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On Radio Silence

August 30, 2011

In this day and age, when Facebook, Twitter and email are more often checked from a smart phone than a computer, where phones are practically surgically attached to their owners and hell, even Grandma has a cell phone and Facebook account, there are exceptionally few things that will make me supremely angry as when one of my romantic partners goes radio silent.

For those of you who have not had exposure to that particular term, radio silence is when someone essentially drops off the face of the earth and does not respond to any communication attempts. It is absolutely infuriating to deal with. You send a text. Nothing. Email. Still nothing. Call. No answer. Oh but hey, there’s a post on Twitter or Facebook. The hell?!

Radio silence can be inspired by many things – avoidance of serious or awkward conversations being one of them. I’ll admit to doing it. Oh hey, I don’t want to talk to that person. Call declined. Awkward chat message. Ignored. I just want to be left alone. Computer and phone turned off. The thing is, the important people always get some kind of warning that I’m going offline, unless it’s due to an emergency. Why? Because it drives me absolutely insane to have radio silence inflicted on me by my lovers, so it’s unacceptable for me to inflict it upon them.

Being in the military or dating someone in the military provides an interesting twist to radio silence. It is an unfortunate fact of deployment life that sometimes it is completely out of my control that I can’t get on the internet or phone to get in touch with people back home. The many situations that arise that cause our outward communication abilities to be turned off for hours, days and sometimes even weeks at a time. Many times we get no warning that it is going to happen and once it does, we get to sit and feel miserable and helpless as the emails from home fill our inboxes. The longer the outage lasts, the more frantic and worried the emails get and the more stressed we become about not being able to reply.

The other major facets of deployment that can cause radio silence are the working hours and sleep deprivation. Some days I’ve been literally so busy that logging onto a computer to shoot a 30 second email saying I’m alive and too busy to function isn’t even a possibility. Then when the day is finally over however many hours later, the focus is to go grab the two hours of sleep I’ll be able to get before I have to be up and back at work again. It’s not personal, but if I don’t have time to eat or sleep, I don’t have time to call or write. Doesn’t mean I love anyone any less, there are just priorities that have to be put in place for my own survival and sanity.

I have to admit that the original idea for writing about this was caused by my being exceptionally frustrated and wanting to complain about the communications tactics of a couple of my romantic partners. Is this wrong? Maybe. But having talked with the two gentlemen in question, I found that the situations were things that are useful to share because of the perspective they give.

The one had a frustrating habit of dropping off the radar for days at a time and telling me that he just wanted alone time for a while. I addressed him several times about how frustrated and unhappy it made me for him to disappear without warning, but to no avail. It turned out however, that he wasn’t a huge fan of being on the receiving end of that same ¬†treatment when my priorities shifted and I wasn’t making the effort to call him anymore. Perhaps it’s passive-aggressive, but in general, people tend not to change behaviors unless there is a consequence and in this case it is a good reminder to treat others as one wishes to be treated. It does make me very happy that he is working to communicate with me in a more effective manner now.

The other partner that frequently drives me insane doesn’t actually go radio silent on purpose, well, as far as I can tell. He currently lives in another country and spends a lot of time deployed, so there tend to be semi-frequent gaps in regular communication. I have to admit that even having been on his side of the equation, I still chafe at the times where I get no response and sometimes lapse into “WAI YOU NO CALL MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE?!?!” mode. Bless his heart, he responded to my last such dramatic statement with an apology and several phone calls explaining that honestly left me feeling like a bit of a jerk for being so worked up about the whole deal because I hadn’t communicated my position clearly then had gotten upset at him for not knowing what I hadn’t told him. Crap, looks like I could use some brushing up on my communication skills. Wait, aren’t I supposed to be the one teaching here or something?!

Everyone needs space on occasion. Just please, remember to give those of us who have an expectation for a certain amount of contact a warning before you go off the grid. Also, please be patient with your deployed loved ones. We really do try.

Until Next Time.

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