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Monday, February 11, 2013

Living Room 2: Keep It Clean? Or Keep It Real?

Living Room 2: Keep It Clean? Or Keep It Real?There seems to be this tension between two ways of talking: keep it clean, and keep it real. Keep it clean says, look, there are ways that we should go about doing this so that the talk is productive, helpful and nobody gets terribly hurt. There should be rules and boundaries to our talks. Keep it real says, let’s not worry about saying everything perfectly. Let’s just get our cards on the table. Let’s shoot straight and direct.

Five great questions of life: Life * Love * Learning * Labor * Leadership

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Living Room 2: Keep It Clean? Or Keep It Real?


By Evan Nehring


Living rooms are about talks.
 
I feel like the least qualified person on earth to write about marital communication. That’s not true, but Colleen and I have had our challenges. We’ve hurt each other. We’ve avoided important topics. We’ve been angry and misunderstood. We’ve been dysfunctional, but this is life. We don’t get to dictate our circumstances…and I’ve got to say something to my kids about communicating in marriage.
 
There seems to be this tension between two ways of talking: keep it clean, and keep it real. Keep it clean says, look, there are ways that we should go about doing this so that the talk is productive, helpful and nobody gets terribly hurt. There should be rules and boundaries to our talks. Keep it real says, let’s not worry about saying everything perfectly. Let’s just get our cards on the table. Let’s shoot straight and direct.
 
Uploaded by Henkster at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/473271
 
Keep it clean has a problem with keep it real: you’re killing me here! I can’t talk with you if you’re going to rip me apart for my perceived failings. Keep it real has a problem with keep it clean: how can we ever grow in our relationship with you beating around the bush, stuffing your feelings and watering things down?

The main question is, how do you not take personally something that the person who means more to you than anyone else in the world says to you? I'm afraid I don't handle it too well.
-- Jerry, East Northport, New York, married 20 years[1]
 

In a perfect relationship...

...you get both clean and real. Hubby and wifey agree on some ground rules and then work to be deeply authentic and open in tackling their issues. Truth is, most of us won’t be in a perfect relationship. Someone’s going to have to come more than half way.
 
If keep it real isn’t capable of keeping it clean, then keep it clean is going to have to learn to have thicker skin to deal with the verbal daggers that are hurled. If keep it clean isn’t capable of keeping it real, then keep it real is going to have to pry for details or be patient as points are carefully expressed in due course.
 

Who will have the maturity to step across the middle line?

In the picture of God’s love for his bride, the Church, God comes way over the line and meets humanity much more than half way. Ideally, hubby and wifey both attempt to come well over the line as well.
 
I think there’s a payoff. Dealing with the unfair wounds or spending much more time than desired…the end result is working through tough issues and avoiding even bigger issues later. Issues grow as they fester, like an untended wound. Let me say this, though, our grace toward one another is going to be tested beyond the festering point. No one can keep the deck totally clear of issues. How much dysfunction are you willing to put up with? Well, how much did you mean it when you said your vows?
 
I want to communicate with Colleen in a way that she knows what I’m thinking and how I feel about it. I want to be able to negotiate through our differences. I want there to be give and take so one person doesn’t do all the winning. I want us to be secure enough in ourselves and in our relationship that we can respond and not react to each other. I want us to listen to God the best we can and find as much agreement as we can. Whatever our differences, I want to always treasure Colleen and return to the place of living life together.
 

Park Bench Tranquility

In the final scene from the movie, Notting Hill, Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts hang out on a park bench on a sunny afternoon. No words are spoken. She is laying down with her head on his lap. He has his arm up on the bench, relaxing. They’re comfortable, not going anywhere, perfectly content and fulfilled. There’s a tranquility that transcends all of the drama that got them to that moment. I hope for sixty more years with Colleen, peppered with moments of park bench tranquility.

[1] How to Survive Your Marriage. (Atlanta: Hundreds of Heads Books, 2005), 64
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