In this blog, our guest blogger Ipshita delves into the top reasons why women are unable to communicate their true feelings with their dear ones- partner, children and even friends. This is highly relevant in during midlife when one undergoes a major transition both physically and mentally.
Figure out which of these stop you from seeking help even when you badly need it and try out the strategies has she put forth for you to get better at conversations. These are based on her personal experiences and those collected from others during chance conversations.
We sincerely believe that these will come handy when you feel overwhelmed or out of control while juggling your personal and professional responsibilities.
The Reality of Women in Midlife
You are having difficulty at work due to a nasty boss or hostile teammates.
You are at everyone’s beck and call at home but no one inquires about your day.
You are struggling with your fitness plan and steadily gaining weight.
Your significant other often makes fun of you in family and social gatherings.
Your teenage kids ignore you at home, speak and behave poorly.
You are going through regular bouts of troubled sleep.
Your energy levels are low and you continuously feel rundown.
Lately, your sex life is lacklustre or you do not feel fulfilled.
The commonality in all of the above is they are invisible yet gnaw at your insides, affect your mind, and weaken you day by day. This will continue unless you can voice it, share it, and seek help.
There is nothing worse than suffering alone in this world. If you are married, romantically coupled, or have a family of any kind, you must be able to share your struggles and challenges with them.
Poor external communication comes from the poor internal identity of expression. Improving internal identity of expression will naturally improve external expression.” ~ Lloyd R. Shisler
Why you don’t communicate and what you should try?
If you scratch the surface, you will find reasons why you are not speaking up about your struggles and communicating them with those close to you. Here are some possibilities and ways to work around those bumps.
1. Sign of weakness
You are often judged as weak if you speak out about your struggles. I used to think that asking for help means accepting that I am incapable. Until a few years ago, unless a fever indisposed me, I was least likely to own up to any of my troubles.
During my pregnancy, I used to go for my ultrasounds by myself. When I had a miscarriage and needed a D&C, my ObGyn specifically told me to bring someone along for the procedure.
When I look back, I feel that I was emotionally insecure to let people in. Since then, I have consciously worked on improving my communication with my near and dear ones.
Change of mindset
This is not the 17th or 18th century. No one expects you to maintain a stiff upper lip. You are living in the age of social media. You are most likely posting your latest sojourn to the local coffee shop or a selfie of you having a pumpkin latte on Instagram.
You can voice out your challenges with someone you can trust if you make the effort.
Sit across from each other on a couch and have a heart-to-heart. Feel the difference.
2. Possibility of rejection or ridicule
You might have faced a situation when you tried to speak about your issues and you were snubbed. It is possible that the other person brushed aside your concerns terming your behavior an overreaction.
If your significant other is an emotional jellyfish, he might make fun of your feelings. Even I am guilty of at times suggesting that the issue is a “non-issue” and scoffing at it as an exaggeration of the problem.
A relative of mine had difficulty reaching out to people around her about some issues in her marriage. Even those who were privy to her communication ignored it for various reasons. Maybe, if she had reached out to someone else, she would still be with us.
If you identify yourself as someone who fits this condition, you have got to read Brene Brown’s book - The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connections, & Courage.
Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection. ~ Brene Brown
Just a few days back, a friend asked me to call her to discuss something she was struggling with. She and I rarely talk unless something crops up, but that is a healthy relationship if you can pick up effortlessly from where you last left off.
There is a surreal feeling of freedom and a surge of strength when you can open up to someone and feel seen and heard. The key is to find your “safe people”. Steer clear of those who reject or ridicule. Your world does have good people too. Find them. Stay connected.
Recommended Reading: Learn more about the menopausal transition so you can communicate with your family to break the taboo.
3. Upbringing and family culture
Some of you might find it difficult to communicate because of your upbringing. Some households are chatty around the dining table and those who eat quietly and disappear. There are families where parents and children share an open, nurturing relationship with a strong dose of camaraderie. Everyone is encouraged to toss ideas and speak their mind. Others might be maintaining a fair distance from their parents, wife, and children. It is a sort of authoritarian system in those households.
If you are brought up a certain way, the culture gets ingrained in your system. It is tough to shake off those systems. When such women marry into other families, they continue to remain closed off even if people are amicable and receptive, suffering in isolation.
