Of the many excuses people have for their relationships failing, the most common seems to be lack of communication. This assumes that the usual “blame something external” drive hasn’t registered and instead of saying that the economy or the patriarchy or the Steelers’ offense caused your relationship with your spouse or boss to go south, you take responsibility. So, in other words, among adults, the most typical excuse for relationship failure.
The reason might have more to do with language and the way we use language than some mystical perception of compatibility or moral turpitude. We live in a culture where, because we look at life through an individualistic lens, opportunism is the rule. That’s fine and all, but of course the language adapts to this; we have euphemisms for everything, we cast a political light to almost every conversation that involves accountability, and blame-shifting is a national sport. Being to obvious about this looks bad, so people have sly ways to direct and re-direct each others’ attention and blame can get passed on without anything resembling a direct accusation of wrongdoing.
The English language has an awful lot of words compared to other languages, and many of them are ostensibly factual but, when examined, very political. Just think about the difference between “Rights”, “Liberties”, “Powers”, “Entitlements”, “Expectations”, and “Prerogatives”. Do these words describe something that’s actually different outside the individual’s perception, or just different attitudes towards the same concept?
Marketers run the West, particularly in the information age.
So, maybe the issue of people having trouble communicating isn’t so much that they don’t talk. People talk plenty. The issue is more likely that they simply have trouble communicating honestly. No one will come out and say, “I demand that you do this”, as it runs too counter to our desire for freedom, so we end up just manipulating and also not understanding what we actually want.
Maybe this isn’t really trouble so much as a simple inability to win a propaganda war, and rearrange relationships into what we want them to be. In a society that refuses to accept hierarchy, the ability to bullshit people into thinking that a subservient position isn’t really a subservient position holds together many relationships that, if discussed honestly, would clearly be damning to one side in some way. So the real question is, should people be honest? Is bullshit the only thing holding together large numbers of productive interactions? And if so, does this say something damning about people’s views on their place in the world?