Saturday, 23 January 2010

Communication Blues

(Yes, this post will be an end to the drought on my blog. For how long, I have no clue. Read on...)

Have you ever communicated with someone and tried to figure out what the are really trying to say? I tend to do that a lot. Because most people don't come out and say what they really mean. They tend to put things mildly or even be vague. Probably the worst thing they can do is try to avoid the question itself. It certainly doesn't help ease my mind about them. On the contrary, I feel more apprehensive about a person who hides things from me.

Then there are others who get stuck on one thing you've said and criticize or make fun of it (O.o oh yes, THAT'S going to impress me). I understand that two people may not always see eye to eye on every topic but there is a way to discuss these matters without offending the other person. It doesn't help when one person criticizes, realizes that it was offensive and then defends their actions or says they were joking. It happened to me recently. I was explaining what I am looking for (which were pretty much the qualities of a good Muslim and no physical aspects of a person) and I was criticized. That confused me. First, the guy went into defensive mode, saying this and that is why he said what he did even though I simply explained that these are qualities of a good Muslim and he accepted it. Then he immediately switched tracks saying he was simply joking. I felt I couldn't really live with someone I cannot even communicate with about simple things and had to end the conversation. At which point, he got offended because it was hurtful of me to want to end the matter there. Funny thing about that was that even though we politely bid each other farewell and luck, a minute later he picked up where we left off and continued to argue about what he said and my decision. The whole thing was so silly and a waste of time. All I could think of was to ignore him. I guess he was one of those guys who needed to have the last word.

When 2 people have an issue over the basic of things, it's better to leave matters and not get into an argument about it. Or at least that's my reasoning. Today, you may accept the difference but the problem will not go away after marriage. You'll still be holding onto the same ideals you did before marriage and when those ideals collide, it'll lead to arguments between the husband and wife. Either both are able to understand each other and come to a compromise or it's better to separate peacefully. But these kinds of things should be discussed prior to marriage so that it doesn't lead to any misunderstandings afterwards.


Chiara said...


I am sure you made the best judgment in regards to this particular person, but generally all couples or people learning to communicate with one another have to learn to handle disagreements, unhappy moments, feelings of being offended, hurt, disappointed, etc. These to me are the marks of how a relationship is really functioning, as in all relationships these disagreements will happen. How the individuals handle them is crucial. Magnify the situation; pile on a bunch of old grievances; become nasty and hurtful; the silent treatment; walk away? Clarify first and react second; share the feelings of hurt and try to understand the miscommunication; backtrack to points of agreement and try to move forward more carefully; agree to disagree; refocus on positives and leave that item go?

I spend a considerable amount of time in marital therapy helping people who usually communicate extremely well to communicate during these emotional/ relational rough spots.

Again, you probably did the right thing with this particular person as you are the better judge of what the total experience was, but in general other strategies might be important to try. Worst case scenario you find out that the person has a bigger communication problem than you thought and you are out of there with even fewer qualms.

AlabasterMuslim said...

Mashallah, you write very nicely. I love the advice you give, really great for those who are in search of a Muslim spouse.
Inshallah you will be granted a wonderful, handsome, PIOUS muslim husband. AMEEN!

single4now said...

Awesome points. It's really nice to know that you help couples communicate. Couples who can communicate well can also sort out their issues better. Of course, it also requires the willingness to want to sort out problems.

With the guy I was talking to, I don't think he really knew what he wanted and had a problem with me wanting more than he was looking for (one thing which didn't make sense, at least not by itself). I didn't think we thought along the same lines so I thought it would be better to end communication. It's better to realize you don't get along that to make yourself and your partner unhappy in a marriage and then end up in divorce. At least, that's my thinking.

Husain said...

Glad to have you back.

We missed your take on things and repeated attempts to make sense of an 'insane' world.

Welcome Back.

Chiara said...

Thanks, and I agree that where there are fundamental differences and a lack of willingness to communicate on one of the sides, walking away is the best strategy--and early enough that you aren't carrying a lot of "baggage" to slow your walk.

y said...


i posted another comment on this post, but i'm not sure if it went through or what. did you get another comment from me here?

Imperfect Stepford Wife said...

Hubby and I almost divorced because we didnt know ho0w to disagree. I agree with Chiara.

What a to separate peacefully, but easier said than done sometimes.

single4now said...

Husain - thanks. I'm happy to be back. :D

Chiara - certainly. If the problems cannot be resolved and both parties are not willing to make it work, it would be better to separate. However, if one can use the help of a psychiatrist/psychologist or even a knowledgeable imam and remove misunderstandings then the couple should try that as the first resort. Usually family isn't a good option because they may be biased.

y - unfortunately, I didn't receive it. Please repost. Also, if there's ever such a circumstance, you can simply repost. If it's a double, I won't post it. :)

Imperfect Stepford Wife - wow. Alhumdulillah you both are still together. Certainly your situation was no easy one but alhumdulillah, you guys pulled through successfully. MashaAllah. Yes, definitely, when it comes to divorce, it's difficult to find a couple that are respectful of each other till the end.

y said...


"Because most people don't come out and say what they really mean. They tend to put things mildly or even be vague."

