Why embarrass everyone?

March 4, 2012

in Personal, Two of us

I’ve learnt two things so far from this blog. One is that it’s all very well keeping my entries short but if I’m lucky enough to get responses in the form of comments, brevity goes out of the window.

But the dialogue is fascinating and enormously helpful.

Helpful at what? Well, the other thing I learn is that people –including Charles and me – have great ambivalence about having an honest look at the difficult aspects of a relationship in public.

I’m not going to go on about how these are supposed to be honest and open times. We haven’t somehow learnt openness just because sex is everywhere. I know that.  (Though the Facebook generation may be different ? I don’t know enough about them to know.)

But there is clearly ambivalence or worse. And I’m not sure why. It makes me question again why I would wish to break rules, embarrass people and open up discussions some may wish were kept private.

I’ll write sometime about why I’m a bit obsessive about openness itself. But I want to be open about the difficulties and dilemmas of a happy marriage for several reasons –

  1. Let’s normalise. People mouth platitudes about all relationships having their difficulties – but if we mention the difficulties it seems counselling and therapy, if not divorce, are next.  Well, those all have their merits but difficulties are not inevitably a crisis – they are ordinary. So let’s acknowledge that? Let’s stop feeling we’re all out on our own?
  2. Discussing these issues in public brings responses and help – hurray for that and thanks. It has also led to much animated and engaged discussion between Charles and me. Hurray for that too.
  3. May lead to other people having animated and engaged discussions.
  4. I think there are more reasons I can’t remember just now.

So I’ve found writing the blog and reading your comments helpful.

Now I imagine you may tell me why I would do better to shut up?

Door panel close up, embroidery and copyright Anne Wareham

Sally March 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm

I’m glad you’ve written a post about openness. It is a subject very dear to my heart and I have lots to say on the matter. I have a very open personality (tempered only occasionally by fleeting insecurities) but I believe this ‘heart-on-my-sleeve’ personality has got me places and won me some great deep and meaningful friendships over the years, but it has also got me into all sorts of trouble, too.

I think my openness is born out of a natural insatiable curiosity about people, and what makes them and the world tick. I don’t think it’s because I’m part of Generation X or the Facebook generation? I like to get to the bottom of things, to find out the truth (as much as it’s possible too) – or at the very least, feel comforted by discovering that you are not alone in your ‘neurotting’…

I’ve been accused of being nosey, of making comments that are too close to the bone. I’ve learnt not to be too open with men because it creates a misleading illusion of intimacy. Yes, it’s true I enjoy being provocative, but this is certainly not from a place of malice, rather a place of playfulness: I don’t enjoy conflict anymore than the next person. At the same time as hitting people with direct questions I have a kind of sweet coercive way about me, so I enjoy watching people slowly open up and be stimulated/liberated that we are talking about something they’ve either repressed or not considered before..

I guess there is a major difference between probing others for information and revealing stuff about yourself. My partner has said to me that being too open about oneself is sign of being insecure. That it shows you do not know your own boundaries, and that it’s not healthy to spew out too much information about yourself to people you don’t know very well. That it’s perfectly fine to hold back a little and work up to getting to know someone. This is good advice. And he’s not the first to say it to me. I will take it on board.

But you also have to be a bit vulnerable yourself in exchange for something from the other person… I guess it’s just about striking the right balance, like most things in life. I don’t want to squash my open ‘spirit’, so for now, that heart is staying on my sleeve.

anne March 6, 2012 at 11:42 pm

This does raise the question of – open with who? I realise I was thinking principally about openness in a close relationship. How open to be elsewhere is a whole new topic perhaps.

Paul Steer March 5, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Yes being open and honest about our fragility removes fear and stigma, and as long as its done in a supportive way is very healthy for the soul.

anne March 5, 2012 at 6:14 pm

I do believe that too. XXXX

Bridget March 4, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Being open is about taking a risk but also about having confidence. If I am open, will I be rejected? If I am open will I be taken seriously? If I am open, will it just release anger and a row (no I know this is not that discussion!).

I am not sure I know how to BE open – in the sense of being able to express clearly my doubts, or fear, or guilt. Perhaps we all need training in how to express ourselves. Least said soonest mended only works up to a point – I used to believe in this which is probably why I got divorced. If I had known how to be open early enough, it might never have happened!

Or maybe it would have happened much earlier!

anne March 5, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Earlier, I think!

Sue Beesley (@suebeesley) March 4, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Well, if your sex life has taken a turn for the better and your rows are less bloody then your public exposure strategy will have paid off handsomely, assuming your aim was change. (I really don’t want to know, btw – that would be too much information).

You may also have found common argument vehemently against one or more of the responses you’ve had and that can be marvellously bonding too…

In the end though, I think that long term, close relationships need a private space into which no-one is allowed. Otherwise you’ll both become persistently conscious of how this or that action will end up being described in public, which doesn’t sit easily with openness and trust.

Angela March 4, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Well interesting blog post – being a member of the least said soonest mended club I think there is much to commend keeping issues resolved out of public. Have even had personal coaching to be more open but still retreat to sort it out privately. 4 years infertility investigation taught me that people avoid you like the plague if there is an issue but interested to hear your take on things.

anne March 4, 2012 at 4:38 pm

I suppose for me that answers the question in a way. Until we begin to talk freely and without shame (?) about problems and get used to doing that, people will go on running away from difficult conversations and from people who need comfort and understanding.

Angela March 4, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Suppose it depends on how your friends are (soon sort the real from the rest) in fact for me it was family that ran away mostly. Maybe not being open is the bad thing but am so “British” about stuff. Wish you the very best everyone’s situation is different.

Penny WALKER March 4, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Tell you to shut up? No way! As you quite rightly say “the dialogue is fascinating and enormously helpful”. Don’t you dare shut up!

anne March 4, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Reassured. OK. Maybe we should talk about money sometime? And sleeping in the same bed?(or not) And all that stuff…OK!

Ben Ranyard March 4, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Openness will save the world. Being able to express clearly how we feel will break down the strongest fortress. It is my hope that the internet will allow people from all over the world to engage, understand and become trusting of one another. Lack of information breeds fear. I look forward to twitter and skype being freely used in countries like Iran and North Korea. Our hopes and fears are all the same and sharing these makes us stronger. In a sense the internet is like a sensory neurone system for humanity. (ref A. C. Clark)
#NowIfeellikeahippy. 🙂

anne March 4, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Ah – who could not love a hippy? #thosewerethedays

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