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War of the Genders

A confrontational soapbox for rants and politically incorrect manifestos regarding feminism, chauvinism, dating and gender issues.

Location: Jerusalem, Israel

This isn't a dating site. If you wish to propose marriage or to beat me up, leave me a note.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Shut Up

Today's definition of 'communication' has become 'monologue'. Having issues? Express yourself! Angry about something? Vocalize it so that your partner can understand your annoyance and correct it. Talk to your shrink, rant on blogs, write letters to your local representatives, complain about bad service, discuss your husband's problems with your girlfriends, share your family problems in support groups, and tell strangers on public transportation about your marriage crises.

There are several problems here. The first is that expressing yourself and 'communicating' your feelings isn't communication. Communication is bi-directional and the exchange of knowledge and stimuli demands a willing receptacle in addition to a person with vocal cords.

When you say "let's talk", are your intentions to improve matters, or to relieve your burning need to rant, share and satisfy your curiosity? Yes, of course you had good intentions, but is there anything between them and your motor-mouth?

I understand that keeping things inside may cause repression and that some issues have to be worked out. But as soon as you express a feeling, you give it validity and a life of its own. You cause a critical chain of events, you evoke feelings in the other person and you can cause irreparable damage. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words cause permanent damage. The question that must be asked before you exercise your mouth is: "Is this a world I wish to create?"

I'm not discussing the issue of how people approach and discuss a problem. I'm talking about cases where the approach is perfectly planned and executed. Some of the examples I listed in the first paragraph may even seem untouchable and harmless to most. But that's exactly the problem.

Self-expression has become a god, worshipped by the 'well-adjusted' masses, and hailed as the impeccable healer. I have quite a different name for it: selfishness.

Improving society means looking out for your own rights and freedoms, communicating means ranting, working things out means forcing your own kind of relationship, sharing means exhibitionism, opening up means obsessing over your own feelings, and expression through art is masturbating on a canvas.

As an example, let's take apologies: An apology is an attempt to correct things that have gone wrong and improve the relationship, right? A trend I've recently noticed is for people to apologize and then apply pressure on their partner to forgive them ("I said I'm sorry, why are you doing this?"). Obviously, their prime concern is merely their own guilty feelings that are causing them to lose sleep. It has nothing to do with communication and this humble contrition is anything but so.

Another problem with self-expression is the loss of power and the neglect of an even stronger god: silence. I explored and introduced this subject previously. Self-expression is more often a slut than a god.

Also related is my previous post about intercourse.

Digging elsewhere, what if your burning issues are all in your mind? What if the problem is something you alone created and communicating will only cause an argument? And even if it's a real problem, is it important? Is it worth the risk?

Do you want to enjoy your time together or do you want to iron out every kink? Restraint seems to have become a four-letter word.

Not every emotion and thought that springs from inside you is worth its weight in gold. And when I say it's worthless, I don't mean that you should keep it inside either. Throw it out and find something better. That's how things grow.

And more subtly, have you ever considered that if you hadn't expressed yourself to your friends or some stranger, your tension would have served as fuel to solve the problem in a more practical manner? Who said that relieving tension with other people is the correct outlet? Countless times, I have witnessed women who work out their marital problems with their friends, come home with an attitude, and reveal nothing to their confused husbands who were not present when their futures were being discussed so intimately. What happens next is that in her mind, the problem has been worked out and a conclusion has been reached, she has no need to discuss things further, and he is made more distant and confused. Sometimes she even scorns him for not reading her mind and understanding the conclusions she's reached and the problems at hand. At best, she does discuss it with her husband, but she is already a few steps beyond him in a fictional world she or her friends created, and is annoyed when he isn't in tune.

Are you married to your friends or to your husband?

I'm not talking about cases where everything has been tried unsuccessfully before trying third parties. And if the partner is abusive and fear is an important factor, then obviously this doesn't apply. But I find that more often than not, this is not the case.

The other basic problems here are gossip, privacy, trust, cheap exhibitionism, and related issues. These are obvious, but while I am cataloging my grievances with self-expression, I may as well be comprehensive.

Incidentally, I long ago learned to live with the fact that most girls tell their best friends intimacies. My conclusion was to never reveal things that I don't want other people to know. What I don't understand is why some girls act like they've been betrayed when their best friends relay this information to their friends. If you're going to betray trust, at least don't be hypocritical. It's disgusting.

The only logic I can see in this is that you consider your relationship problems to be your own and neatly ignore the fact that they involve another person. Do I really have to point out how selfish this is?

To conclude, stop flapping your lips and think more often. There are many reasons for silence and editors to partake in a conversation and some introversion is not going to harm you.

As an afterthought, have you mastered the art of communicating with silence?


Blogger Seaborn said...

Being a rather big fan of keeping silent (at least about certain things), I can also understand the need to over-express. I've made that mistake more than once.

In my experience, it is usually a result of what I call "relationship loneliness". Sometimes you lie next to a person you love and wonder: "who IS this stranger?". Sometimes you feel like even your own family will never know who you are. Either you learn to live with this human condition, or you take a quixotic approach and try to fight it by using too many words. Never works.

January 21, 2005 9:30 pm  
Blogger Emmah said...

I think it is a matter of respect. As you rightly stated, you are married to your spouse, not your friends. Any issues with your marriage/relationship should stay within said marriage or relationship (except in very dire circumstances which you outlined).

What you said about self-expression was brilliant - I am going to go away and think about it. I have been debating this myself in my own mind. Thank you :)

July 15, 2007 5:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There once was an owl who lived in an oak. The more he heard, the less he spoke. The less he spoke, the more he heard. Why can't we be like this wise old bird?

I am far from being a wise old bird, but I believe listening skills are many times more important than verbal skills (although you need both to communicate effectively).

Great article!

July 20, 2007 5:00 pm  
Blogger Baron said...

Well, yes, listening skills are very important but everyone knows that. In fact, this listening thing is so popular nowadays that I think it's being abused in the exact same way I described in the article. I.e. Some people are looking for good listeners because they love to talk too much.

Also, one needs to shut up first in order to listen ;-)

July 20, 2007 7:14 pm  

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