Relationship trauma will do strange things to you. With my ex, I was never timid about initiating a conversation about a potentially difficult topic. I would even wake him up so that we could talk before I went off to work if I didn’t want to carry the burden and fear of the issue all day. Of course, it was easy to “talk” with him about difficult things; he would lay on the affection and soothe me with his words. Yeah, he sure knew how to rock me back to sleep.
Now, post divorce, my communication style has changed. I am more tentative; I tend to hold things in too long, rolling them around in my mind (and often letting them gain steam) before letting them out. Brock’s communication style has contributed to this tendency. He generally starts off by talking at, not with, and then settles into a place where he is receptive and able to listen. I’ve seen this enough to know to ignore the first minute or two, but it doesn’t make it any easier for me to take the plunge.
Enter the talking candles.
After one conversation that I initiated well after I should have, Brock came up with an idea. He pulled two candles – one white and one blue – from the living room and set them on a small table in the dining room.
“These are the talking candles,” he began. “When you need to talk about something, set the white candle on the kitchen island. I’ll do the same with the blue.” He demonstrated this as he talked.
“When we see the other’s candle, we must make that conversation a priority.”
It was brilliant.
We haven’t used the candles much, but they have certainly helped to change the communication dynamics between us for the better. By setting out the candle, it gives the sign that a conversation needs to happen. The other person then has notice and can approach with the right frame of mind. We are less likely to talk while one or both of us is still decompressing from the day and the start-up is much more gentle. I am more willing to be assertive and not as defensive. He is more likely to listen from the beginning and to be more empathetic.
When we are aware of patterns, we can begin to change them. And that is a conversation worth igniting.