Sunday, November 3, 2013

Talking about Hard Things

When I was on my mission, I saw all kinds of family dynamics. Some were so good I took notes because I saw qualities I wanted in my own family. Others were heartbreaking and I cried when I got back to my apartment.

One family in particular really struggled. The mother and father weren't on the same page. At one point, the dad suggested a solution to some of their struggles. But she couldn't see his perspective. She took it as a baby-step rejection and she was very hurt.

I decided then that communication was a vital key to keeping a marriage sturdy.

Communication is a funny thing. We talk all the time, but how much do we truly communicate to and with our fellow man? It takes two parties... and patience on the part of both the sender and receiver so that the meaning is delivered with integrity. It takes willingness to open up and share things that make the sender feel vulnerable. It takes trusting the receiver won't misunderstand or assume things that weren't meant. It takes a desire to understand.

There are lots of things we communicate about- chores and tasks, ideas and principles, plans and desires, concerns and needs. Sometimes, there are things that are uncomfortable or hard to talk about- acknowledging hurts and troubles, embarrassments and ugly deeds and words that have been said.

Those hard things aren't fun to deal with, but when hard things happen, strong people are willing to talk about the elephant in the room. Because if the elephant isn't talked about, it just keeps crushing everything in the room.

My mom's side of my family has an elephant. Depression. All four of my brothers deal with it in their own ways- medication, exercise, other treatments. Mom and her sister are both on medication, as was Grandma. From observation and research, Mom and Grandma were pretty sure Grandpa had depression, as well as Mom's grandparents.

All five of us in 1987

It's important to know this problem runs in my family, so that when I have children some day, I can be pro-active in caring for them if they begin to show signs of this burden... and it's ignorant to pretend it's not there.

My husband has another elephant. There's not as much information about his elephant, and it concerns me for the sake of his (future) grandchildren. There are those within the extended family unit that aren't willing to hear what information there is, that there are others in the family that may have had this elephant in their lives. There are those who blame the individuals suffering from the elephant for their own pain, and there are those who demand the elephant never be mentioned.

That kind of communication stonewall is foolish at best, prolonging suffering of family and loved ones. In some cases, it could be deadly to deny or reject vital information.

In fact, that very thing happened between my mother and her sister. My aunt had some problems, went to her doctor and started taking medication to treat the issue. My mom had the same problems... but because my aunt insisted that her health was "none of your business," Mom couldn't benefit from her sister's doctor's insight... and Mom endured another 20 years of heartache and frustration with her body!

Health isn't the only hard thing that needs to be talked about. Another kind of hard thing that often is not discussed is behavior: I don't know anyone who likes  to hear negative things about those they love. And its not fun to be on the receiving end of a comeuppance.

But wise people accept those truths quickly and with humility. I struggle- I accept these kinds of things... but not generally as quickly or with as much humility as I know I should.

So I pray for that wisdom and humility. And like praying for patience brings opportunities to exercise patience, sometimes I wonder if its such a good idea.

How do you handle those tough conversations?

1 comment:

  1. I like the "elephant" metaphor, I am going to use it at some point I am sure. I would say that it was a "Canary" or something small and inconspicuous, but then....nobody would know what I am talking about.