I often wonder what could have been.
I don’t mean that in a wistful “I wish I would have done something different” kind of way. I believe our lives are a series of reactions, and I just wonder how my life would be different if I had reacted differently in a specific moment.
When I think about what could have been, I’m not thinking about the big life changing decisions, but more the moments leading up to them. For example:
Girl is talking on the phone to boy. Maybe she isn’t as present in the moment as she should be (for whatever reason that might be) and he says something that she didn’t quite catch. She asks him what he said, and he replies “nothing”.
At face value, that is a simple interaction, one that happens pretty frequently. As an isolated incident, that might not be anything to worry about. If it is something that keeps happening, boy might start to believe that girl doesn’t pay him any attention when he talks, which might make him more hesitant in speaking his mind. Somewhere along the way, the good communication that the couple may have shared may fade to nothing and both parties will wonder what happened. Neither might think to trace it back to that moment.
I use a fairly innocuous example on purpose. When we think about our life defining moments, rarely do we think back to or remember the moment that was the catalyst that brought us to that point. We might remember the one thing that pushed us over the edge, but we might not have a clue what the initial thing that took us out of the rhythm that we’d once known. That could be true in a romantic relationship or in a friendship. Something that used to be a small worry can snowball into a deal breaker and a relationship can fizzle into nothing.
Maybe the problem isn’t that someone isn’t a good listener. Maybe the problem is that he or she shuts down instead of voicing his or her concerns. A scenario: Boy and girl are dating. Girl notices things that she doesn’t like happening in the relationship, tries to nip it in the bud before it is a problem. Not seeing things change, girl starts to get a little more aggressive in her approach. Boy doesn’t seem to be listening she is saying (because things aren’t changing) and things between them get tense. Wanting to make things better, girl stops talking about her concerns, starts to convince herself that she is making a big deal out of nothing. Thinking this way, girl stops trying to discuss the things that are bothering her in the relationship, so rather than having redress to the issues, she starts a slow boil feeling like nothing she thinks is important matters to him. Since she no longer feels trying to talk out the problems is a viable option, she looks to a new man as the solution.
I can’t say enough about how I think communication is key to any the survival and growth of any relationship. To clarify even more, I think GOOD communication is important. Let’s take Boy in the previous example. Boy could well have been trying to adjust his actions to address Girl’s concern, whatever it was. If she said they weren’t talking enough, maybe he started making a special effort to text her more. If she said she didn’t feel like he cared about what was going on in her life, maybe he started making a special effort to ask her about her day. It could well be that girl just didn’t recognize his efforts. Maybe she really wanted phone time and text messages didn’t count. Maybe she felt that after she gave a perfunctory “it was good” and he didn’t ask anymore questions that his initial question was as mechanical her answer. People oftentimes believe that once they have made a statement about what they need that it can be given to them EXACTLY the way they want it to be, taking for granted that the other party is a mind reader who knows EXACTLY how he or she feels.
That’s hardly ever true.
Sometimes our smallest gestures have an impact that is bigger than we ever dreamed it could be.