-By guest blogger Uma
A sequel to “Are you happily married?”
(These two pieces were given as speeches at Toastmasters meetings)
Since Yash gave a cinematic presentation of our arranged marriage, I figured I will share my version of our marriage beyond the beginning. Obviously our parents thought of us being a good match for each other, but little did they and we knew how different we were in terms of our personalities and communication styles.
Personality characteristics influence our communication styles. Yash, having a supportive and an easy-going style, was more accepting of my differences than I was of his. He is more sociable, spontaneous, fun-loving, free-spirited, very enthusiastic about trying new things, likes a relaxed, no tension environment and avoids conflict. Contrast this with my direct and analytical communication style, being very goal-oriented, purposeful, organized, and focused on getting things done. I could not understand why Yash wasn’t thrilled about us planning and organizing every detail of our lives to make it a smooth sail. Shouldn’t he be thankful to me for bringing some order and purpose into his life? 🙂 I would get very frustrated with him, and being the direct communicator that I was, I had no trouble expressing that to him. Being the supportive communicator that he was, with a tendency to avoid conflict, he would get quiet, which would only irritate me further.
In the first few months of us living together in Allentown, I would be in the apartment all day while Yash went to work. I was in a foreign land with only 1 or 2 brand new friends that he had introduced me to, who I could talk to on the phone. I did not know how to drive. I couldn’t call home and talk to my parents frequently because every minute cost about $4 while I wasn’t earning a penny. Being home alone all day, I would eagerly wait for him to come home. He would also come home in a good mood but seemed more eager to watch “Cheers” and “Three’s company” than to spend time talking with me. Obviously he wanted me to sit and watch the shows with him, but I had no interest in them because they were so foreign to me. My direct style of expressing frustration didn’t sit very well with his fun-loving and conflict-avoidance style.
On top of these individual differences, there are gender-based differences in conversational styles. Remember, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus? 🙂 Once we went to a jewelry store to buy something for his mother. I pointed out some pieces that I thought looked good. We bought something for his mother and returned home. I bet the men don’t see anything wrong in this picture, but the women can see it crystal clear, right ladies? Offering to buy me something would’ve showed me that he thought and cared about me. Never mind all the other ways he showed me that. Of course, that was not the time to use my direct communication. I let it brew for a little while until it exploded, and poor Yash had no clue what it was all about. If I wanted something, I should’ve bought it. That’s all there is to it, as far as he was concerned.
Our natural tendency in communication is to use our own style. But if we want to be effective partners, we need to adapt our style to that of the other person. Putting the relationship first makes it a little easier to deal with the differences. With much trial and error, we came to understand and accept our different styles. We learned to make allowances rather than taking the disparities personally. Now when he gets home we watch 1 or 2 shows together, and I plan to do some “spontaneous activities” together. Once in a while Yash takes the initiative and makes to-do lists which makes me happy, and every time I make a passing comment about liking something in a store, I have to literally hold him back from buying it for me.
I wish I did this analysis of our communication styles about 30 years ago; our marriage would have been a less bumpy ride.