Arguing

Rule #51- Sleeping it Off

via perumalism, Till Krech

I’ve decided to examine this seemingly agreed-upon idea that states that one should never go to bed angry. That the key to a happy well-rounded relationship is that all pending drama be resolved before one’s head hits the pillow.

The only problem with this seemingly good advice is that switching off your angry button just before bed can be easier said than done — in which case, we are told to just sleep it off. For example, some of us can never fall asleep when they are cross (because we obsessively replay the fight in our heads until sleep is impossible) and the fact that when you go to bed angry there is a very large possibility that you will also wake up angry (if not angrier, because you were deprived of half the night’s sleep due to a loop of possible arguments you forgot to make the night before, and find yourself completely entrenched in your position by morning).

So, is sleeping it off really the best way of cooling off after a fight, or is talking things through before bed the better strategy?

1. The arguments got really heated, moreover you are really tired because it’s been a shitty long day, you didn’t have time to eat dinner and your usually wonderful other half has pissed you off. What could be a better end to this catastrophically long day?

You decide to go to bed and you wake up in the morning, and you partner looks all refreshed but you still feel like crap. Just because you both went to sleep “to cool the argument off” doesn’t mean it’s over, and even if one of you feels better in the morning, it doesn’t necessarily mean you both slept off last night’s hot tempers.

The fact that you went to bed doesn’t actually mean the argument is over, and it doesn’t mean you both feel better about the things you’d argued about. You know yourself and hopefully your partner as well, so think about it before you call it a night. Maybe you had better talk things through so you can go to bed semi-calm and not go to work the next day with an argument hangover.

2. Maybe the reason you picked a fight in the first place was because you were so pissed off after your long disgusting day and were just taking it out on your SO? If this is the case, maybe it would better to get some sleep rather than talk it out, because maybe after a few hours of slumber you might decide that the fact he forgot to pick up milk (even though you won’t be able to make a coffee in the morning to nurse your dire caffeine addiction) isn’t the end of the world and you can pick one up on the go.

That said, if it’s a much bigger fight than just blowing off steam at each other, sleep is probably not going to make one iota of difference, so it’s probably best NOT to put off any serious conversations until the morning.

3. Also, it’s quite likely your partner doesn’t realize you are probably just half mad at him and half really really tired. Not to mention they are probably all confused as to why you went all mental on them over something that small. This is why it’s important to be sensitive to each other: perhaps you should decide beforehand that if one of you comes home exceptionally pissed off from work, you tell the other person you just need some quiet time and then go into the other room and just watch some telly while binge eating biscuits (or something like that). Just tell your partner what you need after a rough day (in advance if possible), i.e. food/a hug/space. That way you guys can be more attentive to each other’s needs and preempt some unnecessary fighting.

4. If you do decide to go to bed, try not to be all passive aggressive about the whole thing, maybe avoid saying things like “I just can’t stand to look at you right now so I’m going to sleep.” Try something more along the lines of: “I’m just really tired and can’t think straight, so maybe we should talk about this after we’ve both had some sleep.”

5. Physical contact helps soften your temper (no, I don’t mean sex). Try cuddling, or holding hands, or some forms of contact that will help bridge the void you’ve created that runs down the middle of the bed.

6. If you had a fight, finished the fight, and are still all wired up on the one hand, but really physically and mentally exhausted on the other, maybe try and do something fun to wind down. Share a tub of ice-cream, watch and episode of some TV show you both like. You know, something fun and PG-13.

Bottom line is this, it doesn’t matter when you talk things threw as long as you do. Get to know each other, when it’s important to talk, and when it’s better to just back off and cool down (possibly for eight hours with your eyes shut).

Rule #50- People Don’t Change

via christopher, russavia, wiki commons

Change is a tough issue to tackle when it comes to relationships. I think we, as humans, need to believe that people have the capacity to change, to better themselves, but when it comes to the way we see partners or potential partners, the belief that change is possible usually comes with a few caveats, namely — if you kick off a relationship by betting on the possibility that your partner will change in some way, you may be getting yourself into a sticky situation.

