Tag Archives: communication

Reflecting on Emotional Connection

I’ve been talking with my new guy about my relationship with my ex – the way it was that led us to divorce – and that prompted me to go back through my journal.  My journal is basically a collection of posts from my CafeMom days and older blogs – most of which were never publicized.

I found an entry regarding Emotional Connection, which is something that my ex and I tried to improve.  I wrote:

I want to be able to go to my husband and receive understanding, not get problem solving. It is OK to get some problem solving, but AFTER receiving some sympathy and understanding. When something is on my mind (good or bad), I want to be able to talk to him about it and have him interact with me.

Emotional connection to me is being able to share my feelings in the hopes that I will be understood.  It is very different from asking for advice or help, but may lead to talking about what to do in a situation.  I need to stress that I would need be the one to lead the conversation in that direction.  My primary focus is to be heard and understood.

Mid-Life Baggage

The question:

We all have complicated histories. When was the last time your past experiences informed a major decision you’ve made?

The answer:

The closer a person is to middle age, the heavier their baggage becomes.  Hence, the mid life crisis – that stage in life where couples who appear to be happy or to have it all end up divorced.  That is where I am – a middle aged divorced woman navigating a dating world she has been away from for 25 years.

I have not had any major decisions since my divorce, but I pay attention to the small signs in my new relationship that provide hints on how compatible we are.  That is the primary reason my ex and I are divorced, we weren’t really all that compatible – especially once kids were added to the mix.

Following are three areas in which my ex and I struggled and how I’m paying attention with this new guy to see if he is more compatible with me.

Communication I look for signs that my new guy can handle difficult communication.  We are in the very early stages of romance, but have at least had one small bit of conflict.  I was pleased with the way he handled it.  He let me state my frustrations (initially via texting), did not feel the need to defend himself – just listened (or read), and then when I sent a bitchy text he called me so that we could clear the air.  Not dramatically different than the way it would have gone down with ex, but ex would have defended himself or reasoned with me when all I wanted to do was state my feelings and be heard.

Family values was another area where my ex and I differed too much.  Family is important to me and I will spend time doing something with family that I may not have done on my own – just so I can be with them.  When my parents would visit, the only thing my ex wanted to do with them was eat.  Again, I am in the very early stages of the relationship with my new guy, but I look for clues in how important his relationship is with his family.  So far I’m pretty impressed.  He has no living parents, so can’t speak to that.  He seems to put emphasis on his kids, not only in spending time with them but in understanding them.

Hobbies and entertainment was an area where the ex and I struggled a bit, but not to a degree as great as the above.  Ex liked hobbies that weren’t very kid friendly and disliked things that the average kid enjoys.  Our kids love being in the water and we had a couple of different seasonal pools in the yard over the years.  Not only did ex not want to get into the pool with the kids, but he didn’t want to have ANYthing to do with the pool.  To a very extreme degree.  I look for signs that my new guy finds interests that he can share with his kids.  Some examples include: fishing, swimming, hiking, camping and many more family fun activities.

In response to Baggage Check daily prompt.

Conflict

It is unavoidable, if you want to be around other humans.  It is how conflict is handled that separates the emotionally intelligent from the emotionally disabled.  I’ve been on the emotionally disabled side for most of my life and am steadily moving into the emotionally intelligent side.

Like anyone else, I have relationship fears and sometimes those fears simmer for too long (my fault) and then boil over suddenly.  That is what happened to me last night.

New guy and I said we’d meet for dinner last night.  We’ve been texting about it since Saturday, but weren’t sure if it would be a lunch date or dinner date.  Sunday we decided it would be a dinner date, but did not set a time and pick a place.  As I mentioned yesterday, he’s not caught up on instant communication like many of us are.  He got busy with some yard chores and didn’t text me until almost 7 pm, as I was eating my dinner at home.

We texted, but it was apparent that we were both grumpy.  Him from yard work and me from waiting.  Although it wasn’t ugly, it was conflict.

Bottom line is that I’m very pleased with the way he handled it.  When it became apparent that we were both grumpy and texting was not helping, he called.  That was pretty amazing, especially considering we’ve only been dating for a week and a half.  At that rate it would have been easy for many men to just write me off as a crazy bitch!  Too much work.  Too many expectations.