I think I understand what you are talking about here. But I don't think it is always bad if people do this. Like, if people want to talk euphemistically about sensitive issues or something, then I think it is okay. A person may not be comfortable to explicitly say what is on their mind, so they may use vague terms to tell you something or ask something. I think it is okay if that is their purpose. But if their purpose in being vague or answering questions vaguely is to be deceptive, or to have the other person assume something incorrect, then i agree that is wrong.

"Probably the worst thing they can do is try to avoid the question itself."

yeah, i agree. i'm of the opinion that one can ask anything, even sensitive topics, of the person they want to marry. Like, i don't really think there are questions that are wrong to ask the other person. But maybe sometimes it is better not to ask people some things, in my view. Like if someone asks the other about maybe bad things that person used to do or whatever, and if that person has honestly changed and stuff, then i don't think they are then obligated to answer questions about their past. But they should state that clearly and upfront, not dodge around the question and stuff or make something false up. I don't know, just my opinion.

"When 2 people have an issue over the basic of things, it's better to leave matters and not get into an argument about it."

yeah, i guess it is best to sometimes leave matters of disagreement. But I also think that if there is something unusual about yourself or not normal, than that person has an obligation to tell the other person. Like, if a person plans to move to Antarctica, lol, they must tell the other person about that before marriage. they can't all of a sudden, 2 years after marriage, insist on moving to Antarctica or something crazy like that.

Imperfect Stepford Wife - I was wondering if you could tell us how you and your husband learned to disagree, as you mentioned, if that is okay with you. You don't have to go into specific details or anything, just general ideas or techniques. thank you.

Chiara said...

ISW--so true. People come to a relationship with a lot of baggage too about disagreement, particularly between husband and wife, based on the models they grew up with. Sometimes, even though they are excellent communicators in other spheres, in this one they have few skills, or wrong techniques, or major fears, eg any anger leads to massive abuse. Learning how to disagree is a key skill.

Separating peaceably is difficult, usually because of immense hurt on both sides, and the advice of supporters on both sides, not to mention lawyers. It is probably easier the more that is in place "in case" which I do think helps to preserve a relationship.

Single4now--Thanks for supporting the role of professionals in marital relationships. It is sad to see a good relationship break up for a reason that could be resolved, or a temporary state (eg a grief reaction to a loved one, or a depression, or unemployment) that will resolve but sometimes after the damage to the relationship is too great.

I don't know about Imams as much, but certainly priests and reverends have a fair bit of training in individual and marital counselling. They can be very helpful and also refer to professionals. Alas, there are "stay together at all costs" "stay together for some higher purpose or religion's sake" counsellors of all training and backgrounds. These often leave the woman feeling unheard, though sometimes the men also. It is very worthwhile to seek out a good therapist. One of the top senior psychoanalyst-psychiatrists I know saw a marital therapist to put his marriage back on track and it did. I also have a psychotherapist-psychiatrist colleague who consulted a family therapist when he was planning to remarry and his 9 year old daughter was planning to make sure that didn't happen. In other words, there is no shame or failure in seeking professional guidance.

single4now said...

y - Generally, I don't ask about sensitive topics. I've only asked if I felt something was fishy and it was the present but I usually don't inquire about past relationships. Also, I've read the opinion that a Muslim has full right to cover their past. If they've changed then, you should consider that. If they haven't changed, it'll come out. What I meant when I said that was that people are vague about general & important questions.

Oh, it's important to discuss plans too. But once both realize they don't think along the same lines, there isn't a point in arguing about it. So, using your eg, if someone does want to go to live in Antartica, the other person should move on instead of fighting about why they think it's a bad idea. :P Oh but this discussion should be before marriage. All the more reason why it's important to discuss things prior to marriage.

Actually, there was someone who wanted to make hijra to a Muslim country and kept trying to convince me about the haram nature of western countries. It was quite exaggerated and I found it difficult to take him seriously. Moving to a Muslim country wont automatically make you a better Muslim but yes it does make a lot of things simpler but you find terrible Muslims everywhere. It just means everyone has to work at their religion.

Chiara - is there a site which talks about how a psychiatrist/psychologist deals with such situations. I'm really intrigued. :D I disagree with psychiatrist who try to keep a couple married under all costs. There are certain situations where it's better to separate for the well-being of one partner or perhaps even both. Divorce is halal in Islam and there is a reason why it's allowed. But I would still recommend finding a way, if both husband and wife are willing to make changes, to resolve their disputes. Again, it depends on the situation.

Chiara said...

Single4now--I am happy to provide references and links. Are you referring to staying neutral? helping a couple separate? deciding whether a couple wants to/ should stay togther. Advice for deciding when to leave a relationship? Let me know. These are all good topics to address in the context of this post (or others, hint, hint, for when your inspiration well runs dry LOL :) ).

single4now said...

Chiara - any/all. Whatever can inspire me to write is great but it was mostly for my personal interest. I find psychiatry & psychology very intriguing and if psychology was a short course, I would have probably done that as well. :P But I have friends who studied/studying psychology so I keep asking them things.

single4now said...

Alabaster - so sorry. I just noticed your comment hadn't been published. Somehow I didn't get an email notification for it. Ameen! Thank you for the lovely dua and may Allah (swt) grant good Muslims spouses for all the single Muslims. Ameen.

y - Apparently I did get your comment, I just never got the email notification. I just noticed the comment now. Sorry about making you rewrite it.