Lean on Me

Lean on MeToday I’d like to expand a little on my recent post about emotional modesty, and talk more about maintaining a healthy balance in communication. Guys especially have to strive to achieve good communication because (surprise, surprise), it doesn’t come to them as easily as girls. One of the reasons relationships are so tricky is because while feelings aren’t everything, they are an important factor. Most other things we do, work for instance, can be done well regardless of how we feel about it, but a relationship can’t be a dispassionate exercise. So one of the most important things in maintaining a healthy relationship is communicating thoughts and feelings. As I see it, there are two major pitfalls to avoid when it comes to communication: the first is not communicating enough, the second is destructive communication, such as excessive venting, or “emotional dumping”—which is when you use another person as a total dumping ground for all your troubles.

It’s important for men especially to understand that women are much more intuitive and sensitive than men are, traits which make women better at empathizing and nurturing than men. But these same traits mean they need more emotional connection than men, because emotions play a bigger part in how women experience the world. So even though it may not seem “manly,” men need to share their feelings with their wife or girlfriend regularly if they want to stay connected to them. It doesn’t matter how close you feel to her, if you don’t tell her, it’ll make you seem more distant. Men also need to understand that women need to vent more about their lives than they do. To male ears this may sound whiny, but it’s a vital part of how women work through things. Often enough, when your wife or girlfriend tells you about her problems, she doesn’t even expect you to solve them for her, just to listen and express sympathy. It really couldn’t be simpler, but men are built to problem solve, so we get it mixed up all the time.

On the flip side it’s easy to fall into the trap of putting too much emotional weight on your boyfriend or girlfriend. Communicating about all the good and bad things in your life is vitally important to maintaining an emotional bond, but one has to be careful not to view your boyfriend or girlfriend as the answer to all your problems. It can be really easy to see your whole life as merely an extension of your relationship, which is, often rightly so, the most important part of it. However, the paradox is, if you’re not complete without a relationship, you won’t find yourself complete with one, even if it feels that way. Nobody can be solely responsible for another person’s happiness; it’s too much to bear. Donald Miller sums it up nicely in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, “I think that’s why so many couples fight, because they want their partners to validate them and affirm them, and if they don’t get that, they feel as though they’re going to die. And so they lash out. But it’s a terrible thing to wake up and realize the person you just finished crucifying didn’t turn out to be Jesus.”

There’s only one thing that can satisfy a human completely, and it’s not another human. Sure, it might work for a while, but not forever. So confide in each other, trust each other, but don’t put your full emotional weight on anyone else, because it’ll just make you both fall.

~ GOM

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Emotional Modesty

Emotional ModestyRelationships can be like a scientist in a lab who ecstatically discovers a secret formula, only to have everything suddenly blow up. This is because getting to know someone intimately is one of the most risky and tricky things people do. And unlike most dangerous chemicals, there’s no standard method for handling estrogen and testosterone. Something which I feel people fail to talk about or prepare for is emotional chastity, by which I mean maintaining the right level of emotional commitment and intimacy at all stages of a relationship. Just as physical unchastity can lead to pain later on, so can emotional unchastity. One must be very conscious and careful how much and when you share yourself with another person.Think of getting to know someone deeply in the same light as getting to know someone physically.  You can see how someone looks the instant you meet them, just as you can learn even the most intimate facts about them quickly. Yet as you get to know the person, you realize that even their physical appearance changes. In the same way, while the facts about someone remain the same, we intellectually see them differently based on our experience of the person, which is the greater part.Taking the analogy a step further, we don’t usually come to know everything about a person physically when we first meet them. There is a necessary progression of further “discovering” if you will a person’s physical form. To speed through this process (or skip it entirely) is dangerous at best. So too should the progression of emotional connection be properly timed. Maybe it’s tricky to figure out because it actually plays a bigger role in the discovery of a person than physical intimacy, and it’s harder to judge where the lines should be. For this reason, even greater vigilance should be given to emotional chastity.

This vigilance can be termed emotional modesty—the protection of your own and other’s emotional state. It’s fun to come to intimately know someone in a relationship, but that intimacy cannot be peacefully maintained without the right level of time and commitment. So even when we feel drawn to get intimately close and attached to someone, emotional modesty keeps us from saying or doing things before the right time.  This is important to keep in mind, because the actual right time will probably not be when something “feels right” for the first time. Just because there’s a full moon and a choir singing “That’s Amore” in the distance doesn’t mean it’s time to say something rash which you’ll probably regret before too long. It only works that way in movies. And even if that special someone makes your life feel like a movie, sadly it’s not. Remembering that will give you a better shot at your own real life happily ever after.

~ GOM