Even those of us who are better equipped than many others are not immune. This happened to me on the weekend, and until to be quite honest, it took me by surprise. My spouse told me something that really hurt my feelings, and I automatically lashed back in defense.

It was a silly argument, over something as simple as a misplaced bottle of perfume. But to me, it represented something much deeper that had been simmering away for a couple of weeks. I get frustrated at having to search for something when it is not where I expect it to be, worse still when my partner has shifted it and I don’t know the first place to begin searching.

Perfume, needles and thread, car keys, a Tupperware container to store my baking soda in, covers for our outdoor chairs, all were examples of instances where I had to turn the house upside-down. A simple answer from my spouse when these things were shifted would have saved me a lot of time and frustration. And the answer I got? “You need to open your eyes and organize yourself better”

I was gutted. When I come home from work I exercise the dog and cook dinner so that it is on the table by the time my partner gets home. The house is always spotless and warm, as I’m very conscious of coming home to a tidy environment.

I see this as a fundamental part of my role in coming home first, and it takes a lot of my time. To imply that I have the time to “organize yourself better” really hurt.

I don’t expect praise, but I did hope that my efforts were recognized. I got told that “I don’t expect you to cook my dinner every night.” That was interpreted by me as ingratitude, and hurt me even more.

So where to from here? My spouse felt guilty at coming home every night to the perfect household, where I felt guilty if it wasn’t perfect. It was never about me trying to make my spouse feel guilty, but it seems it did. And this is where the communication fell down. He misinterpreted my efforts, and I misinterpreted his response.

Communication, communication, communication. I needed my partner to keep me informed of where things move to. I need to be informed. I need to voice my frustration before it gets to boiling point. We both need to talk about our feelings more, and how each of our contributions to our home and our relationship make us feel, and how we interpret each others contributions.

Just because something isn’t spoken about, doesn’t mean it’s not important. A relationship or marriage is not a competition, but for many couples it feels like it.

When people feel guilt or stress, it leads them to act funny ways. Often stress and guilt are barriers to communication. The key to overcoming them is to recognize what it is, and have the courage to talk about it. You might be able to do it as a couple, or you might want the help of a friend who can listen to the way you are communicating with each other and offer insights and advice.

We got it sorted out, and kissed and hugged. It wouldn’t hurt so much if I didn’t feel such love at the same time. But it served as a good reminder to me. Sometimes you get so wrapped up in your own emotions that you forget to think of the other person. You also need to entertain the possibility that you are misinterpreting each other. Talking about it is the way to expose the miscommunication and let the healing begin.

A good lesson to learn, even for the experts’

What are the essential ingredients in an ideal relationship?

In the middle of a workshop recently a pertinent question was asked about what creates the ideal relationship. We were asked to think of a relationship we had with something in the last week that in one’s mind was the ideal relationship, and to think of what it was about that relationship that made it ideal.

A number of men in the group thought of their cars, tool sheds, families, workmates, old friends, even relationships with objects such as their television remote, recliner chair, or favorite pair of shoes. To each of these men, these things felt comfortable, and simple. The relationships they had with these people or objects was rewarding and easy to maintain.

A number of women considered kitchen appliances, favorite clothes or shoes, old friends, neighbours, and treasured items in their lives, and the bond that they had created either between people or with items they used in their lives. Words such as reliable, dependable, and comforting were used.

When my turn came to identify my ideal relationship, I thought of my dog. My dog has very simple needs, requiring only food, shelter, and love. No matter how my day has been or what kind of mood I’m in, when I get home at night and I’m greeted in such an authentic, transparent, and enthusiastic fashion. My dog is always excited to see me, and it’s very humbling when you consider it.

I don’t know of any others that greet me so enthusiastically night after night. No matter how long I have been away from the house or no matter how my day has been. His needs are few, yet he gives so much. I call this unconditional love.

So what is unconditional love?

Unconditional love is the type of love that comes without conditions. It is the type of love that you have for your partner when the romantic, hollywood-style love is gone. Once the romantic love is gone you make the transition to “real” love. Real love is love you have for your partner despite the knowledge that they are not perfect.

You know by now your spouse has faults. You know your spouse is not perfect. You know your spouse makes mistakes sometimes, but that’s okay. You still love them. You love your spouse because of those imperfections rather than in spite of them.

This is unconditional love.

The same thing applies to you however in looking at your partner’s faults. You acknowledge that you are the same. You have faults. You are not perfect. You know you make mistakes sometimes, but that’s okay. That’s called self-acceptance, and you expect unconditional love to overcome the faults and imperfections that people have.

So what do you get from this then? Should we all go out and get dogs to teach us something about unconditional love? Maybe there is a lesson to be learnt here. We all clutter our lives with thoughts and emotions, trials and tribulations, and there is the temptation to let our issues become bigger than they really are and rule our lives.

If you are serious about saving your marriage the key is in finding ways to place the emotional clutter to one side and let your unconditional love come through. It is okay to have faults and make mistakes. It’s okay to have thoughts and feelings. But above all of this is the love you have for your spouse, the love you have for one another. And love will conquer them all.

It is possible to not like your spouse or not like what they are doing and still love them. It’s possible to not like where your life or your marriage is at but still love your spouse. The love you have for your spouse and your marriage can remain constant.

It’s time to learn how to reconnect with your life purpose and learn to love unconditionally.

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