When I say that I used to be the world’s worst communicator, it’s no joke. For some reason I believed that people should take the time to get to know me, and after that, if they wanted information from me they should be able to just read my mind. Reaching out to others was a foreign concept to me. I would have been just fine living alone in the forest with no human contact whatsoever. Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved people. However, my insecurities and lack of emotional health limited me in relationships. I’m not sure of the causation of that belief system, but needless to say, I was very self focused and not very good at expressing what was happening on the inside. This really became highlighted once I was married.
Over the course of our marriage, I made the wrong assumption that she should know what my needs were. And, I thought that her needs were being met by my mere presence. Man, did I miss that one by a mile. One day while we were dating, I had the bright Idea of taking her on a hike up a mountain in rural Arkansas. Anna and I fell in love with each other on our first date, so time together, even from the beginning, was filled with anticipation and excitement. Since I was an avid outdoorsman, I wanted to impress her with what I knew about the great outdoors. We started the steep ascent up the mountain together in harmony and joy. About halfway up the hike, Anna became unusually quiet and began complaining about abdominal pain. My first thought was, “do you need to go to the bathroom?” She immediately said no, so I was left wondering what in the world was happening to this perfectly planned out adventure as we slowly descended. At times, I thought about calling Med Flight or picking her up to carry her. No matter what I said, she couldn’t tell me what was going on with her. I felt helpless to rescue her. All I could do was walk slowly beside her as we made many periodic stops on our way back to the base of the trail. When we arrived, she quickly made her way to an outhouse and about fifteen minutes later she came out smiling. I asked “Are you OK”?, and she replied “oh yes I feel much better!” I said “Why didn’t you tell me what was going on while we were on the mountain? I was so worried!”. She told me that she was embarrassed to just simply say that she had an upset stomach. I understand, after all it was only our second date. Who wants to admit that they are about to blow out their britches on their second date?
Looking back on our fourteen years of marriage, I could have learned something about relationships from that mountain hike adventure. The revelation of what I discovered would have saved me many years of heartache and miscommunication. My wife has needs and they are completely seperate from my needs. She needs my strength, support, and most of all she needs me to understand her. I should have been able to read between the lines on that mountain, but I was clueless. And she should have been able to admit that she was human like the rest of us and not worry that I would judge her for an uncontrollable situation.
And that right there is the key. What I learned is that, for the most part, we are clueless to the internal needs of others. We walk with people in this life hoping to get our needs met instead of asking the hard questions and getting to the heart of the matter. This is essential to relational health. We cant rely on what others tell us, we must dig a little deeper – push for clarity and understanding.
Now 14 years later, when we climb that mountain I know that we are going to make it. I make sure we’ve used the potty before we hike. Then, we climb to the top every time and enjoy the journey. We’ve learned to communicate and make it a point to understand each other, never assuming we already have the answers. It took me many years of climbing mountains only to go halfway and turn around, coming back in defeat. Now, with clear communication, we’re equipped to take on any challenge …
What areas of your life, be it relationships with your spouse, a boss, or your children, do you need to find clarity in your communication?