I came home once feeling very upset. I had a hard day and, being newly married, I wanted to keep the veneer that everything was happy: That I was Superwoman and could handle it all and that I never would break. My husband didn’t need to know that his wife had difficult days. Of course he had seen me cry. Many times, actually. But, I reasoned with myself, if I wanted my marriage to work, I needed to always be happy. Even if, inside, I wasn’t.
Sounds difficult, right?
Communication, many will say, is a skill. It certainly is. There are all types of communication. We communicate with doctors, therapists, bosses and family members. Certain relationships require us to “bear our souls” more than others. We don’t need to tell our boss that we’re behind on our mortgage payments but we shouldn’t hide the bills from our spouses. What gets us in trouble, sometimes, is that we don’t distinguish between what (and what not) to tell who.
I majored in communication studies at the University of Minnesota. When I got to college at 19 years old, I was really unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. I thought about various professions but they all seemed, at the time, to have certain drawbacks. I went to see a career counselor at the student services and she recommended, based on my skills assessment test, the major that I eventually chose.
Often people asked me what I learned in my classes and in all honesty, what I studied was mostly irrelevant. I will say, however, that I did take some classes that taught me certain valuable lessons, many of which, I do use in everyday life. I learned how to write for which I have a tremendous love. And I get paid too.
Communication studies is a major in college because so much of life requires a delicate dance of speech between two or more parties. People often fail in their jobs because of a lack of healthy communication. People, for that matter, fail in their marriages too.
The Hebrew language, as I have written about before, really is fascinating. Maybe it’s because I am a new immigrant, but I often get so excited by relationships between words. My Israeli husband finds this amusing.
Hebrew has many words for speech. You can ask someone to tell you, to say to you, to speak.
The day that I came home really upset, practically in tears, my husband sensed that something was wrong. I wanted to tell him but the words that I knew in Hebrew for communicating seemed threatening for the conversation that I wanted to have with my husband.
Amichay turned to me and gently said “teshatfi oti,” share with me. The word for share in Hebrew has the root of the Hebrew word for partner. I glanced in his direction and the tears came.
When something isn’t right and we’re immediately asked to say, tell or speak it could be threatening. How do we know if the person on the other side of the conversation will listen or hear or will not judge? How can we ensure that our communication is safe: is two-ways?
When we notice that someone is having a bad day, it could possibly be intimidating to hastily gasp, “Tell me what’s wrong!” Yet, if we turn these conversation and communication into a partnership, like the Hebrew word suggests then it may sound more like this: “Is everything OK? Do you want to share with me? I’m listening and not judging. Let’s be partners in whatever it is you’re going through. I’ll help you and you’ll help me and we’ll get through this.” Because that’s what a partnership is. That’s, ideally, what a marriage should be too.