Communication is about sharing our thoughts and feelings. It involves some kind of interchange or conversation. We send and receive messages as we talk about our wants and needs.
Many times, however, our conversations with loved ones end up in misunderstandings and ongoing fights or disagreements.
Why can’t she or he listen? Why do we end up struggling to be heard and understood? It’s as though the words we speak aren’t registering or are constantly being misinterpreted.
In today’s world there are so many ways to communicate. Yet, it seems, our every day discussions with loved ones often break down and our exchanges create misunderstanding and division.
Ineffective communication creates on-going irritation and stress. We begin to see the other in less than loving ways. When communication breaks down between those we love, our relationships begin to unravel.
We need people. We need to share ideas and perspectives – our joys and laughter – our pain and sorrows. We need effective communication to solve problems, share different points of view, meet today’s challenges, hear a different narrative and seek understanding.
We hear a lot these days about climate change. Climates have been cyclic for years. Do we influence the weather patterns? I don’t know – and neither do many scientists.
But I do know that we have a huge influence on the climate of our relationships. This is especially important for our marriages.
Years ago Aaron Beck, founder of CBT, helped us understand cognitive distortions, the distorted thinking that gets us into so much trouble. They include All or Nothing Thinking, Overgeneralization, Mental Filtering, and Mind Reading among others.
When we identify and alter these thinking and communication errors, we can change the climate of our relationships.
Let’s take a closer look at these 4 distorted thinking patterns
All or Nothing Thinking
Everything is either black or white. No shades of grey. It is either/or thinking. You are either a saint or a sinner – good guy or bad guy.
This kind of thinking dehumanizes individuals because no one is either all good or all bad. When we have programmed ourselves to see things in such a rigid way, we miss all the wonderful parts of who we are.
“For I will pour water on the thirsty ground and send streams coursing through the parched earth. I will pour my spirit into your descendants and my blessing on your children. They shall sprout like grass on the prairie, like willows alongside creeks.”
There are two trees in my backyard. Their trunks touching, roots entwining, they reach high into the sky, together yet separate. They symbolize the life I shared with my husband.
The love we shared was as deep and connected as the entwining and supporting roots of these two trees. We nurtured each other while allowing the other the independence to grow in their own ways.
The tree that was Le Roy has been cut down, and the love that flowed through those roots that nourished each other now seeps into barren soil.
This was a journal entry I made after the death of my husband that reflected the life we shared. It is included in my new book, From Winter to Spring, currently being edited for publication that gives helpful information to individuals moving from losses to creating a new reality.
We bring to the marriage altar a truckload of expectations, myths, wants and wishes hoping that now I will be loved unconditionally and all my needs will be met. The problem is that the other person is bringing their own bag of history with them.
In March of this year I wrote this about a friend of mine:
“My sister – not by blood, but by a bond forged over the years.
Sometimes we are fortunate in that God gives two people a heritage that goes beyond blood, and we can truly call ourselves sisters.
Through thick and thin – good times and bad – I know I can depend on her to be there – for support – for physical assistance – someone who never thought twice to fly all the way from England to be with me when my husband was dying.”
And in the same way, she knows I will be there for her, whatever the situation she may be challenged with. It’s not keeping score.
When you want to make your money grow, you check out investment options. What amount do you need to invest and what will be your return over time.
When I was growing up, I was taught to save 10% of everything I earned. From the berry fields to my first job after high school, there was little left to put into savings after expenses.
But it was a principle I took seriously, abided by and was always amazed at how those little deposits added up over time.
When my husband and I got married, we started out barely able to make ends meet and pay the bills. In fact the first six months of our marriage we lived with his parents.
But over the years, we continued that same principle of putting away whatever we could, investing for future years. It required discipline, self-regulation, sacrifice and commitment. But it was a diligence that paid off in huge dividends.
Investing wisely took a while to learn. Some stocks were too risky, others gave no return for an investment; but after a short period of time we learned how to invest wisely and prudently, maximizing our return while minimizing the risks.
As we continue our series in relationships, we want to know how we can make our current relationships more meaningful and satisfying.
Exploring our past gives us information about what we bring with us into our present day relationships. We may not always find the answers we want, but we find enough clues to help re-direct, fix or change courses today.
Patterns are repeated from generation to generation.
Children growing up with an alcoholic parent are only too aware of how destructive addictions can have on the family. They swear they won’t repeat the same mistakes. Yet, more times than we want to recognize, children growing up in alcoholic families end up marrying an alcoholic or someone with an addictive personality.
We repeat what we are familiar with. It is what we know. To keep from repeating them, we need to have new information to work with.
Remembering those good times
We often forget the positive experiences we had growing up. There were those times when we knew we were loved and appreciated, complimented or encouraged. Who were involved in these affirming experiences?
But as we grab hold of understanding our past, we can let go of those parts that hold us hostage and keep us from swinging free into tomorrow.
My son was born without the muscles to hold up his head. A special brace was designed just for him so he could learn to walk and do all the things every kid does. It had a metal rod that went up the back and was anchored around his waist and around his forehead to hold the head up.
He never let his brace or lack of muscles deter him from grabbing hold of life and swinging into the unknown. He let go of anything that kept him grounded and swung freely.
Handicaps of any kind do not need to deter us. Difficult childhood experiences of neglect, lack of love, favoritism, alcoholism, rejection, abandonment or abuse can feel like handicaps. They can make us feel as though we are trapped in an ongoing cycle of shame, anger, self doubt or depression. But these nor any other handicaps need to keep us imprisoned to a past or unable to find hope for the future.
Let’s create a rope we can grab hold of and swing to a new way of doing things.
Years ago, I facilitated many parenting classes for Kaiser Permanente Health Education. We helped parents identify the needs of their children and the importance of establishing rules, structure and communication within the family.
If children know what is expected of them, they will know how to comply. They will understand the consequences of their choices, good or bad and know that they are making those choices.
When children are unsure, there is an undercurrent of not knowing what to do.
One way for parents to set rules and structure is to do hold periodic family meetings. In these meetings kids are able to give their input while parents make the final decisions. Here rules and responsibilities can be discussed and chores and household tasks set for everyone. It is here where the family can discuss vacation options and review different outside schedules.
Do you remember when you were a teen and couldn’t wait to leave home? You couldn’t wait to live life the way you wanted to and didn’t want anybody telling you what you could or could not do.
Kids often can’t wait to leave home, establish their own rules and leave behind sibling rivalry, jealousies and what they might view as ongoing conflicts with their parents.
But like it or not, we take our families of origin with us. We can’t run away from them.
And whether we like it or not, we often end up repeating the behaviors we saw modeled – good or bad – even if we desperately want to do things different.
For those fortunate to grow up in nurturing and caring homes, we will have the support of our families as we leave home. We still want to be on our own, but will be able to appreciate the sacrifices and values and discipline we had as kids especially when we start our own families.
But for those who grew up in less than nurturing environments, were subjected to emotional or physical abuse, leaving home represents freedom from neglect and less than favorable family dynamics. They want to remove themselves as far as possible from their family of origin.