But he didn’t, and I’m happy for that!

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Instant Communication

Instant communication has many benefits, but also has serious draw backs.  What happens when two people start dating and one has embraced the instant communication / social media culture and the other has not?

I’m the one who has embraced the instant and he has only mildly embraced it. Due to that, these are the thoughts that run through my head:

  • Hmmm, why didn’t he respond to my text?
  • Does he have a headache?
  • Is he busy?
  • Did I text him one too many times?
  • Am I coming off as being needy?
  • Pushy?
  • Overly communicative too soon?
  • Would he tell me if he felt any of the above were true, or just dump me?
  • OMG – he texted me.  Do I reply right now?
  • How long should I wait to reply?
  • What if he’s used to me replying relatively quickly and I wait for awhile, what would happen?

Why do I feel like I’m playing a game to which I don’t know the rules?

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Communication

I’ve been keying in on the fact that my ex is not that great at communicating.  I’m not either, but I really believe I’m not as bad off in that department as he is.  Yep, I just said I’m better than him!

We had a discussion via text this morning, that although most people would consider mild – for us it was equivalent to a screaming match.  It was because I resisted the passive / aggressive and manipulative conversation style that we typically fall into when there is conflict.  Read here for more educated descriptions of the basic communication styles.

The gist of the disagreement was that he wanted me to do something that was inconvenient for me because it was also inconvenient for him.  But he did not want to say “no” so hinted at how difficult it would be for him.  He wanted me to take the hint (manipulation).  I wanted him to be more direct and say either “yes” or “no.”

In other words, I didn’t want to let him off easy like I have so many times before.  He’s done this to me too many times.  Forcing me to make a decision that is rightfully his to make (which it was in this case), just so he doesn’t have to feel like the bad guy.  And apparently that is very difficult for him because he DID back down and agree to do this thing.

I would have equally accepted a “no” answer, which I told him.  May not have been happy with it, but I would have gotten over it pretty quickly.

Manipulation

I’ve written about this before, here, regarding my oldest son.  But it is clear where he gets this trait from, at least the majority of it anyway.  From his father.  No, I’m not perfect and I’m using this as a learning opportunity – not as a rag on the ex opportunity.

As a refresher, here’s the definition:

/məˈnipyəˌlāt/

Merriam Webster says that manipulation is “to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage.”

Here’s the situation:

Oldest son mows the yard for $5 with an extra $5 if he string trims.  It’s a BIG yard.  His dad comes bustling into the house yesterday afternoon after several days away and only seeing them for 5 minutes over the weekend.  He promptly tells oldest to get his shoes on because it is time to mow.  Oldest says he’s really not in the mood to mow.  Ex is clearly irritated and in a confrontational mood and says oldest cannot have computer for the night.  Ex knows that this is the way to get oldest son’s attention.  Oldest was willing to go without earning the $5 to $10, but was NOT expecting to have computer taken away.  Ex clearly did not want to mow the lawn either, but knew that it needed to be done.

What could happen differently?

In my humble (Ok – not so humble) opinion, ex would have had much more success if he had sat down and had a conversation for a few minutes and then gradually brought up that the lawn needed to be mowed.  But ex seemed to be in a hurry to get it done, which gave the impression that he didn’t really want to hang out.  As soon as oldest indicated his lack of desire to mow, in a very respectful way – mind you, ex chose not to show any empathy but instead went on the attack.  If he had shown a little empathy for oldest’s feelings, oldest most likely would have come around quickly and would not have been upset about the whole situation.

If by chance oldest did NOT come around as quickly as I suspect, ex could have given a reminder that the only way oldest earns the extra $5 to $10 is to mow the lawn.  I believe that the only cause for taking computer away would have been if oldest were disrespectful.  It felt like a manipulation tactic to me, more than skillful parenting.

The Lie

I’ve been on all sides of the triangle of deceit. The side where I have an opportunity to fess up and didn’t.  The side where I’ve given unintentional opportunities for someone to confess to me.  And the side where I’ve decided that I need to be, to fess up to uncomfortable truths.

