“I just don’t get you sometimes.”
It might be embarrassing to admit how many times I heard this from my sister as we grew up. And if I’m being honest, the feeling was often mutual. In fact, we could at times communicate this thought to each other with a simple look, no words required. Our love for each other is shared, but not much else about us is similar! And where there are differences, there is often a tension ready to flare up at unexpected moments.
Have you ever experienced that tension in your own relationships? No matter how deep your affection is, sometimes friction is unavoidable and now a barrier is going up between you, one misunderstanding on top of another.
How does this happen? If you’re like me, after too many times of this history repeating itself in other relationships, the thought may occur: “Maybe it’s me.”
It’s unavoidable to go through some self-doubt when you are the only common denominator in your relationships. Isn’t it so easy to wade waist-deep into the confusion of why you just can’t see things the same way? Eventually, your frustration may cause you to throw up your hands and lose a friendship because you just can’t figure out the other person.
So what can we do about this? Is there a way to endure and close the distance that stands between?
Is there a way to avoid or lessen the frequency and intensity of these tensions?
Many counselors and therapists heavily emphasize that the number one rule of relationships is communication. While that is certainly essential to sustaining a relationship, there is one crucial step that we must take before we even attempt to talk things out:
Understanding your bent.
As in my relationship with my sister, our frustrations and confusion intensified so that trying to talk about our differences sometimes created an argument. But when I happened upon this practice of understanding (before speaking!), something shifted.
In their book The Two Sides Of Love, Dr. John Trent and Gary Smalley offer a wise explanation of why many of us just don’t get each other sometimes. According to their experiences in counseling, they have discovered that our personalities are “bent” to show love through a soft side or hard side. Those wired toward the soft side of love demonstrate a gentler, nurturing love that has a deep capacity for compassion and sensitivity to another’s feelings. Those wired toward the hard side model a strong, tough love that will do the hard thing on behalf of their loved one, even at the sacrifice of their losing closeness and affection. Soft-side, compassionate hearts are vulnerable to feeling non-valued if their hard-side friends are unbalanced in showing appropriate sensitivity and tenderness. On the other hand, strong, hard-side hearts can be left feeling empty and helplessly misunderstood if their soft-side friends overreact emotionally and fail to demonstrate love in the way hard-side personalities best receive it.
Both sides are desperately needed in this world to demonstrate a balanced, wholehearted love; but when either is pushed to the extreme, a sensitive soul and a strong heart can clash in an explosion of sharp emotions.
So how can we avoid those feelings of “I just don’t ‘get’ you”? By understanding which ways you and your friend are bent, you will vastly improve your ability to more clearly communicate your needs and have the opportunity to offer balanced love. When I learned to balance my soft-side love in ways that my hard-side sister best received it, and she likewise began to add thoughtful consideration to her hard-side love towards me, we began to admire and value our differences. In fact, by learning to use our differences as strengths, it seemed to help us smooth each other’s rough edges!
Before exhausting yourself in emotional arguing or giving into the temptation to “get yourself said,” over hurt feelings, first try these important steps:
- Understand yourself. Sit back and evaluate your friend’s words or actions that hurt you. What did you consider to be the point at which he or she crossed the line? Thoughtfully writing out your perspective often will illuminate your triggers and how you feel when your friend crosses your emotional boundaries. An additional benefit of this practice is gaining the insight into whether your reaction was fair and reasonable, or if it was simply the result of an exposed nerve in an old wound. When you evaluate what you desire in a relationship of any kind, ask yourself: What is important to me? What are the most significant traits to me in friendship? By clarifying what you desire in friendship and what you bring into a friendship because of your personality-bent, the more you will understand how you receive love and handle frustration. By reading The Two Sides Of Love, you will also discover an insightful survey that will guide you in demonstrating a wholehearted love!
2. Understand your friend. In the same way that we must learn how our personality-bents affect our perspectives, we must apply the same effort in understanding our friends’ personality-bents. Ask yourself, considering your history with this person, what matters to him or her? What are his sensitive issues? What actions makes her feel noticed and loved? And don’t forget to ask your friend! Understanding his personality-bent, triggers, and values will help close the distance and teach you how to communicate with him in a way that makes him feel valued and guarantees that he understands your intentions.
“Love others how they need to be loved, not how you need to love them.”
3. Communicate with grace, not expectations. It is critical to our personal health and to the health of our relationships to understand that expectations have no place in relationships. Certainly, as social human beings, we naturally have a set of manners by which we navigate interacting with people. It is natural to expect that you can have fun with a friend, talk with her, and hopefully count on her to share deeper things in life. However, by holding anyone to a set list of your own unrealistic expectations and withholding the grace of unconditional love will doom the relationship at the outset. No one wants to feel that he has to meet requirements, lest he fail your friendship test. This is especially difficult to avoid doing if you have been betrayed in the past by a selfish person, and there is never a reason to tolerate such abusive treatment. But for the sake of deeper and longer-lasting relationships, let’s take an honest look at ourselves. Perhaps the better question is: What am I looking to give in this relationship? When we are secure in our own persons, and understand how to use our personality-bents as our strengths, we are more confident and thus more able to enjoy healthy relationships that offer the kind of trust and unconditional acceptance that we would hope to receive in return.
In the midst of life, are we ready to love others according to how they need to be loved, and not according to how we need to love them?
What insights have you learned in deepening the bonds of friendships? Do you have any tips for handling tension? Share with us in the conversation below!
written by Sydney
~ A message from Sydney : Hello! I am the marketing research assistant at Walker Boutique, and I am thrilled that you have dropped by our blog! Relationship marketing is my career aspiration, but writing is my first love and the longest-held passion that I can remember. I love learning how to bring people together, and I look forward to hanging out with you guys and virtually chatting over coffee on this blog! Be sure to check in with us to see the variety of topics we will discuss such as bridal essentials, home decor inspirations, and lifestyle tips that we hope will add beautiful simplicity to your life. Always feel welcome to leave a comment below to join in the conversation! We would love to hear your insights! Blessings to you 🙂