My pastor and his wife came to pick my daughter and I up early, one Saturday morning. We were going to a couple of house dedications for Habitat for Humanity. As I entered the vehicle, he immediately handed myself and his wife a sheet of paper that had the time, date, and location of the houses we were going to speak at.
As we drove off we laughed, and joked and kid, about life and what was going on in it, when suddenly my pastor asked for my address.
I froze. I thought, what an odd question considering he just picked me up from there. I got about half way through my home address before it hit me, he meant the address of the house I was suppose to talk at for the dedication. We all started to laugh.
It was funny.
My son went to his dad’s house wearing a shirt that was too small, stained, and honestly was just weird looking. His step mom text me commenting about the shirt, saying Fun says he doesn’t have any clothes over at my house so she’s going to send some shirts back with him.
I was stunned and furious (with Fun) at the same time. I thanked her for the offer, but explained the child had plenty of clothes. He just chooses not to put them in the dirty hamper to get clean, so when it’s time to go to his dad’s, he has no clean clothes that fit.
Not so funny.
Communication is so vitally important to any relationship. It is easy to hurt someone’s feeling over a lack of communication. There is the potential for so many misunderstandings because we don’t know how to talk to each other.
How many times has a there been a broken relationship because of it?
I know, for myself, my first marriage disintegrated because we didn’t know how to communicate.
We just didn’t do it right. We didn’t talk. We didn’t speak up when feelings got hurt. We didn’t stop to explain our reasoning behind something. We didn’t listen. We assumed the other should have known, they should be able to read my mind by now.
For whatever reason, communication just didn’t happen.
So now I find it funny, two people who sucked at communicating one-on-one, find themselves in a second marriage with kids and step kids and exes (possibly two) and a new spouse.
No wonder second marriages have a low success rate. If two people could not communicate the first time, what makes them think this second time…with more variables, is going to be any easier?
Now we have kids’ schedules to arrange between school, and home(s), sometimes work. Half days, and holiday breaks. Activities they go to. Grandparents to see. Homework to do. Projects to get done. School supplies to be bought. Doctors’ offices to be visited. Churches to attend. Friends to play with. Birthday parties. Christmases.
For the sake of our family, marriage, kids and our sanity we have to, really have to, learn how to communicate if we’re going to make this all work.
Here is a list of my suggestions I have found to be helpful when trying to communicate with my new family, and blending this mess.
Never assume the other person knows stuff. Even if you’ve already told them, tell them again. And don’t be upset with them if they forgot. At the same time, don’t get upset if they tell you something again, and again, and again. Getting upset does not help with communicating.
Listen to what the other person has to say, even if you don’t like them, can’t trust them, it takes too long, or you already know. Don’t interrupt. Don’t rush them. Be mindful.
– Assume the Best
Assume this person means no harm. Assume they love your children just as much as you do.
Use kind words. Build them up. If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say it. Don’t even think it and certainly if you can’t say it to them because it’s not nice, don’t say it to anyone else.
– However, You Can Express How You Feel
Use “I” statements. “I feel disrespected when you pick up and drop off the kids without telling me in advanced.” “I feel you don’t care as much for Peter and Mary because you don’t ask them about their day, like you do with James and John.” Instead of, “Changing the kids schedule without notifying me is disrespectful.” Or, “You don’t even try to care for Peter and Mary, because they’re not your own kids.”
– Avoid Words Like Always and Never.
Seldom does someone ALWAYS wait until the last minute to do something, or they NEVER help around the house. It takes just one time to turn you into a lair and now a battle of honor is about to pursue.
– Keep Your Emotions Out of It
Do not text, email, or call while you are angry. Walk away. Figure out why you are so upset. Calm down. You want to respond, not react. Usually our first impulse is to show them how we reacted to their message. They don’t need to know that. It’s often not pretty and not how we want to be viewed. Instead, don’t say anything. Process your feelings. Talk to someone to help get all your reaction out. And then respond maturely, calmly, and respectfully.
– Don’t Let Them Turn You into a Person You Don’t Like
It would be better to not say or do anything at all, than to say or do something you are going to regret. Stay true to you, and don’t give them that power over you.
– Do Not Ignore
Do not throw your hands up in the air in defeat, saying, “I just can’t communicate with this person.” Figure it out. Even if they do everything wrong; for your marriage, and your kids, figure it out. If it was easy, you probably wouldn’t be divorced in the first place.
– Practice Grace and Mercy
Everyone messes up. It is not unusual for people to suck at communicating. You don’t need to remind them. You don’t need to tell them how horrible they are at it. Assume they are learning. Assume they are practicing. Assume you suck at it too!
I am confident there are many more good tips to consider. These are just a few I try to practice and fail at, daily. Maybe they can help someone else too. Maybe you have some to share with me.
Until then, happy blending and keep communicating!