I’m on that final side because I’ve been lied to too many times.  Sometimes it was outright lies, but most of the time it was lying by omission.  It hurts either way.

On to what triggered the posts I’ve made today.

I’ve mentioned that my ex has a girlfriend and spends a LOT of time with her.  On our ride home from school yesterday, youngest was saying he ate lunch with his dad and saw a lady from work.  He said his dad gave the lady some good advice.  I think this was the 2nd time I’d heard this story, but my ears perked up because it seemed like they ate lunch with this lady.  So I texted ex and asked if by chance youngest had met his girlfriend.  Yep.

Why wasn’t I informed?  I was pretty upset.

Got home and was trying to go for a walk to cool down, but oldest knew I was upset and kept after me.  He asked if I was upset at his dad and then said, “Oh, is this about that girl from dad’s work that was here?”

I flipped.  He had his girlfriend in MY house.  Ok – we both own the house.  But why the hell did he need to have her here?  Oldest gets home from school early on Wednesday and notices his dad is home and in the basement.  Goes down there and his dad is sending the girlfriend out the back door to leave.

That was bad, but is NOT the worst part for me.  Earlier yesterday I emailed him about some things and he emailed back and said “I am thinking about introducing the boys.”

That is the lie.  At a minimum, youngest has “met” her because he had lunch with them.  And oldest has at lease “seen” her.  It feels like it should have been a perfect opportunity for him to say, “Hey, the boys have already met / seen her.  I’m sorry I didn’t let you know ahead of time.  I just didn’t know you’d be upset.”

Back to the conversation with oldest.  He was horrified because he felt like he told on his dad and he begged me not to say anything that would let his dad know he spilled the beans.

I’m sooooo sorry for him.  His dad should have been the one to spill the beans.  I worry this will be with him for the rest of his life.  He’s scarred!

Effective Communication

It seems like this is something that most of us struggle with to some degree.  We all want to be heard, but use communication styles that may prevent our messages from getting through.  The most common ones in my house include

  • Lecturing. Ever try to get a kid to do something by lecturing?  It doesn’t work.  It is draining to all parties, even those on the peripheral of the activity.
  • Defensiveness.  Lecturing brings out the defensiveness in most people.  When someone is being lectured, they’re being told.  They don’t get to have input because it isn’t a conversation.  Another cause of defensiveness is when a person feels like they’re being attacked.  This typically happens when people forget to use their “I statements.”
  • Talking too much.  I think this is heavily related to the above points.  During a 30 minute lecture / defensiveness session, there is probably about 5 minutes of “meat.”  Why not just have a 5 minute conversation where both sides are heard and then take a break?  Sometimes the solution to communication stalemate is just letting both sides be heard.  It is pretty powerful, even when the parties involved don’t necessarily agree.
  • Expecting immediate attention.  Ever try to get results by telling someone they need to stop everything they’re doing NOW and listen to you lecture?  And then expect them to comply right away?  It doesn’t work.  First of all, you’re lecturing, which puts them on the defensive, and then you end up talking too much.
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Weaving Communication

In response to Daily Prompt Weaving the Threads.

Part 1

Anita and Derek have been having problems in their relationship.  Each feels that the other isn’t listening.  Each feels like communication is the process of being accused of wrong doing to the other.

Part 2

Charley is a defensive pre-teen.  Every time his parents try to communicate with him, he defends himself; even though the parents feel there is nothing to defend against.  His parents cannot figure out why he is always so defensive.

Part 3

Chelby and Jay are enjoying their relationship more than they have since they met 30 years ago.  Chelby suggested that they go to a workshop on effective communication.  In this workshop they learned how to communicate in a manner that allows each person to own their own feelings and state them without putting the other person on the defensive.  They learned that phrasing how they are feeling about a situation is key in avoiding putting the other person on the defensive.  For example, would you respond better to #1 or #2?

  1. Why do you always leave food wrappers and containers all over the kitchen when it is your turn to cook?  You’re such a slob.
  2. When you leave food wrappers all over after you cook I end up cleaning them up and that makes me feel like I’m being taken advantage of.?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????