Sunday, May 26, 2013

Houses of Sand: Emotional Cowardice

Dishonest relationships have as much permanence as castles in the sand.

I've been thinking about interpersonal relationships lately, but more specifically how people within a relationship communicate with each other.  What makes a romance, a friendship, a marriage work?  What's the best way to interact so that the relationship is fulfilling and healthy and ongoing?  I have recently seen how a friendship can just end suddenly due to miscommunication and stubbornness.  I have witnessed how a marriage withers on the vine due to a lack of addressing issues immediately.  I've noticed other relationships falter due to unexpressed expectations and assumptions made without the foundation of fact.  Most people screw up a relationship because they don't talk about what they really feel or think with the other person.

I think fear is probably the greatest obstacle to maintaining a healthy, happy interaction with another person.  Fearful thoughts of, "What if I say something that offends him or her? What if what I want or need isn't what they are willing to give?  What if I show my true self and he or she doesn't like it?"  Therefore, a lot of people let things slip under the rug.  They let the possibility of losing a friend or lover subsume the need for free and open communication regarding issues within the relationship.  They hide hurt feelings, they don't ask for what they need, they attribute behaviors and actions to false motivations and intentions, just to keep a person in their lives. All the attempts like this at keeping a relationship constitutes emotional dishonesty, and it starts a cycle which will ultimately lead to the end of the friendship or romance.  A shaky foundation eventually causes a structure to crumble, and a relationship built on unexpressed thoughts is like a house built upon sand.  It is never stable and will eventually return to dust.

I can understand why someone would not want to lay him or herself bare before another person.  To put out into the universe all the things he or she is thinking and feeling.  It requires a vulnerability, a willingness to potentially be hurt by the reaction of the other person.  Speaking his or her truth and letting the chips fall where they may is a terrifying enterprise, especially to a person who desperately wants to be in love or have a friend.  No one likes to be hurt and it is human instinct to do everything possible to avoid pain. Therefore people hide what they think and feel to a certain degree.  At some point in life, all people have had moments of emotional cowardice, where they've fallen prey to fear and allowed misconceptions, miscommunication, and outright dishonesty linger in a relationship and slowly begin to poison it.

Being open and honest is the only way to give a relationship a chance to realize its potential.  It is the single thing a person can do to craft a fulfilling and authentic marriage, friendship, or romance.  It takes courage to be true to oneself and honest with others, but it is a quality definitely worth having.  A person may have fewer relationships or friendships, but those that he or she has will be lasting, deep, and meaningful.  It is a quality over quantity paradigm shift that dramatically enhances one's life.  It takes emotional maturity, an understanding of one's needs and wants, and a willingness to be both vulnerable and strong simultaneously.  Honesty and openness is a hard thing to achieve, but it can be done as long as people are mindful of how they want their relationships to be and aware of how their actions impact their relationships.

The other key ingredient in developing a true and fulfilling relationship is how one expresses his or her honest feelings and thoughts.  I have one friend who is under the impression that all relationships should be built upon improving one another through constant criticism. That is an inherently negative starting point.  It's good to be expressive and honest, but it is important to be tactful and supportive too.  Regardless if one's intentions are good,if the delivery is not good as well, the message is lost.  I told him last night that having good intentions without good delivery is much like having a brilliant idea but no means of explaining it to someone else.  It's as if they don't exist at all.  A person normally doesn't hear intentions, they hear what you say.  A person should always be open, honest and true in his or communication, but should also always be respectful of the other person's feelings while communicating.

In sum, it all boils down to the idea that either people will like someone for who he or she is, or they won't.  It's as simple as that.  If everyone could be secure enough in him or herself to value healthy, happy relationships over just a relationship, personal interactions would be much smoother.  Expressing myself is something I work on consistently.  Just like everyone else, I have a tendency to suppress certain things I want to say or I can be tactful to a fault.  It's about striking a balance of truth and respect and courage and I think it's entirely possible to create relationships with solid, long-lasting foundations.  The only sandcastles I care to build these days are ones on a beach.