Has this ever happened to you? Things are going pretty good in your relationship and you don’t want to “rock the boat” and say something that might upset your loved one. You may believe that it is safer to just say nothing. Perhaps it has been your pattern to ignore, deny, minimize or rationalize what you’re feeling or experiencing just to keep the peace and not “rock the boat.”
I lived my life with those unhealthy patterns for many years because I didn’t know any better. I wasn’t taught how to communicate effectively, especially being assertive and asking for what I wanted. When my ex-husband sensed something was bothering me, he would ask, “Is something wrong?” I would automatically say, “No, nothing is wrong.” We both played the same game saying nothing was wrong, instead of being honest and open. I would continue to feel hurt, sulk or cry until we got to the bottom of things. Often, it would be days or weeks before I was aware of what I was feeling. I was good at pushing my feelings down by staying busy or eating or whatever else I did to avoid my feelings.
I remember a time when I was married and we were having company. I was running around the house like a chicken without a head and my ex-husband was sitting on the couch reading the newspaper. I was vacuuming the rug when he asked, “Is something wrong?” I blew up and said, “Can’t you see I need help?” He said, “All you needed to do was ask me to vacuum and I would have been happy to do it.” He was right. I expected him to read my mind, which is another unhealthy pattern that we fell into.
As I got stronger and learned how to communicate assertively and effectively, I started to speak up and ask for what I wanted as well as what I didn’t want in our relationship. In fact, I have heard you teach what you need to learn. For many years, I taught weekly interpersonal skills groups when I worked at the VA hospital. Speaking up didn’t always work and my ex-husband didn’t like it. Changing patterns in a relationship takes a lot of work and both parties have to be willing to change or it doesn’t work. It takes courage and trust in yourself to speak up and perhaps upset the apple cart. It’s risky business because the relationship may not last. In fact, it didn’t last and my marriage of 30 years ended 17 years ago.
Larry and I have great communication skills. We invite each other to be honest and open. We take the time to listen to each other and take responsibility for our actions, and often end up laughing at ourselves. Because our relationship is healthy and open, it is easy for me to bring up something that may be bothering me. I no longer, deny, minimize, ignore or rationalize what I am feeling or experiencing.
For the past week, I have had the “opportunity” to practice and speak up to Larry about a few things that upset me. They weren’t big things, but nonetheless, I chose to share them with him because I didn’t want things to build up inside of me and then come out sideways a month later. As I shared earlier, in the past, it might have taken me days or weeks to get in touch with my feelings and realize I was upset about something. For the most part, today I am aware almost immediately of what I’m feeling and share if it is appropriate and for the good of our relationship.
I realized my “history” of “speaking up” did rock the boat and ended our 30 – year marriage. Even though I will not return to unhealthy patterns of communication and behaviors, I felt vulnerable and fearful of what might happen with Larry and me because I spoke up and asked clearly for what I wanted and shared what I didn’t want. Deep down, I sensed this wasn’t about my relationship with Larry, but past relationships and what happened.
I prayed and asked God for help. Here is what I heard Spirit say: “As you speak up and share your truth, you are modeling healthy communication and this is good, Pat. Don’t be afraid, trust me, trust yourself and trust your relationship.”
I am choosing love instead of fear. Today love means being honest, open, willing, authentic, trusting, worthy and deserving. Fear means holding back, denying, pretending, running away, pushing away, minimizing, pleasing another at the expense of myself and not rocking the boat.
I invited Larry to share his thoughts, feelings and history about communication in a relationship.
I believe that communication is crucial in any relationship, especially with your partner. Like Pat, I didn’t have the skills to communicate in my first marriage, but I have had a lot of years to practice and learn. If my ex-wife confronted me with something that was bothering her, I would automatically get “defensive” because it made me feel “wrong” and I didn’t like that. I didn’t understand that it was her perspective and it didn’t automatically make me wrong.
Today, I am open to listen when something is bothering Pat and I don’t have to defend myself. We are able to work things out so both of our needs are met. When Pat has a problem I try to be present to her with patience and kindness even though I may be seeing things from an entirely different prospective and may not agree with her. It’s not always easy but we both feel it’s worth it.
I am so fortunate that Pat has the great communication skills that she has. She seems to be able to get right to the point of a situation without being “accusatory” or insensitive and that’s great. That doesn’t necessarily make it easy for me because most times, the result is that I have to look at myself and my actions to discern what is going on that I may need to change.
Pat is teaching me how to communicate more effectively and ask for what I want, which is something I didn’t do real well. Looking back, I realize I didn’t ask for what I wanted because I didn’t know what I wanted. I was focused on my family and pleasing them and making them happy. I also didn’t feel deserving to ask even if I did know what I wanted. The beginning of my journey to find out who I was and what I wanted started many years ago when I lost everything: my home, family and business.
It is in a man’s DNA to “protect” his woman. I had a tendency to want to “help” whether it was wanted, appreciated or needed. I am learning to ask Pat if she wants my help and let her make the decision. Pat feels respected knowing she can do something on her own if she wants to, and it also takes the pressure off me to always feel like I have to help her.
I believe Pat feels a sense of love, security and protection, but I am not taking care of her, she is an intelligent woman who makes her own decisions, knows what she likes and dislikes and makes her choices accordingly. We are a couple who love and care for one another, love spending time together and doing things together and we each have our own lives and interests apart. We are joined at the heart not at the hip.
I am trying to live my life as a “vessel of love” and to do that I’ve had to make a lot of changes. I’m still learning to turn to the energy and light of love within when I need guidance and not allow fear and ego to influence me. Love has never failed me and never will. There is nothing stronger than the energy of love.
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