A day or so before our wedding, my husband and I went to a party store to buy some supplies for the reception. Running the checkout counter was a man telling anyone who would listen that he finally got his divorce, was finally free and that it was the best day of his life. As we were paying for our goods he inquired what the occasion was, and we told him we were getting married. He told us that it was nice we were getting married, and that he had just finalized his divorce.
Then he said “Always keep the lines of communication open. For us,” he said, “communication just ground to a halt! GROUND. TO. A. HALT.” We stared at him like deer in headlights, and might have mumbled some sort of assent as he handed us our stuff and we left.
From time to time we recall that scene fondly.
As I was reading through the recent FMH thread on housework I was struck by how many people seemed reluctant to talk to, and more especially to ask things of their partners. Perhaps the raving cashier at the party store had given us better advice than we initially thought. But it isn’t a huge secret that one is supposed to ‘keep the lines of communication open.’ Most people struggling to get their partner to understand them aren’t idiots and would just talk about it if they felt like it would do any good.
I’ve been to my share of ‘eternal marriage’ classes and they all play up the idea of different communication styles, and how men and women communicate so differently, and all you need to do is learn how the other sex communicates to ease the flow of ideas between you. But surely there are far more communication styles than ‘male’ and ‘female’ and many of them are not gender specific in the least. How can you learn your spouse’s style other than by careful attention and practice? How do you get this practice without stepping on each other’s toes?
I’m curious how other people navigate this potential minefield, and what advice they would shout at give to the engaged before they get married.
For me I’m married to a very kind man. Through all the time I’ve known him he has maintained a pattern in his discourse that is never ever cruel. I came from a home where teasing and sarcasm were thick on the ground and no subject was off-limits, and so I had (have?) a thin skin when it comes to criticism even though I was (am?) inclined to have a sharp tongue. I credit his habit of always speaking kindly with setting the tone for both of us. This underlying pattern of kindness allows us both to broach hard topics in a safe way and know that we never mean harm even when we do step on each other’s toes.