I’m not saying people can’t change, I’m just saying that they probably won’t. Are you dating someone new? Are you considering reconnecting with that one particular ex that you just can’t shake the feeling was “the one that got a way,” a missed opportunity?

It’s probably best to start off by asking yourself: What’s changed? Why is this time any different, why are you any different? If you couldn’t make it work the first time around, why will it work now? Is your new boyfriend a serial monogamist who switches girlfriends every six months and it’s never his fault? Is he incapable of holding down a job, or deciding on a career? Can he not stick with any one city, or degree program, or plan for more than a couple of years? These things are too important to be overlooked, as they could very well point to an inability to stick with a relationship.

Why are you any different?

1. First of all you need to ask yourself why you are any different, or more specifically why the relationship is any different from any other aspect of your partner’s life. If he/she can’t hold down a steady job, or they move around every couple of years, what’s to say they aren’t going to get up and leave you too?

It’s important to ask yourself why this relationship is any different from anything else your partner is incapable of following through with…  It’s vital to notice not only how the person you are dating interacts with you, but how they treat all of their commitments: they may be the most wonderful, sweet, and giving person, but if he or she can’t live up to the other obligations they have going on, it’s very likely that at some point in the future, their commitment to you will also prove to be too much for them. So make sure you don’t end up missing important warning signs.

2. Rule #2 goes out to all those people who think they can change the person they are dating! You can’t! That just doesn’t happen outside the realm of chick flicks.

Start seeing your relationship for what it is now, and not what it has the potential to become if only he gets a steady job, or ends his porn addiction, or stops lazing around, or stops being selfish or uncommunicative, or stops blaming others for his shortcomings. Because if you don’t, well, you might be in for a rude awakening six months, or ten years down the line. But more importantly than that, you should like, respect and admire the person you are with for who they are, and not for who they will become if only they start or stop doing something.

If you need a project, take up knitting, not relationships, because at least knitting doesn’t have the built-in  danger of blowing up in your face.

3. If the person you are dating has a bunch of dirty habits that you can’t stand (or even just one) they are most  likely going to keep at it (yes, I’m talking about anything from smoking too much pot, to being a selfish jerk, to cheating on you). Either dump them or learn to live with it.

No, I’m not completely cynical, and I do believe there is the possibility that they will try and work on it for you. But that means that for starters you can’t fall into the beginning-of-relationship-trap of pretending that it doesn’t bother you. Moreover, you have also got to accept that he may just might continue forever to bite his toenails in bed, and that’s that (or do that other thing that drives you completely insane).

4. Thinking of reconciling with an old flame? First ask yourself this, where are you at? Are you still the same person you were when you two first dated? Because if the answer is yes, and the break-up was also your fault (as you know, it takes two to tango), you may be unhappy to discover that history has the nasty habit of repeating itself. Also, maybe they haven’t changed, but you have — maybe that starry-eyed person you used to be doesn’t exist anymore.

Ok, so maybe you are still the same person, just a little bit older and wiser, and just maybe this relationship isn’t the right fit for you anymore. But I will say this, just keep humming this as your new mantra because it will save you a lot of time, tears and anger: “people don’t change.” I do realize that this is probably the hardest truth about humanity for people to accept because it appears to negate lofty ideas about change and redemption.

Be it a part of their personality, a worldview, or behavioral pattern, people tend to treat all aspects of their lives in the same manner. So stop looking at your relationship as separate from all other things in your someone’s life, because it aint! It’s just another part of who they are.

The truth is, you will be much better off if you learn to accept your partner for who they are and not for what you wish that one day they will be. Because entering a relationship with a person as they are, and not as they might, should or will be, is always the safer bet.

Rule #48- Milestones

Stones

Every relationship is composed of hundreds of different little milestones.

The first time you kiss, your first fight, the first time you realize that you’re in love with this whole other person.

The first time they discoverer you spend most of your free time writing a dating blog. You know, those run-of-the-mill milestones that mark every relationship.

