I don’t really get it. How is it ever better for relationships and trust, to rely on indirect communication for genuine understanding of needs, wants, desires, feelings? I seriously hate that shit… It is only acceptable to me, when done with someone whom I trust and we get to call it out and laugh about it-TOGETHER. That is the whole point of relationships, right–the together part? Connection?
When something feels unpleasant, unfair, or upsetting, what is wrong with: “Hey, I don’t like that or that makes me uncomfortable”? Is it too vulnerable, maybe presenting the other person a chance to honestly show you what matters more, your comfort or them getting to do the thing they are doing? Or is it some statement of imperfection or defectiveness to have a need or to feel uncomfortable? And so what if it is? I may never get this.
Here are some fun examples of playfully indirect communication with Greg, as we mutually value and rely on direct communication. With sensory issues through the roof, I experience the sound quality of iPhone speaker, even on low volume, to be stressful. So, when he elects to listen to a video or podcast using speaker, I laugh and say “Hey, want to borrow my earbuds?” He laughs back and says “Nah, I’m good”. Then he grabs his earbuds and we laugh and smooch. Intentionally indirect communication would be me throwing a face, sighing deeply, expecting him to KNOW and revere my discomfort, or to ask me what is wrong. So I could be all: “nothing”, resenting him for not being a mind reader who knows and loves me as completely as I deserve…. and then becoming cold and withdrawn for an incalculable amount of time, while escalating tension by denying any issue at all.
Greg too, is sensitive to sound. One night-him upstairs in bed with me downstairs gorging on salsa and chips. The chip bag was ridiculously crinkly and noisy…even I noticed and felt self conscious that I was not a better quiet-chip-getter. Greg texted down to me: “Want me to get you a bowl for those chips?” We laughed and laughed….because him asking for what he needs is the best, never mean or judgy or cryptic. See, I cannot be counted on, to intuitively know. Some people would feel assholey about requesting less feedback from the noisy chip bag, AND YET feel Okay about causing confusion and stress with reactive and resentful coldness in response to how irritated they allowed themselves to become over a sound which vexed them.
Greg has beautiful badass courage and boundaries. He knows how to express what is right and true for himself without ever being unkind or confusing. It may be a lil nuts how irresistible I find him, each time he says no to me. After decades with people who either indirectly express discontent, or attack me with it– Nothing makes me feel as safe as a clean wholesome: “No, that won’t work for me.” My bestie is also super good at saying N.O. and I love her more each time she does. Seriously, fuck indirect communication. #hatethatshit
Well, I bring this up because yesterday, dropping off items for boys’ weekend at dad’s, I thoughtlessly sat on the arm of his couch. He shot me a nearly imperceptible sideways stink eye. I was all: “Did you just throw me a look because I am sitting on the arm of the couch?” He said “yup”. I relocated and apologized for not being more mindful AND asked “but why don’t you just say something?” He said: “I just did”. At this I laughed, hard. He was serious. What is less funny, is growing up in a home trying to learn about communication and connection from those who practice THIS and then trying to have a decent marriage with a person who insists that I cannot read their mind and know their intentions while simultaneously expecting that I remain vigilant for hints and facial expressions as indicators of what is wanted, expected, needed. Mean couch face is comical now, only because I don’t have to live like that anymore and I understand what THAT is. I do not fare well with prolonged exposure to people who rely exclusively on indirect communication or acts of WAR to express discontent—because THAT eliminates any possibility for a better understanding of each other…and requires too much begging of “what’s wrong —oh nothing”—followed by indeterminable amounts of strained silence or forced conversations.
I can be amused over the couch situation, grateful I caught the look, and recognized my couch-arm sitting as an issue and my courage to say something(so confrontational), rather than the silent slink down, into the part of the couch intended for sitting, like a naughty girl, who does not know or deserve better. I am not a mind reader. I am a truth seeker and vibe reader, for sure, who sometimes does thoughtless shit. Vibes don’t lie. People heavily invested in the appearance of being easy breezy (non-confrontational) and asking for little, tend to prefer indirect communication and are quick to judge anyone bold enough to be direct, as confrontational. But that is because they believe in one of two ways to manage discomfort–silence and war. If you are not willing to remain silent, then, you have invoked a war. That is insanity! Recovery teaches me that in healthy dynamics, people are safe to have and express differences and needs. Those expressions are not only acceptable, but expected/required–terms for engagement.
Where it is not safe or welcome to honestly express what is needed and preferred, is not a place or dynamic for me. I like knowing with certainty what the people in my life need and prefer. This is valuable information. It makes me feel close and inside, to be a part of intentional exchanges revealing our unique truths. Greg and our boys all laugh at a story in which my mother wanted me to water her cat. While visiting my mother, her cat’s waterbowl had become empty and the cat was pacing, which I did not immediately recognize as my cue to fill the bowl. Rather than asking, will you please refill the bowl, she said “the cat seems thirsty.” After hearing it the second time, I understood what was needed. I am fine with filling a water bowl. I shared this with the boys and now we all laugh anytime we hear someone hinting at something, we announce, sometimes in unison, that “The cat seems thirsty.” I recognize that this way of communicating is intended to appear undemanding…but it demands so much more than the thing that is needed, it demands a vigilance and reverence in which I cannot abide. My nervous system is permanently compromised from the required decades of vigilance and–the shame over repeatedly being asked “Why are you so defensive?” by people who were never really asking that question, at all…The real message and intent was something much less wholesome than an honest inquiry. It was never an invitation to discuss or share, –but a righteous judgment and accusation, a demand to be different. Lighten up. And also, for the record, I shall not revere other humans, especially the disapproving.
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