But I don't just live by myself.
I live in a family and a community. I am a couple. I am a parent and a child and a friend and a lover. And so, though my work is my own, I then take these new things that I discover in myself and I bring them to you – all these people in my life. And my hope is that I can connect with you and then grow together with you.
And I say look, this is me now! This is who I am. This is what I know. Love me as I want to love you. This is good!! And I mean it. Truly. And then cannot understand why you, this important person in my life, my husband, child, parent, sister, teacher, friend does not understand me. Cannot understand what I am saying. Cannot hear me. And so does not join in my journey with me but instead seems to take a different path away from where I am heading.
Communication is an interesting thing. When I speak and I listen from the heart, well that is easy. That is why I am able to know what my dogs are saying. That is why, when my children were babies they are my babies still, I knew when they were hungry or tired or lonely and in need of my arms around them even before they had the language of words. It is why I can respond to my husband before he asks the question. And this, this is a beautiful thing.
But unspoken communication does not happen all the time. And so though I may be deeply in tune with what I am feeling, I need to be able to speak in a language that best captures these feelings so that you can understand what I am saying. And that, I think, it where a lot of the disconnect occurs.
i am a divorce mediator by trade. And one of the things that happened over and over again, when a couple found themselves around my table is that one person was always so surprised to be there. I had no idea he/she was so unhappy until he/she said they wanted a divorce. And then the other person will always respond that they have been saying that I have been unhappy for years. For YEARS. And how painful it is that they were not heard. And now here we are, too late to fix it.
And they will sit at my table and look at each other in shock. One party thinking I worked my ass off to support this family/raise these children/care for this person/do my best as their spouse while the other is thinking I said so many times how unhappy I was/I only wanted some time with them/I just needed to be heard.
Now I don't want to blame the messenger so to speak. And so I was always really careful when I responded to this obvious disconnect in the communication between these two people. And I will be really careful here, too. Because there is no blame. Not usually. But there is a language barrier.
Because if the – I will use this scenario - husband says over and over again that he is feeling unloved and unimportant and wants to try and rekindle something in their marriage and the wife is not responding, he has a responsibility to make sure that he is speaking her language. If he says, over and over again, I feel lonely but he says it in English and she only speaks Spanish, she is not going to understand him. At all.
And this happens all the time. And so, while there is absolutely the case many times where the same language is spoken and the disconnect is there because someone doesn't care/won't change/is stuck, more often it is just that the wrong language is being used. And because we can't understand each other, a true disconnect does eventually occur and the breakdown of the relationship becomes real.
And so – back to me and you now - it is my responsibility to learn your language so that my communication to you can be authentically given and received.
Now, there is a lot of talk about languages of love. And I think this book/concept is brilliant. In a successful relationship we do need to understand how that other person expresses and receives love so that we can get in on with them and everyone is happy. And so if you are a gift giver but your partner just wants to touch you, no matter how many gifts you buy them, well they'll be like where's the love? Meanwhile, they're touching you all the time and you're feeling groped and wonder when are they going to go buy you something to show you that they care about you. Disconnect. And so we learn each other's love languages. Or we are lucky and we speak the same ones from the get go. And life is easy. Around love.
But what about when I am not feeling love. When I am growing and discovering new things about myself. When I want to share this new direction that my journey is taking. Or more, when I am angry. Or upset. Lonely. Bitter. Struggling or feeling betrayed. I need to be able to speak your language then, too.
And I say speak. Not hear. I need to be able to speak your language. I am the one coming to the table with this new direction I am going in or this problem/worry/concern/challenge/sorrow. And so, though I hope that my husband/child/parent/friend will take the time to learn a bit of English, my first responsibility is to speak a little Spanish.
But there is a saving grace here. Because I don't have to speak this foreign language while pretending I know it perfectly. It is ok to say, hey, my Spanish is not so good, but I am trying to communicate with you this way because I care so much about you and I want you to hear me. And it is ok to say, and if you don't understand what I am saying, please tell me and I will try to say it a different way.
Because just that, that I am trying to communicate to you in a way that you will understand what I am saying but please work with me to help me be clear for you, that is the beginning of communicating clearly. That is expressing that I care enough about you that I am striving to be understood.
Striving to be understood, not assuming that I am understood.
When I assume that I am understood, well that is the first step in the breakdown of communication. When what I have to say is important, taking for granted that I will be understood does not honor the importance of what I am feeling and wanting to share. And then, when you don't respond I risk assuming you don't care. But really you don't understand.
I vow to try never to assume. I vow to try to always be clear. To ask you if I am being clear. To ask you, this important person in my life that I am striving to relate to and share with and grow with, whether you understand what I am saying. I may ask you to repeat back to me what I say, strange as that sounds, so that we are both sure that the message is getting through. And I may ask you to teach me Spanish if I am having trouble with it. So that I can speak to you in a way that you will understand.
And I may throw in some English too, but will teach you that if I do.