What is one thing that people have struggled with for centuries? What causes the most conflict in people’s relationships today? I propose it is a misfire of communication.
I recently became a first-time mother of two beautiful cats. As anyone who has ever had cats know, they each have their own personalities and preferences. They will let you know when they are displeased, and they will let you know when they are ready for your affection.
What does this have to do with communication among people? It is in human nature to give love and receive love. However, how we go about giving and receiving love can be different from that of another. Here lies the beginning of the misfire of communication.
I love to be very affectionate. While this works well with one of my cats, it doesn’t work with the other one, Tiger Lilly. I am learning how to love Tiger Lilly on her own terms, not mine. It is not easy to do this as I find myself falling into my old habits of expressing love. When I fall into these old patterns, she lets me know and pushes away.
In our relationship with others, we often do the same thing. We express love in our habitual way, and it can be taken the wrong way. As a result, we can become hurt and defensive and the other becomes more withdrawn.
A common place where this misfire occurs is in relationships with our spouses. Men were created to give love and so typically express themselves through action. Women were created to receive love and so typically express themselves through words. It is quite common for a man to try to give solutions to his wife when she comes to him in tears only to have her feel that he isn’t listening. He then feels that she doesn’t want his advice. It is also common for a woman to try to love her husband she sees is noticeably upset by getting him to open up to her only to have him feel more upset that she is “probing” him and causing her to feel hurt because he isn’t opening up to her.
What is the solution? I am learning that the key is to let go of my habitual way of expressing love and to learn from the other through attentive observation and questions how best to communicate love on the other’s terms. Whether it is with God or others, we are to come as a novice ready to learn something new from the other.
In exchange for loving the other as the other needs it expressed to him/her, the hope is the other will do the same. But we cannot expect the other to know how we need to have love shown to us if we don’t effectively communicate our needs. It can also happen that we articulate a need or a desire in a way that seems natural for us but may come across as demanding or insensitive to another. If this happens, it helps to be attentive to the other as it may be that by sharing the need, we lost sight of how the other best needs to receive love as well.
There are some relationships that may not be matched well as one person’s need to have love expressed is unable to be met by the other. When this happens, careful discernment needs to take place as to the best course of action.
Communication misfires often occur when we make assumptions about what the other person thinks and feels. Developing good communication skills is necessary for happier and more satisfying relationships. Consider marital or relationship counseling with a Catholic therapist to help learn effective communication skills. Parents too also need to realize that each of their children have personalities all their own and will express love and receive love in different ways. Seeking a Catholic therapist for family counseling can resolve misunderstandings and improve communication to help strengthen the bonds of love among family members.
So, the next time there is a misfire of communication in your relationships or you think that the relationship has grown cold, ask yourself if you have fallen into a habitual way of expressing love and have failed to remain a novice learner of how the other person best needs love to be communicated. If resentment has creeped in, ask yourself if you have failed to express the way you need to have love shown to you.
By taking these simple steps, you will be on your way to improving your relationships and having a happier life.
- Misfire of Communication – Lessons Learned from a Cat - October 11, 2021
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