Change your approach
Thankfully, what you have been exposed to since your childhood, can be altered. You can learn new ways, improve your communication skills, and implement them into your life. It is never too late. As we always say, necessity can drive you to find new ways.
I think for any relationship to be successful, there needs to be loving communication, appreciation, and understanding. ~ Miranda Kerr
The change must begin with you. If you are a closed person, learn to open up. Gradually. Deliberately. One step at a time. And see the magic unravel.
Recommended Reading: Understand why your sexual drive may decline during midlife
4. Low self-worth
Life is not always rainbows and sunshine. Many of us have had tough lives growing up and beyond. Things may not go the way you hope them to. The family environment can be strenuous. Marital life may not be fulfilling. Meanwhile, some others seem to have it all, sailing as smooth as a swan!
Naturally, you might go through a feeling of low self-worth. You tend to believe that life is going to remain the way it is at that point. Remember Newton’s first law of motion? An object will continue to be in a state of rest unless an external force acts upon it. Your life will not change if you don’t speak up.
An acquaintance of mine grew up in a family of three sisters and one brother. She was the middle child. Her parents were fixated on the “man child”, and she was non-existent. This was her truth. She carried this mindset into her marriage. Intimacy was a challenge though her husband was always loving. It took her years to come out of her shell.
Communicating brings clarity
During one of our conversations, she told me about her friends and their
satisfying married life. When I asked her to express her wants to her husband, she bluntly said, “I cannot be so selfish, and can’t he make out what I want?”
Two distinct thoughts in one sentence! What she did not realize is outwardly she was being thoughtful and accommodating.
Inwardly, she was resenting her life and relationship. Choosing yourself is not being selfish.
I shared with her a life lesson gathered from my husband. Early on in our marriage, he made it clear that if I want something from him I must speak up. He is not God. He is not omniscient. He is not a mind-reader.
You might have heard the same too, but you probably are not used to opening up/ being listened to.
Get rid of your assumptions. You are a priority too. Communicate for clarity. You will be amazed at how much your life is sweetened when you speak up.
5. Your attitude may be to blame
Some of us are pessimists, skeptical, and sarcastic. We have self-created mental limitations. Our first reaction to anything is - how will it help? What’s the point of sharing? Nothing is going to change. This is not going to work. So why make any effort?
If you are one of them, you have never enjoyed the bliss of a heart-to-heart conversation and the comfort derived from sharing.
Rewire your thinking, visualize better
My thought processes underwent a humongous change after I read Shakti Gawain’s Creative Visualization. So much of the book's content made sense in how we shape our lives.
Remember this! While you are sitting still being your regular sarcastic self, someone out there is seeking help. The other person is reaching out, speaking up, sharing, and asking for advice because she wants to change her life for the better. She is taking action, moving ahead in life overcoming whatever is bothering her, and having a shot at being happy.
No matter what your ability is. Effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment. ~ Carol Dweck
When I look back at the person I was in my early 20s, I think of all the lost opportunities to have a better life earlier because I was closed off. Today the ability to communicate effectively is my armour.
You run a risk of destroying a whole lot of things around you when you do not communicate your struggles. You need to voice how you feel. Not only for yourself but for your partner and loved ones too. When you bottle up your feelings, you are building pressure that has the potential to cause massive damage. Imagine a balloon that you are filling with air. At one point it will burst in your face.
I celebrated my 19th wedding anniversary this Women’s Day. If there is one thing that I have become good at, it is communicating, being vulnerable, and talking about my feelings, expectations, and disappointments with my husband, kid, and mother outside of my tight-knit circle of trusted friends.
This transformation did not happen overnight. I worked hard to change my attitude towards opening up even at the risk of rejection or being ridiculed. Once I crossed the hump, things became better.
There is no reason why any of us must struggle alone in life when we can draw strength from people around us by including them in our endeavors.
And... you have got this!!!
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About the author
Ipshita Basu Guha Ph.D. is a twin entrepreneur who is passionate about women's health and mental health in general. It is incredible that she not only took a step toward her personal health but also talked her women's tribe into this and drove the campaign on the ground.