Friday, May 24, 2013

Marriage Files: #102 - Hand signals

I am not a fan of baseball, but after years being forced to attend Omaha and Kansas City Royals games, I've come to learn a few things.  One of them is the art of silent communication - mostly in the form of hand signals.

If you're paying close attention to a baseball game, there is a plethora of nonverbal conversation going on between the players.  The signals from the coach, the motions from the pitcher to the catcher, and the body language between the players makes the whole game.  A single one of them can change it all.

Marriage is much like that from what I've observed.

We read a lot into the little things our spouse does or does not do.  You'll note the word I use is "do" not "say".  Even when we're good about saying the things that support a relationship (Please, Thank You, I love you, I appreciate you, etc.), what we do actually makes a much bigger impression.

One of the things we're working on in our home is being more attentive and following through.  It's easy to get busy and forget to spend time and effort on one another.   One of the ways you show you're still 100% there is by the small gestures that say, I'm a part of this.  Whether it's putting the dishes away instead of waiting for someone to get around to it, taking the laundry out and putting away what you can, or giving a footrub for no reason - just because it was "one of those days" - there is a message being sent.

Likewise, deliberately ignoring messes because "it's not my job" or leaving a mess assuming someone else will take care of it also leaves a message.  Being late to an event that is important to a family member or forgetting a birthday or anniversary speaks just as loudly as if you were to say, "You're just not that important to me."

There are a litany of reasons we give, and I include myself because I've been guilty of times of the same things, that include "I'm got busy.  I didn't realize.  I didn't see.  I forgot.  I'm human."    And for a single mistake, those are all reasonable but if it becomes a pattern of behavior - then that's a whole different topic.

I find that when I continually forget or overlook something, it's because subconsciously - I've got a reason.  Whether it's unhappiness with the person for something else, a resistance to be a part of the event or activity, or overall unhappiness in my life that I want someone to notice.   Our actions always give us away because it's hard to genuinely want to be kind or present if there are issues.

So, what to do?  Communicate better.  If there are things that make you not want to participate in the home, talk them out.  Resolution or compromise will go a long way towards making any relationship work - not just with your spouses.  If your nonverbal communication doesn't match your verbal patter, maybe it's time to have a heart to heart and figure out what it is you're having trouble saying aloud.

After all, you're still saying it - only the actions can sometimes hurt worse than the words. 

In the end, dealing with the small things up front often prevents them from escalataing into big things.  I was told that in the first 5 years of marriage you fight more than in the remaining 45 put together.  Why?  Because you're learning how to communicate.  You're figuring out the other person's moods, needs, wants and both of you are adapting.

You're learning the marriage hand signals.  Even a rookie will tell you, it may take time to learn them all but it makes the game so much more fun (and productive) to play.

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