Relationships, Perceptions and Communication

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The perception of reality is subjective. I have been aware of this for many years and am gradually understanding the deep effect this has on relationships. Very little in life is absolutely this way or absolutely that way. Recognizing this can be helpful for an individual who is struggling with the idea that anything must be perfectly this way or that way. It becomes more complicated for two individuals and even more complex when a number of people are involved. It’s actually quite healthy that we don’t all perceive things exactly the same way. Remember the story of the five blind men describing an elephant. When each man’s definition was put together with all the other’s definitions, the group perception of an elephant was complete. When one individual perceives a situation to be one way and another individual perceives the same situation to be another way, communication skills become very important.

For instance, a friend of mine was told by her significant other, “there is not enough room in this relationship for two men”. When she asked him what his definition of “man” was an argument followed. “A man! Everyone knows what a man is!” No, there really is no standard definition that fits. How each of us perceives and defines what a man is will be different from how others perceive and define what a man is. Times have changed, men have changed, and we’ve all changed. That is real and, I believe, good.

It is, very important for us to define what we mean when we say something. When two different people, grow up in two different households their perceptions of reality and definitions of words are going to be very different. Even when two people grow up in the same home they will have different perceptions. For the sake of a relationship, even the dictionary cannot make the final decision. Dictionaries were written by people who do not live with us. Respect for ourselves and one another means that we take the time to define, explain in detail, what we mean by our words and how we perceive reality. Respect also means that we listen to and accept the other person’s perceptions of reality and definitions of words.

Our perception of reality begins to develop from birth and involves the attachment relationship we had with our parents or caretakers. People who were not given secure attachments by their parents will have different perceptions from those who were securely attached concerning how an adult relationship should be. Attachment is one of the most important aspects of a relationship. No one is right or wrong, and it is vital for individuals to recognize and respect those differences. That way each individual can make an educated choice concerning whether or not to be in the relationship.

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