I may have written my worst post of all time on the Psychology Today site this week. This is ultra distressing for me because I’ve read Psychology Today since I was a kid (I’m sure that says something about me.) You might say that I revere the brand, so I wanted to make a good first impression.
But I screwed up a few things. For one, I tried to tell a very complicated story in too few words. My editor had suggested I keep my posts to just 500 words. Well, I’m good at writing books (average 75,000 words) and I’m good at writing magazine articles (average 2000 words). I’m not so good at writing short things. Case in point: I’m fairly certain that 98 percent of the posts here at ProjectHappilyEverAfter.com are 1000 words or longer. (And this doesn’t bother any of you, does it?)
I also tried to write it too quickly. With my upcoming book release, I’ve got a lot going on. More important, my kid just started public school, which has cut my workday down to just 6 hours. I’m squeezing a lot of writing into a small amount of time.
And, perhaps worst of all, I had no idea of the point I wanted to make when I started writing the post. I thought I had a good story to tell, and I tried to tell it. But I didn’t know what I wanted readers to get out of it, and it shows.
If I had done this during a normal conversation, someone would have interrupted me a few times and asked some follow up questions and all would have been well and good. In a blog post? Not so much. What happened was that hundreds of people read it and jumped to all sorts of false conclusions. For instance, one person alluded that my husband might be a pedophile, and another alluded that he was having an affair.
The comments kind of stung, you know? I mean, even in my worst moments, I don’t think my husband is as bad as the people who commented seem to think he is. (Maybe this says something about me?) And, when I looked over the post, it hurt even more when I realized that people were jumping to these conclusions because I wrote the thing so poorly.
What can I do? I’ll learn from the experience and move on.
That brings me to the point of this post: communication blocks. This is what I wanted to illustrate on the PT blog, but so miserably failed to do. Here are some issues that block good communication.
1. Lack of time. My husband and I have not seen much of each other lately. As a result, I rarely know his schedule, and he rarely knows mine. With so little face-to-face time, important information like where he is going and what time he will be back is not being communicated. This lack of communication isn’t all his fault, mind you. Last night I reminded him that he needed to pick our daughter up from school on Friday because I would be in Delaware having lunch with a newspaper editor. He gently let me know that I was not reminding him of this because I had never once mentioned it before, but he would be happy to pick our daughter up anyway.
2. Lack of sleep and rest. In order to squeeze in more work time, I’ve been getting up at 5:30 a.m. I also haven’t been running. And I’ve been occasionally working in the evenings, too. And I’ve been blowing off my daily meditation more than I care to admit. None of this has been good for my mood. On the Saturday I wrote about in the Psychology Today post, my husband got up at the crack of dawn to race his bike. Then he came home at 11 am, took a quick shower, and then took our daughter and spent the entire day with her. By 9 p.m. that night, I was nearly hallucinating from fatigue, and he was worn out from his race and was also on his last nerve, as my mother used to say to us kids, from hours and hours of parenting. Let me tell you: if you happen to be coherent enough to know that you and/or your spouse are in such a state, table all forms of communication until one or both of you has gotten more rest.
3. Outside forces. I write about my marriage here at ProjectHappilyEverAfter.com and in my upcoming book. Several times a month, someone will ask me, “What does your husband think about this?” Several times a month I find myself saying the same thing I always say, “He’s fine with it. That’s how I know he loves me.” Yet, these needling questions have apparently invaded my consciousness and taken up root in that part of my brain that is responsible for worrying. On the night in question, when my husband went to bed without saying Good Night, this is what I got to thinking (and should have probably explained in the post): He’s really not okay with me writing about our marriage, is he? Maybe it bothers him that I am the breadwinner and that I write about it. After all, that must ding up his male ego. And maybe he saw someone today who read something on the blog and said something to him about it and got him all riled up. Maybe this person told him that he would never let his wife write such things and that he should put me in my place or something…. Those thoughts went on and on and on and eventually led me to the conclusion that my husband was sorry he ever met me. The next day, they seemed quite comical. In the moment, though, when fueled by my fatigue, they seemed completely real and plausible.
4. Anger and fear. I’ve learned from past experience that neither of these emotions breeds good communication. Anger leads to blame—which usually angers the other person and rarely brings the two of you to consensus and understanding. Fear breeds all of those crazy worries that I just mentioned in point #3, and those crazy worries tend to cause one to stop trusting in the stability of the marriage. If you don’t absolutely trust that your partner will stick around—no matter what you say or do—you will have a hard time communicating your most important thoughts and feelings.
Fortunately for us, all of these blocks went away overnight as my husband and I slept. Indeed, in marriage, a spouse nearly always looks better in the morning. This isn’t necessarily true when it comes to dating and one-night-stands, but it’s often true with marriage.
But it would be cavalier of me to say that sleep was all we needed. No, we need to work on our communication—and find ways to communicate important information even when we are short on time. We’re working on that. Stay tuned. If I encounter any revelations along the way, I’ll be sure to write about them.
And just so you all know: this post is more than 1200 words, and I feel good about that. What about you?
What blocks you from communicating at your best? How have you overcome any of the blocks that I’ve mentioned here? Leave a comment.
A professional journalist, Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, a memoir of how she saved her marriage, and coauthor of Pitch Perfect, a must-read if you've ever had a sense of dread tie up your insides before a speech, presentation, or conversation. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.