Thursday, March 25, 2010

Silence, And Compromises.

I love silence - revel in it, delight in it, bathe in it, rest in it. All the years of screeching voices in childhood and early adulthood, left me with a longing, and need, for silence.

I play music in my car, but at home rarely play music unless I'm engaged in artwork, and then it's usually classical. Before I was married, I used to play music often at home. Now I'm so grateful for silence when I'm alone, that it doesn't occur to me. This is a direct result of my spouse being someone who uses the tv as a background noise. (I use the word "noise" in the full sense of the word - a cacophony, clamor, tumult, uproar.)

Over the years, we've come to a few compromises about this, and it's more bearable than it was, but were it up to me, the darn thing would never get turned on. I wouldn't have one, if it were up to me. I didn't have one, when I lived alone. I'm an avid reader, so for me, the tv has always been a poor substitute for any book.

I have no control over the fact that my spouse is an avid television watcher, who can sit for hours in the evenings, watching "the best of the worst," as he descibes it. If the sound of the tv maddens me, I can get up and come to my workroom.

Relationships require compromise - no two people are going to agree on all the minutiae of life. My task is to work those compromises, without subtly sending a message that I'm compromising like anything, even though I know my way of relaxing/training the dogs/insert activity, is superior.

It's very interesting just how many forms of non-verbal communication are consumately effective at passing that message - sighing, a too-cheery tone of voice, eye contact held a micro-second too long - all ways to get our import across, and still be able to exclaim in pseudo-surprise, "What? What?" when the other person protests this, as some braver souls will.

That's where the "When you ____, I feel _____." statements are so useful. We aren't accusing, blaming, or controlling, if all we are doing is being direct about how we feel when the other person repeatedly gives dramatic sighs which wouldn't be out of place in a Shakespeare performance, while fufilling their part of a compromise, to which they willingly agreed.

But what we must not do, is use the statement to tell the other person they are in the wrong, as in "When you sigh like that, I feel like you are mocking me." That's telling the other person what they are doing. Anything after the word "feel" in one of these sentences, must be a feeling, for this to work. And it does work, astoundingly well, most likely because we aren't attacking or blaming, we're just saying where we're at. So:

"When you sigh like that, I feel irritated." Or frustrated, embarassed, ashamed, guilty, whatever the emotion is, name it, and then leave it alone.

(Don't try this with an intoxicated alcoholic, or you might get the response I did from my first husband, who replied firmly, "Well,  just don't feel that way, and you'll be fine."
I went and called my sponsor.)

I didn't want to believe I was powerless over others, but when I did slowly begin to accept that reality, then I needed some new skills with which to cope with my life and my relationships. Compromise was not a skill in my repertoire, and it felt ungainly and wierd trying it out, but the more I did it, the easier it became - so it goes.

Nowadays, I stop to consider "How Important Is It?" Many times, in truth, most of the time, it isn't important at all. I've just gotten stuck on it, like a slowly-moving car on a large speedbump, and I need a bit of gas to get me up and over, to continue my progress.

Because I am so much more willing to compromise, when I do have a point beyond which I'm not able to go, it's usually respected by the other person. Not always, this isn't a perfect world, but usually.
I can live with that.


  1. I too play music in my car. Rather loudly. But otherwise, I prefer QUIET....

    Saying what I feel can sometimes be difficult to communicate, I have found myself telling the person what they are doing, as you say, that does not work.

    Great post.

  2. Well said. And this reminds me of Mr. Sponsor Pants comments this week on TICK TICK BOOM. How alcoholics and alanoners alike need reminders about asking for what we need. If we don't speak up (expecting the other person to intuit our needs) we stuff our feelings and then BLOW. It's tricky stuff knowing how to advocate for oneself without sounding demanding or self-righteous. Ironically, when I do so from a place of self-care, I feel so much better about the situation that I'm more willing to compromise on the outcome. I suppose I must also "Let It Begins With Me".
    As always, your insight marvelous!

  3. I agree with you about "How Important Is It?" It's made a huge difference in my life from I reacted before the program. Have a great weekend!