Category Archives: Communication

For the sake of argument, let’s make it super sticky. Imagine you’re dating someone new, and you’re really into that person. Then the object of your affection asks you to share what you want and need in that relationship.

Gulp.

So you get brave and make yourself vulnerable. You tell the object of your affection that, although you understand the relationship is new, you’re enjoying that person’s company so much you’d be happy to get together… well, not every day (‘cause jeez, that might seem needy), but maybe every other day. And wow, it sure would be great if you could count on Saturday nights together. And really, you’d love it if neither of you were dating other people. And it would fill your cup if you could spend Valentine’s Day together. And just so you know, you like your coffee with sugar but no cream.

Then you finally look up from the floor and notice that the object of your affection looks totally freaked out. Said object then mutters, “Hmm… well, I’m busy this Saturday, but maybe the third Saturday of next month.”

And suddenly, as Brené Brown would say in her book Daring Greatly, you’ve just lost a lot of marbles from the trust jar.

I think we fail to express our wants and needs because we’re terrified of getting rejected or being judged or being perceived as needy. I had an experience like this recently.

I had gotten very close to a friend, and we had a lot of marbles in our jar. But then a point of conflict came up, and it left me feeling vulnerable and insecure and threatened, and I was craving reassurance, so I expressed a desire that we get together to talk about what had happened. Only my friend was feeling overwhelmed, not just because of our conflict, but because of other personal issues. My friend needed time alone, time to digest, and with great kindness, my friend rejected my request to process.

I felt devastated. Here I had made myself vulnerable, made my desire known, made it clear how insecure I felt, and my friend had chosen to prioritize a personal need for space above meeting my need for reassurance.

Ouch.

The more my friend pulled away, the more insecure and graspy I felt and behaved. Until I finally woke up from my self-absorbed state of neediness to realize that my friend had every right to prioritize a personal need for space over my need for reassurance.  As much as we care for others and want to meet their needs, we all have the right to meet our own needs first (file under “I fill myself first”).

Duh.

I apologized. My friend met my need two days later. I got the reassurance I needed. And our jar of marbles is safe and overflowing.

The true vulnerability comes in being courageous enough to make your want or need known, knowing that the person you’re sharing with might choose not to meet your need because it comes into conflict with their own – and that’s okay.  Can you sit with the excruciating vulnerability of having your need sitting out there – exposed and raw – knowing that the person you’ve made yourself vulnerable to has every right not to meet it?

I get queasy just writing this.

None of us want to come across as needy, and yet we all have needs, whether we like to admit it or not. Even the strongest and most independent among us have moments when our childhood wounds get triggered or we feel scared or we feel unloved. How often have you suppressed the desire to ask someone to just drop everything and give you a hug because you’re feeling lonely or insecure?

We live in a culture that values independence. We scorn those who appear clingy or dependent. It’s a John Wayne/Marlboro man culture, but the truth is, sometimes we just want to curl up on someone’s lap, have them run their fingers through our hair, and get rocked to sleep. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that.

So it leaves me back with my original question. It’s good to be vulnerable. As Brené teaches in her TEDx talk The Power of Vulnerability, vulnerability is the gateway to intimacy. When we express a need and the person we’re vulnerable with chooses to meet that need (hopefully because it doesn’t conflict with their own needs, otherwise, they may be at risk of overgiving), we get marbles in the jar. Trust and intimacy grows, and we feel seen, heard, loved, nurtured.

But in order to gain the intimacy we desire, we need to risk having our needs not met, and we need to learn to soothe ourselves so we’re not making our happiness dependent upon someone else…

So it’s a fine line. Be vulnerable. Make your wants and needs known with those you can trust. But be willing to sit in that place of excruciating vulnerability when your wants and needs can’t be met, at least not at that moment. Learn to soothe yourself in those moments. Go for a hike in nature. Pray or meditate and let the Universe give you a hug. Do something you love – like dance or paint or read or take a hot bath. Let yourself just feel what you feel, and in time, you will find your own sunshine.

If someone perpetually chooses not to meet your wants and needs, you’ll lose marbles in the jar. I was fortunate with my friend because we had so much trust that one incident didn’t threaten the marbles in our jar. But I have another friend with whom I made myself vulnerable, and every time, my wants and needs were not met. This eroded the trust, and now, the friendship is only a superficial one.

Vulnerable Vs. Needy: The Fine Line

(via spinsterette)

What makes me feel cherished, loved, and secure?

Spending good quality time together. This is not time where we’re sitting on our computers, basically in separate worlds but next to one another, but time where we’re actively engaging with one another, either having a conversation or doing an activity together, or even just snuggled up in bed not talking. Feeling like quality time is a thing that my partner enjoys, craves, desires, wants as much as possible of.

Touch. Touch is so valuable to me. I feel most connected to a partner when we are in physical contact, even if it’s just holding hands while we’re driving somewhere. JJ makes it very clear how much pleasure he derives simply from having his hands on my body, even from things as non-sexual as my cheeks. Sexual touch brings this to another level, especially when combined with verbal affection. Sex can be an amazing expression of love, and cuddles are just as important.

Attention. I’m giving attention separate emphasis from quality time, because attention can be given from afar. Gchatting during the day while we’re at work, or even when we’re spending time with other people, counts as attention-giving, but not as quality time. Undivided attention is very important to me.  Listening to me, devoting your attention to me to the exclusion of everything else.

