Personally, as a kind of 'agony aunt' myself, I am loathed to be critical of other people in my field. But I am often saddened when I read what a few of them dole out by way of advice to the suffering public. The prized ones always include ‘talking to your partner’ when something goes wrong, ‘never starting a new relationship with someone else’ during a breakdown in your own situation and to 'try to rekindle/renew the love you had’.
Monocultural in content, highly subjective and conservative in values and tone, many of them have lost sight of the changes in our society, dispensing the same type of one-kind-fits-all arcane medicine to everyone, regardless of culture, custom, relevance or requirement. I felt another perspective was desperately needed. For example, despite the importance of communication and dialogue in any relationship, which I also advocate wherever possible, the notion of always ‘talking to your partner’ in a difficult situation needs examining carefully.
While a few women can hold their own in any discussion, most people can only talk effectively, without a mediator, if the other person is willing to talk too and, even more important, to listen. In relationships that are male dominated (as in British Asian ones where even the relatives tend to be on the side of the husband to save face and protect the marriage), and in unions which have no real equity or mutual respect, women always lose out in the talking stakes. They either lack the courage to broach the subject and articulate how they feel, they lack the capacity or willpower to maintain the dialogue, or they are intimidated in the process for situational, intellectual, cultural or religious reasons.
Moreover, no interaction is ever equal. Someone always has more power than the other in the simplest communication, and men hold the power in most relationships. They often do not like to talk in case they hear anything that might challenge or attack their ego or ingrained beliefs. The last thing they would want to hear is something that might jeopardise their feeling of security.
A former lover used to be an example of this. The minute he heard something which rattled him, he said, “I am not discussing this further as I can’t see where it’s going,” or, “You’ve said that before” (when he’s also fond of repeating himself), or “It’s not relevant”, always in a patronising tone which is imperiously dismissive and would floor any quivering female. But quivering does not sit well with my personality so I firmly stand my ground until the point is addressed. The key factor here is relevance. Who is to decide what is ‘relevant’ except the person perceiving, and experiencing, the rejection or the problem?
Men also appear to stop communicating once the partner is in the bag and the relationship settles down. In fact, any dialogue at the following times is usually ineffective:
* When there is extreme stress.
* When someone already benefits from the status quo.
* When he/she wants to reinforce their view by ignoring the obvious.
* When the person is scared of what might happen in the actual resolution.
(No one welcomes breaking up, especially where children are involved.)
* When there is genuine fear from one or both parties.
Problems With Alcohol
In these situations constructive face-to-face dialogue is rarely ever possible. Talking, without a mediator, is useful only in the following scenarios:
* When both parties genuinely recognise the value of discussion.
* When each can articulate her/his feelings equally.
* When each can accept some individual responsibility for the situation.
* When there is a genuine desire for some sort of positive outcome.
* When they are willing to make the effort.
Try talking to an alcoholic, sober or inebriated, and see how far it gets! Yet, alcohol dependency is behind the greatest proportion of broken relationships and domestic violence in the United Kingdom.
Communication and dialogue can be a double edged sword. Where there are two articulate, confident people who are willing to LISTEN to each other, seek similar outcomes, and can give each other the benefit of the doubt, dialogue is the very best antidote to domestic dilemmas. However, where the partnership is unequal in confidence, intellect, perception and objectives, both parties will have a very fraught time simply trying to get through to each other. Or one person will feel completely intimidated by the whole process and just clam up, or resist any form of dialogue, which makes trying to communicate to avert a crisis situation almost impossible.
©Elaine Sihera (Ms CYPRAH) 2011
Emotional Health and People Management Consultant
"Respect and love begin with the self. If we have none, how can we give away any?"