A series named in tribute to Bell Hooks. Love is a subject that is often discussed in the most trivial and superficial terms. Love, as a subject matter, especially from a Black perspective, hardly ever includes discussions regarding the nature of love, the function of love, the purpose of love, or the relevance of love. All we ever talk about is how we want it, have it, never had it, or keep losing it. We are right to see lack of love as a concern; we just have to choose the right angle for exploring solutions. Here is where that happens.
No one can argue that communication is essential to the success of a relationship; however, how we define communication is often where the problem with communication lies.
In order for communication to be effective a message has to be effectively given from one end and received and understood from another end. All too often we feel that if communicate our thoughts we have been effective in communication. But if the message is never received or understood by the person with whom we are trying to communicate, then we have not communicated: we’ve only expressed ourselves. There is nothing wrong with expressing one’s self, but cannot be assumed that everyone understands what we are expressing. Communication is a dynamic that requires that both the sender and a receiver understand the message.
It has been proven that there are many ways to communicate. Any communication research will support this fact. However, there are a number of theories about how to define those various modes of communication. I once read an insightful book that was written by Gary Chapman in the ’90’s called Love Languages. The author asserts that everyone has their own romantic language. In order for an individual to feel loved, it has to be communicated in a language that they can understand. The book offers several suggestions on love languages. The author stated that there are 5 love languages: gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. Chapman has since extended his theory to include the language of apology and the language of appreciation that he angles towards workplace communication.
I don’t endeavor here to evaluate or analyze the details of the love languages (maybe in another post if the readers want it). What I am affirming is that we all communicate differently. We all experience the feeling of love differently and these messages are communicated and received differently. There is no right way to communicate.
Most communication issues arise from a reluctance to accept that our perspective is not the only perspective. We forget that our perspective is built upon out own subjective experiences and that without those specific experiences we might have a totally different perspective.
To enter into a romantic relationship clinging only to out own perspectives is to sentence the relationship to death. Two completely different people cannot exist under the consideration of only one person’s perspective. Both parties have to be willing to learn, understand, and accept a perspective outside their own no matter how preposterous it may seem individually.
Emotions are varied and personal and they must be validated in order to allow each person in the relationship to blossom and feel safe exposing their personal feelings. When either person does not feel this freedom, they are emotionally backed into a corner and pressured to commit emotional suicide. It denies them their right to think for themselves and feel whatever they feel. It tells them that the feelings that are very real to them are wrong. And that will force them to choose their own emotional survival over the relationship. There isn’t a creature alive that doesn’t choose to fight with all their might to save themselves from death.
If we could get over ourselves long enough to stop looking for reasons to not give and receive, we would find that communication, like love, takes effort and willingness. No two interactions will work the same and there is no universal right way to love or communicate. The goal for communication must be mutual understanding and until that goal is reached both parties have work to do. That work must be accomplished by any means necessary.
We have often said that communication is a two street. That is slightly true. Communication is two streets; however those two streets are not always parallel. Communication is more like an intersection of streets. There is the possibility of a parallel but it is just as possible that the other street is coming from an entirely opposite origin heading in a completely different direction from the one that we travel. Love is the stoplight that brings us to a halt in the midst of others and we have consider where the other car is coming from and where it is going before we can understand how we might go in the same direction towards the same destination.
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man