Affection. Saying we love one another, expressing gratitude for one another’s existence in our lives, saying things that we appreciate about one another, taking the time for kisses in the middle of life routines. 

Future-Planning. Making decisions about a shared semi-distant future makes me feel secure, be those decisions about leases or vacations, etc. Even just speaking about the future as a thing we will exist as a unit in. 

It is a well-documented fact that by the age of 5 monolingual White children will have heard 30 million fewer words in languages other than English than bilingual children of color. In addition, they will have had a complete lack of exposure to the richness of non-standardized varieties of English that characterize the homes of many children of color. This language gap increases the longer these children are in school. The question is what causes this language gap and what can be done to address it?

The major cause of this language gap is the failure of monolingual White communities to successfully assimilate into the multilingual and multidialectal mainstream. The continued existence of White ethnic enclaves persists despite concerted efforts to integrate White communities into the multiracial mainstream since the 1960s. In these linguistically isolated enclaves it is possible to go for days without interacting with anybody who does not speak Standardized American English providing little incentive for their inhabitants to adapt to the multilingual and multidialectal nature of  US society.

This linguistic isolation has a detrimental effect on the cognitive development of monolingual White children. This is because linguistically isolated households lack the rich translanguaging practices that are found in bilingual households and the elaborate style-shifting that occurs in bidialectal households. This leaves monolingual White children without a strong metalinguistic basis for language learning. As a result, many of these monolingual White children lack the school-readiness skills needed for foreign language learning and graduate from school having mastered nothing but Standardized American English leaving them ill-equipped to engage in intercultural communication.

What if we talked about monolingual White children the way we talk about low-income children of color?

Excerpt from a satirical blog post from The Educational Linguist that makes a good point about which language skills we value as a society and the problems with talking about a “language gap”.

An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love” — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other. It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation. It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity. It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.

It isn’t that to have an honorable relationship with you, I have to understand everything, or tell you everything at once, or that I can know, beforehand, everything I need to tell you. It means that most of the time I am eager, longing for the possibility of telling you. That these possibilities may seem frightening, but not destructive, to me. That I feel strong enough to hear your tentative and groping words. That we both know we are trying, all the time, to extend the possibilities of truth between us.

The possibility of life between us.

–Adrienne Rich, from On Lies, Secrets & Silence

(via PolyamorousLife)

Trying to keep shit honorable around here…

Empathy isn’t just listening, it’s asking the questions whose answers need to be listened to. Empathy requires inquiry as much as imagination. Empathy requires knowing you know nothing. Empathy means acknowledging a horizon of context that extends perpetually beyond what you can see.

Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams: Essays

(via Learning Everyday…)

After reading both of these quotes, I went to add this book to my Goodreads “want to read” list, but lol it was already there.

Empathy isn’t just something that happens to us—a meteor shower of synapses firing across the brain—it’s also a choice we make: to pay attention, to extend ourselves. It’s made of exertion, that dowdier cousin of impulse. Sometimes we care for another because we know we should, or because it’s asked for, but this doesn’t make our caring hollow. The act of choosing simply means we’ve committed ourselves to a set of behaviors greater than the sum of our individual inclinations: I will listen to his sadness, even when I’m deep in my own. To say “going through the motions”—this isn’t reduction so much as acknowledgment of the effort—the labor, the motions, the dance—of getting inside another person’s state of heart or mind.

This confession of effort chafes against the notion that empathy should always arise unbidden, that genuine means the same thing as unwilled, that intentionality is the enemy of love. But I believe in intention and I believe in work. I believe in waking up in the middle of the night and packing our bags and leaving our worst selves for our better ones.

Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams

(via Learning Everyday…)

This was a very well-timed quote to stumble across in my Feedly. JJ and I had a serious conversation about empathy, specifically about being empathetic towards one another around our sensitivities and the things we choose to engage with or not to engage with, this afternoon. It was a good conversation, resulting from some processing on each of our parts after we had a fairly big fight about small things yesterday. Finding ways to be at odds over something without disrespecting one another’s sensibilities is the intention. #valuesovervisceralreactions

Nothing in poly is “your own problem” – you have to be willing to communicate openly about what’s going on with you. And no matter what, do your best to keep working on the “stuff in your head” that challenges you in relationships – and trust that your partners are with you because you’re worth it, not because they just haven’t found anyone better.

Poly Advice, in response to an ask

okpoly2:

“When we talk about communication in polyamory, we’re actually talking about a very specific type of communication: speaking the truth about ourselves, our needs and our boundaries with honesty and precision, and listening with grace when our partners speak of themselves, their needs and their boundaries. This kind of communication isn’t really about words. It’s about vulnerability, self-knowledge, integrity, empathy, compassion and a whole lot of other things.”

(via PolyLove Girl’s Blog)

Our brains are buggy. They lie to us. Our feelings lie to us. Even our gut responses to straightforward statements or questions can lie to us. A big part of good communication consists of learning to identify the information gaps in what we hear, understanding how we’re filling them in ourselves, recognizing that we’re going to get it wrong, and asking the speaker to fill in the additional information.

–Eve Rickert, “#WLAMF no. 31: There is always missing information” | More than Two Book Blog