They say marriages are made in heaven. But so are thunder and lightning.
Words of comfort, skillfully administered, are the oldest therapy known to man.
A sleek, black Lexus caught my eye in the next lane. Wow. It was shiny and new, and the sun hit it just right. It’s a good thing I noticed it because all of a sudden it cut me off! So I’m driving behind this gorgeous car, and I veered into the left turning lane (with my signal on). Again, this Lexus cut me off to do the same (but without a signal). What?! Am I supposed to know where he’s going?!
As we both made the left turn, he made a quick right into a gas station, once again with no signal. Because I’d kept my distance for my own car’s sake, it wasn’t dramatic, but it made me mad. Such a beautiful vehicle but the driver was clueless!
I call this “driving on the inside of the car,” and it’s one of my biggest pet peeves. There are many of these people on the road—those who don’t think to let others know what they’re doing by flipping a simple switch. (Actually, when I think about it, it really shouldn’t bug me. It is, after all, job security for my husband! But I digress…)
It’s called a failure to communicate. And it doesn’t just happen on the road. It happens in relationships every day. Someone is acting on the thoughts inside her head, and she expects others to be able to understand exactly what she’s doing and why. But if she doesn’t give out the proper signals, she runs the risk of making someone angry or, worse, causing damage to herself and others.
Lost in Translation
Communication can be so tricky at times. Words come from deep within a person’s soul and heart. They come with a set of values, experiences, and personal makeup. On the other end, the same words are received into a new set of values, experiences, and different personal makeup. At times I speak a different language from my husband. I can speak a different language from my kids, my mother-in-law, or fill in the blank.
Much of our communication gets lost in translation. If good communication is critical for a lasting relationship, how can we learn to speak each other’s language?
The most obvious way is to spend time with each other. That’s a no brainer. But what about when things change, like when a child is born or a critical incident occurs? What about when time goes by, you lose touch, and suddenly you are clueless to what’s going on with your husband?
Brent and I had reached a point in our marriage where we were in a rut, struggling to understand each other. We were clashing, not in sync, and we were both frustrated. Then Brent brought home a book called The Delicate Art of Dancing with Porcupines, by Bob Phillips. This book is based on four types of people— the analytical, the driver, the expressive, and the amiable— and explores how these people interact and communicate. [i] We answered the questions in the book and were amazed at the results.
When I understood the natural tendencies of my husband, it was a huge “aha” moment and vice versa. We spent a couple of hours laughing over each other’s tendencies and how we differ. It gave us freedom to be ourselves and a non-threatening way to give each other the freedom to be who we are. It was a huge step toward understanding each other, and our relationship has only gotten better because of it. When we come to a situation from two different sides, we are able to see where each other is coming from and then come to a better solution for both.
We also learned about a similar program through our church that was adapted from several sources. This tool categorizes people into colors based on personalities. Red people love fun and are very talkative. Blue people tend to be caretakers, romantic, cooperative, and peacemakers. Green people are problem solvers, leaders, and logical in their thinking. Yellow people are planners, punctual, and structured. We became more self-aware and learned how our colors respond to each other.
Brent is a green, and I am a blue-red combo. Bring our kids into the mix and we have all four colors represented. In moments of peace, we all actually talk about what colors we are. It helps to understand why we do what we do and react how we react. It is a valuable tool to step outside of ourselves and see each other with different eyes.
[i] Bob Phillips, The Delicate Art of Dancing with Porcupines, (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1989) page 43.