We’ve seen enough romantic comedies to know the phrase: Speak now or forever hold your peace.
And once we hear those words, we are usually waiting for the star-crossed lover to make it to the chapel in time to “speak now” in order to halt a marriage between two people who clearly aren’t right for each other. Often only occuring in cheesy Lifetime movies, this heart-pounding moment has taught us that not “speaking now” holds a wealth of heartbreak and missed opportunity. As the viewers curled up on the couch, cradling a salty snack and glued to the screen, we want to believe in the passionate bravery that comes with speaking up… all in the name of love, of course.
But the reality is, these intense emotional moments do essentially exist only in the cheesy Lifetime movies. Why is that?
Are we too scared to speak up?
Study after study on divorce and relationships have revealed that lack of communication is the leading cause for divorce. Why is the hardest person to talk to the one that you’re supposed to trust the most? How is it that you can’t communicate with those closest to you? When we put it like that, it makes us scratch our heads: I don’t know – I don’t want to hurt their feelings! But if you’ve been in any close relationship (platonic or romantic) you probably know that it hurts much more to be lied to than to have someone kindly speak up and tell you they like a little quiet time every now and then.
I’ll be the first to admit: I’m the worst at communicating my feelings. It’s like something comes over me and I become a mute. I remember ex-boyfriends trying to decipher what’s going on in my mind, but I would just reply, “Nothing.” Lie. Such a lie. It’s not that I didn’t want to tell them when they asked, “What are you thinking about?” But I was thinking about so much that I didn’t even know where to start. The real question was, what wasn’t I thinking about?!
As you can imagine, I haven’t survived to see a long-term relationship.
I hate to admit fear. But a lot of times I am scared to speak up. I am much better at writing out my feelings and would rather communicate via handwritten letters. But that doesn’t really work all the time. I’m not in second grade anymore, and if I want to know if someone “likes” me, I’m going to have to do more than send a note across the abyss of a classroom scribbled with two boxes titled ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
This isn’t elementary school anymore.
It’s hard to swallow, but for most people, communicating simply sucks. People who have struggled like myself know that sharing our thoughts is much easier said than done. In many cases, we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, and we don’t want to jeopardize someone’s opinion of us. We also might just find it easier to go with the flow (guilty). However, I’ve learned lately that if we are worried about what people think when we do communicate our thoughts and feelings, then we should be way more weary that they know nothing about us because we haven’t spoken up.
No one wants to cause a splash in the serene waters of peaceful agreement. But if you get too far down the river without offering your stroke of the paddle, you’ll be swept up in a current too strong to escape. You’ll find yourself at the end of a path you didn’t want to go down, and it’ll be too late to say anything.
Instead of avoiding difficult conversations, practice and take baby steps until you get more comfortable communicating. Start with the smaller issues you’ve been letting slide under the radar. Something as little as, “Do you think we could watch something else? The History Channel is getting a little stale,” could be the ticket to you feeling confident enough to start sharing your ideas more.
It’s so much easier to turn to others to complain about our grievances and pet peeves. But it gets us nowhere when the person we are complaining about has no idea. It only perpetuates the problem, making you more grumpy and the other person less aware of the root behind your mood. Go straight to the source. If I, the honorary mute, can do it… You have no excuse.
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