Chapter OneCan We Talk?
Why We Wrote This Book
Life is deep and simple, and what our society
gives us is shallow and complicated. Fred Rogers
We talk a lot about talking.
In nearly every conceivable corner of North America and in several
places around the world, Les and I have demonstrated techniques
and tools for improving a couple's communication. And it would be
impossible to add up the number of times a couple has come into our
counseling office after a communication meltdown and given us the common
refrain: "We just don't communicate."
To say we talk a lot about talking is no understatement. In fact, we talk
so much about it that we have been asked on numerous occasions by counselees,
seminar attendees, and publishers why we have never written a book
on communication. And our answer has remained the same: because there
are already many good books out there, and until we have something
groundbreaking to say on the subject, we don't feel compelled to write
about it. After all, we were doing our best in our own marriage to put into
practice the principles and techniques other experts had proposed. Truthfully,
we weren't always doing it well either. And even when we did, we
often found ourselves wanting something more-something deeper that
would connect our spirits. Isn't that the goal of becoming soul mates? Communication
with the one you love is more than the mere exchange of
words, even if done with elegant skill. Communication, if used to full
advantage, holds the promise of bringing soul mates together at a level so
profound that anyone on the outside can never truly comprehend it.
So we set off to crack the code for meaningful conversation. We
wanted to learn the combination for using communication to help us
speak each other's language like we never had before. At least, that's the
way Les puts it. I think of it more as uncovering some of the deep mystery
of male-female relationships-knowing this relationship is too complex
and multifaceted to be codified.
Of course, we'll get to our differing
styles of word choice and metaphor (as
well as yours) later on in this book. The
point is that for more than a decade we
have been on the lookout for this seemingly
illusive secret-something we
both longed for. We were determined
not to get sidetracked by anything shallow or complicated. We were in
pursuit of a deep and simple plan that would move our communication
from good to great. If we discovered a new technique or a clever method
along the way, we took note, but new techniques were not our primary
goal. We wanted to get to the heart of the matter. We wouldn't settle for
a mere handful of golden nuggets; we were in search of the mother lode.
We wanted to find the means to becoming more understanding and better
understood. We were in pursuit of the secret that would unlock a full
supply of the very lifeblood of a meaningful relationship.
And we found it. The book you hold in your hands is the result of
many years of research, and it will show you exactly what we discovered:
a deep and simple plan for everything a loving conversation has to offer.
We call it Love Talk.
What's the Goal?
Allow us to come alongside you for a moment and imagine where
you are. You may be at the beginning stages of a dating relationship or
on the edge of commitment, about to be engaged. You may be in the first
few years of your marriage, or you may have decades under your belt.
You may be in a second marriage, struggling to blend a family. Perhaps
you're in a small group with other couples or a class that's dedicated to
improving your love life. Wherever you find yourself at the moment, we
want you to know that we have written and rewritten these words with
you in mind. We have reviewed each chapter, each paragraph, while putting
ourselves, as best we can, in your place. We want this book to be an
effective tool for any and every couple who wants to find a better way of
speaking each other's language.
We want you to thoroughly understand one another and your specific
communication styles. We don't want to simply hand off a few new
techniques you can try on for a while to see if they work; we want to give
you an experience that will take you to a new level of communication,
deeper for you than it has ever been before. After reading this book, we
want you to enjoy the incomparable comfort of saying what's on your
mind and revealing what's in your heart. We are going to give you a
means for communicating like you never have before.
So with this goal in mind, we want to give you our first challenge.
After working with many couples, we have come to believe with great conviction
that you are far more likely to improve your situation and meet
your personal goals for communication if you clearly articulate them.
That's why we want to encourage you-right now-to take just a few
minutes to write down a sentence or two describing your personal goal in
reading this book. How would you like your communication to be different
as a result of the time you will spend with us in these pages? Make
it specific and concrete. For example, if you are dating, you may want to
have a conversation that allows you to talk freely about a difficult topic
that has been on your heart. Or if you are married, you may want to be
able to talk to each other about disciplining your children without having
a heated debate. Or maybe you simply want to enjoy a leisurely conversation
over dinner together three days a week. You get the point. The firstLove Talk Workbook exercise will give you a helpful structure for noting
your goals and show you more specifically how you can chart your
All the exercises we will be pointing you to in this book are found in
the accompanying Love Talk workbooks-one workbook for men and
another for women, so you can complete the exercises independently and
then discuss them. These workbooks are available at your local bookstore
or at www.RealRelationships.com.
Exercise 1: Getting Where You Want to Go
Before moving further into this chapter, we urge you to take
inventory of where you are and where you want to be. This initial
workbook exercise will set the stage for the work you do in
chapters to come.
We have deliberately whittled this book down to a manageable size.
We aren't interested in overloading you with information and don't want
you to get bogged down or weary along the way. So we're shooting
straight: once you and your partner discover the secret of Love Talk, we
believe your conversations will never be the same.