Why would anyone suffer at their own hand? That doesn’t even make sense.
Obviously, that would be ridiculous. Or would it?
Have you ever had one of those weeks where everything was so insanely busy that you had to rely on your calendar to tell you where you need to go and what you need to do at any given hour? Have you ever felt the burden of providing for you family so heavily that you could scarcely think of much else? Have the children and the home consumed so much of your energy that you feel apathetic and dazed? Has the pace of life become so great that you feel like you never have a quiet moment? Is your boss so disconnected from the nuts and bolts of the organization that his/her oppressive list of “action points” weigh you down as you seek to prioritize the most urgent projects? Are you caring for a sick relative or friend? Do you have an aging parent or a newborn child? Are you wondering how to pay your bills? Looking for a job? Training for an Iron-Man?
Busy. We are all busy.
This is why communicating is so important. Not just any communication, efficient communication.
Mr. and Mrs. Average-American come into my office week in and week out with a slew of gripes about life together. The single most common marital-gripe issue by far, is poor communication. However, the lack of communication isn’t always the catalyst that catapults couples into my office. Sadly, things typically have to get uh-gly, then couples burn a path to my office door.
Couples allow themselves to grow so angry and resentful and down-right bitter toward one another before even considering crossing the threshold of a Marriage Counselor’s door. However, if they have too much resentment, for too long, I can’t help them either.
Resentment comes from unspoken needs and desires. Resentment burns like a wildfire in the mind and in the heart. The devastation and destruction is difficult to calculate, except to say that once “the forest” is all burned up, there is nothing left.
So let’s look at the problem of Obvious. It may well be the biggest culprit of the three. (Did you miss the first blog on this topic? Go back and read it first, then come back here).
There are no fancy adages that warn us about the devastating power that obviousness has on a marriage. Let’s peek at a few scenarios that might feel familiar to get your mind around what I am telling ya. For example:
If you are trying to watch the big game and the door bell rings, it is obvious that you are occupied and someone else needs to get the door.
After all, this is your favorite team since childhood and this is the first season they realistically could make the playoffs—besides, your wife is up, anyhow (Ouch! Ladies, I know. Read on).
If you are cooking dinner and helping the children with homework and trying to figure out what the sticky substance is on the floor, it is obvious that you are unable to answer the incessantly ringing phone.
After all, your husband is just sitting in the next room watching the ballgame. He can clearly see that you are so busy that you haven’t even had a chance to catch the score of the game yourself (Yes, men, we see you, alright. We see you).
If you are finished with your dishes, it is obvious that they should then be placed in the dishwasher.
After all, how else are dirty dishes to get clean? And you’ve never once seen them just hop into the dishwasher unassisted.
If the bushes are growing over the windows of your home it is obvious that the hedges need to be trimmed.
After all, you do have neighborhood covenants that require manicured yards and anyone that sits in that room can clearly see that—they cannot see out the window.
If you are finished wearing an outfit for the day, it is obvious that the clothes should be placed in the laundry basket (if their mother taught them anything).
After all, leaving them on the floor would create a tripping hazard not to mention delaying when you’d get to wear it clean, again.
If you are out of soap, it is obvious that someone needs to buy more.
After all, the empty bottle sitting on the counter is a clear signal for a refill…a week after the fact.
The fundamental problem here, once again is the me-complex. It is terribly obvious to you what needs to happen, however because others are focused on themselves and their busy worlds they aren’t going to see what is so obvious to you, for that matter, they are not going to address it with the same urgency you feel, either.
But it is so-o-o-o obvious. Anyone can see what needs to happen next! Why?
Besides “the me complex” another culprit is at play…whatever it is seems like it is in plain view. Whether it is physical or not, if we believe something to be obvious to us, we believe it is obvious to everyone (again, look how egocentric we are).
If he knows you hate something, why would he purchase it? You have been painfully clear over the years that whatever it is, just isn’t your thing (or is, depending on your situation).
Additionally, so far as you know, medically and physically there is no reason the other person cannot see how obvious a problem is. So name calling or insults have no real bearing here.
Finally in that same line of thinking you know they have eyes to see. They can see to drive, see to text, see the ball game, or billions of boards on Pinterest. Why can’t they see that______ is a problem?!
So what gives?
We filter life through our own experiences. Everyone has filters. It’s why some people react to horror movies with great excitement, and others avoid them like the plague.
Because of our life experiences we pick up on different things in our environments and in people, too.
So if we all process life through our own unique experience, how outrageous is it that we are blown away by the fact someone misses something that seems so obvious? Simply, they are looking at life, people, the environment through their lens of experience—not yours. Even if you grew up in the same house, or same community or same church, each and everyone of us are going to see life through our own lens of our life experience. This logic doesn’t apply to everything, but it definitely applies to communication.
Effective communication is so important.
We have to tell the other person what we need, or what to fix, in order to bring them around to our way of “seeing” the situation.
Once you tell them, they too, can see.
I need to tell you one other thing about obvious. Telling the person once isn’t enough.
So exactly, how many times do you tell someone what you need, want or need fixed?
If it is something that is important to you, you need to tell them every time it matters to you.
I know that sounds crazy, but again, if it’s important to you—why would you risk them trying to figure it out or “get it” on their own? Why would you set yourself up for epic disappointment? Or days of seething frustration that eventually turns into stone-cold bitterness?
Perhaps you’re the gambling type and enjoy testing the odds that “they’ll get it.”
Direct communication, in the moment, takes the chance of misinterpretation and the error rate down to practically zero.
And if it is a big deal to you, a “zero error rate” is exactly what you want.
Being disappointed or let down almost always leads to frustration, resentment and bitterness.
The cumulative effect of frustration-resentment-bitterness is that it has a tragic impact on intimate relationships. It is, in arguably the fastest cooking recipe for the unraveling of a marriage that I know of. I believe the legal term is “irreconcilable differences.”
All at your own hand.
All because you don’t (or didn’t) open your mouth.
Even if it’s obvious we have to tell people what we want and need, even the ones that know us best.
We have to tell our husband or wife what we need and not rely on the obvious. They are not only thinking about themselves, but they process everything in life through the lens of the life they have experienced. That isn’t all bad. Filtering life through our experiences prevents us from making the same mistakes and helps us benefit from wisdom and our failures. No two life experiences are alike.
So next time something is super obvious, and you need the other person to help, just ask!
Think we’ve hit the mountain top on communication? Wait for the cherry on top! In my concluding blog on this topic, I’ll take you through dangers of courteousness and give some great, easily applicable tips for eliminating communication pitfalls that plague us all.
Until next week, just remember it isn’t as obvious as it seems. Trust me.