Friday, October 09, 2009

In the words of the Captain of Road Prison 36...

Jack and I had a huge fight last night: A real fist-shaking, door-slamming, make-the-neighbors-uncomfortable kind of affair. At one point, having exhausted all of my arguments, I kicked over the coffee table. This did not, as I'd predicted, clarify my position. It did, however, scare the fuck out of the cats, so at least something good came out of it.

Somewhere along the line, Jack and I lost the ability to communicate. We talk, and we listen, but neither one of us can understand what the other is trying to say, which infuriates both of us. We're like what would've happened if Abbot & Costello had been cast in Enemy Mine.

Here's an excerpt from a recent telephone conversation:

"Hello?"

"Hi! Do you work today?"

"That's why you called?"

"Um... yeah. See, I was wondering if..."

"I'm off tomorrow."

"Okay, but do you work today?"

"You already know that I'm off tomorrow."

"I do understand that you're off tomorrow. But I wanted to ask..."

"My vacation starts tomorrow afternoon."

"Yes. Yes, it does. But I don't know what your schedule is today."

"And I just told you that I don't work tomorrow."

[beat]

"Let's try this again. Do you work today?"

"Tomor-"

"Do you work today?"

"My vaca-"

"Do. You. Work. To. Day?"

[extended pause]

"I am working today."

"Okay. Okay, great, thank you. Are you working a morning or evening shift?"

"I'm off tomorrow."

[cue laugh track; applause]

What kills me is that away from each other, we're both excellent communicators. I've been a professional writer and editor for eight years; prior to that, Jack worked in radio for 14 years. We know our shit, y'know? We're both really talented when it comes to expressing ourselves. But put us in the same room, and we're immediately stricken with aphasia.

Thank the Gods we never adopted. We would've had to hire interpreters.

Aside from showing the cats who's boss, last night's screamfest did provide a little insight into why we're so terrible at interacting with one another. I tend to read body language, watching for physical clues that tell me whether or not I've gotten a particular point across. Jack pays more attention to words themselves, and derives the intended message without the use of non-verbals. So, for instance, I'll say something like (quoting Belle) "When you told me blah blah I felt blee blah because mergh," and Jack will respond based on the words I've used, and I'll respond to that based on his body language, and both of us start feeling like we're not being heard, and then furniture gets broken.

Maybe we're both overthinking this. Like, if we'd just communicate instead of trying so damn hard to communicate, we'd have less reason to be pissed off all the time. Or maybe a gypsy put a curse on us. Hard to say. But I do hope we get through this. I hope that one day, we'll be able to chat like old friends. And most of all, I hope when that day comes, we really will be old friends.

Time will tell.

So I will do my best to listen.

9 comments:

hidingplainsight said...

I'm curious why the person who wants to know the schedule for today simply doesn't say why he wants to know that.

All that aside, my dear, I sure hope that you get your wish. You will get through it. You will be old friends. If I can manage it, I'm certain you can. You're so much, hmmm, well, I don't know. I'm just certain of it.

Brother Christopher said...

It sounds like, you both know how the other one communicates. So why don't you try to think about what you say, so Jack can know what you are saying, and encourage jack to be more physically expressive, so you know what he saying. I know, it sounds so easy.

It does sound like some kind of communication whammy, based upon your example. I personally think people should do cleansing/uncrossing spells all the time. So, get to your uncrossing already.

Junior said...

I totally have that same conversation with a friend of mine all the time! While I don't know which side was which, I understand the side who wants to know when the other person is working.

Sometimes, when you need something from someone, you create a plan of how to go about things with that person based on some info. There's no point in divulging the whole plan in your head if that other person's schedule doesn't fit. So you just want to know the schedule first, but the other person won't cooperate. It gets so frustrating!

And sometimes you need a good fight as long as it doesn't turn into a fist fight natch.

Evn said...

Cynthia: Your certainty totally boosts my spirits. So thank you. (hug)

Christopher: An uncrossing may well be in order. Shoot me an e-mail offblog, and I'll tell you why.

Junior: Part of the issue (and I'm not saying who said what) was that the person asking about schedules kept getting cut off when he tried to explain why he was asking. No punches were thrown in the making of this fight (we're both wussies when it comes to unarmed combat), but the whole thing was definitely cathartic.

Anonymous said...

Turner says" I would suggest
"The 5 Languages of Love " and couples counseling. And is always better to directly express yourself ie: " I am off on Saturday, would you like to go to the movies" Instead of are you off tomorrow? Men like yes No questions, and non open ended situations. Its like when we say "where would you like to go eat tonight, I don't know where would you like to go? " Details make the difference. Blessing

knottybynature said...

My husband and I have been married almost 13 years. Your argument sounds a lot like some of ours for the same kind of reasons.

He swears up and down I'm smarter than him. I'm not smart, just witty. So when I ask a question, I expect an immediate response. He, however, knowing that I change tact at the speed of light, refuses to give me an immediate response because he likes to take the time to think about his responses. I, being an individual who needs data immediately to determine short term AND long term goals, start climbing octaves the longer I have to wait.

I personally need to make the time to slow down. He really needs to have a bit more detail. Somehow we make it work. I look for body-language cues, because he's not so big with the word making.

Sometimes it's these differences actually make us grow as people. Just take a breather and come back to it. If you've made it work for a while, chances are it's just a bump in the usual rhythms. ;) You're good....even if you're a cat-tyrant. :D

knottybynature said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Le Cornichon said...

Hmmm- I have found that I usually find myself attracted to partners that communicate in a completely different way than I do, but I think it might be a combo of having different styles of communicating and maybe some sort of brain chemical issue. Have you looked into the possibility of the dreaded male andropause? It can start in your thirties. I used to have terrific battles (inner and outer) with my sig. others until I looked into it... (It took a certain argument where I threw a running chainsaw through a plate glass window to make me think I might need help) I had tried counseling, meditation, exorcism- you name it- but it was only when I looked into the concept that I might be experiencing male menopause that I was on the road to salvaging my friendships and personal relationships.
bon chance....

Junior said...

Oh, well that's when the person asking about the schedules needs to start pinching. One pinch for I was talking and you interrupted me, with additional pinches given for additional interruptions. Trust me, it works but can also make people surprisingly angry...

Keep all sharp things out of reach.