I grew up in a home where lines of communication were wide open.
Feelings, challenges and successes were discussed regularly, and my brother and I were free to tell our parents anything without fear of being judged or punished. My big struggle growing up was my struggle with math (I still can’t do math). My brother shared successes of math (he’s now an accountant) and would help me with my math homework (thanks, Jonathan). My mom often discussed her hectic job, but would also share fun stories about her travels prior to having a family (she lives in Seattle and Los Angeles; I loved hearing about these adventures). And my dad shared his daily struggles with depression and successes as a recovered alcoholic as he cooked incredible meals for us (he was a chef).
If one of us upset another family member, it was never harbored, but talked out.
It didn’t turn into heated arguments, instead, it was a way for us to express how we felt, and the other person usually provided validation and apologized. Growing up, I took these conversations for granted. I honestly thought everyone talked openly like this on a daily basis, and this form of communication was all I ever knew.
Those conversations I experienced growing up forever molded my ability to communicate with others, and I owe all of my successes to that safe place my parents provided me in our home. My ability to verbalize my challenges with math opened up the doors for other conversations including my mom using it as an opportunity to point out how good of a reader I was. My brother discussing his successes in math allowed me to realize he could be the person I’d go to for help. My mom discussing her busy work life and past travels inspired us to consider what we wanted to be when we grew up, and what adventures we wanted for our lives. My dad speaking openly about his mental illness and disease of alcoholism erased the stigma of mental illness, and watching him work as a successful chef taught us that we can overcome anything life throws our way.
While our conversations changed through the years as our situations evolved, these examples remained the same. Our stories taught my brother and I how to tell people what we needed, how to listen to the needs of others, and how to take those needs and turn them into ways to solve problems.
Enter adulthood: communication in this world is non-existent and no one knows how to talk to people.
Getting married and starting a family of my own, I soon discovered that while communication was something that came naturally to me, it would eventually become the biggest barrier in my marriage. I tried to open the lines of communication in my home, but nothing worked. My husband’s communication style was different (non-existent) and I was left feeling frustrated and isolated.
Then, my husband walked in the door with a feelings chart. And everything changed.
My husband, like most men, has always felt uncomfortable talking about feelings. As time went on and use of technology increased, communication diminished further. This caused us to become disconnected and when we found time for date night, we’d often argue, as it was the first time we’d truly “checked-in” with each other all week (sometimes all month). My husband knew something needed to change and wanted to help.
After a series of struggles, my husband discovered that communication was something he needed to work on, and a friend told him about FANOS. FANOS is an activity that is a great way to check-in with your spouse (or just yourself) on a daily basis. Since starting doing FANOS, my husband and I know where one another stands and there are no more surprises or arguments on date night. It truly has become a way to discuss our challenges and successes, and allows us to problem solve with one another on a daily basis. It’s been a marriage-saver. I’ll break down this simple exercise for you.
Doesn’t every man LOVE to talk about feelings? No. They do not. But, men often suffer from mental health challenges mostly due to their inability to communicate, bottling up the hard things which eventually manifest into something bigger. Talking about feelings opens up a part in us that is absolutely necessary, and it’s done a world of good in our relationship.
I cannot express how important it is to affirm the people we love. Before FANOS, I never knew my husband noticed, or was grateful, for anything I did, leaving me to feel resentful. FANOS has given him the daily opportunity to tell me what I’ve done right, and it’s lifted me up in a way I never could have imagined.
We all have needs. And for some reason, making our needs known is extremely challenging for so many of us. Whether our need is rest, affection or a day off of work, making our needs known is a necessary part of getting our needs met.
This one is huge. Our society has such a hard time admitting what we’ve gotten wrong, which is detrimental to having the ability to getting it right. Owning our mistakes is the only way to improve upon them, and including our spouse in improving our mistakes allows us to problem solve together and provide support to one another.
Every day is a celebration. No matter how bad our day is, there is always a success, no matter how small. If we feel defeated at the end of our day, identifying a success is a way to stay positive and mindful that tomorrow is a new opportunity and there are more successes to be had.
While communication is something that came inherently natural to me, I still lost as to how to incorporate healthy communication within my family. FANOS is a tool that we’ve used as a daily check in, not only with my spouse, but with our children. It’s opened the lines of communication in a huge way, and even on days where we are feeling withdrawn or angry, FANOS is a healthy way to express that.
Growing up in a communicative household was very impactful, and FANOS has been a useful tool in incorporating healthy communication in my home. At night, we’ve decided to put our phones away and make each other a priority. I hope it works for you.