But what WE perceive as important events, might be slightly different to what the person we are dating sees as important. After all, you both come with a lot of relationship baggage, and one can’t assume all expectations align off the bat. 

So, in order to avoid monumental misunderstandings try: 

1. Not everybody has the same idea of what constitutes a milestone.

Some people like to celebrate every little thing, and others are less sentimental. If your girlfriend wants to have a romantic dinner to celebrate every month you two have been together (you started dating four years ago) LET HER. What’s the harm?

If you think it’s too much, talk about it and find a compromise that suits you both. Maybe suggest an evening at home with a bottle of wine. Usually the gesture is what counts.

2. Accept that the person you are dating might see certain things as a bigger deal than you. Meaning, that just because you don’t think the anniversary of the first time you kissed is important, but they do, humor them! That’s what relationships are all about, accepting someone else’s little quirks.

Moreover, they want to mark these things because the relationship is important to them! Not because they want to bankrupt you.

YOU are important to them! That’s just how some people like to show it.

Making fun of someone just because they wanted to do something nice to mark the anniversary of the first time they sent you a message on FaceBook is highly counter-productive to the relationship, they will just resent you for it. They only bought you the flowers because FOR THEM it was something worth remembering, and as their partner you should get on-bored.

Yes, no matter how silly it seems to you. Sometimes you’ve just got to bite the bullet because it’s important to someone who is important to you.

3. Talk about things ahead of time in order to avoid situations in which you were expected to have planed something and forgot/ didn’t know you were supposed to.

Didn’t think he was going to be devastated you didn’t book a spa day for your six month anniversary?! You should have talked about whether or not you were planning to celebrate it and how.

In no way is it an awkward conversation, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes, Just talk discuss it.

That said, that doesn’t mean you can’t surprise them with something nice. Just because they said they didn’t want to do anything doesn’t mean you can’t do something for them. Just don’t go OVER THE TOP. 

4. If a certain date/life event/anniversary of something is coming up, don’t just drop passive-aggressive hints! 

Be upfront and clear that you would like to do something special to mark it.

On the downside you might not be surprised by the giant muffin basket and card on your front doorstep. But on the upside, you won’t get disappointed either (and end up fighting).

5. Celebrating things is fun! If anniversaries are too mainstream for you, find some other important occasion in your joint life that is worth commemorating.

It’s basically just an excuse to take a couple of hours out of your day-to-day routine to remember why you kinda of like each other in the first place.

Rule #47- The “A” Word

via Ellie-Rose, Lies Thru a Lens

Birth control is probably one of the more complicated contention points in a relationship, but I’m not going to talk about the subject today. 

Today we will be discussing the fact that sex has consequences! I mean come on, we all know that in the back of our heads, but we tend to pretend that “accidents” will NEVER happen to us (classic Fraud, I know).

With that mindset, we tend to have the ten minute “what method of birth control are we using honey?” conversation, and move on with our sex lives. But we tend to skim over the “what happens when birth control fails” part.

Now, I’m sorry men, but you’re not going to like what I’m going to say next. The bottom line is, your lady has the last say in what should ideally be a joint decision (seeing as it’s her body and all).

This means you should probably have the “what if” conversation early on in the relationship. This is so you don’t end up with completely different solutions should you ever end up in a sticky predicament. This is so you don’t end up  in a position where someone else is making a life altering decision for you. 

That’s that, you still both have a right to change your mind. 

But again, at the end of the day my good fellows, you will have to come to terms with the fact that this isn’t your body, and if you aren’t happy with your girlfriend’s opinion on the matter, you might want to consider abstinence as a preventive measure (because that always works best).

Maybe consider this: different opinions on how to handle said situation might mean you shouldn’t be having sex with this person in the first place. YES! It’s that much of a big deal that maybe it should be a relationship deal-breaker. 

I mean, come one, this could mean a potential whole other person that needs taking care of. Is that something you both want? Is abortion something that you are both comfortable with? The two of you should probably work these things out beforehand. 

So, what should you do?

1. Well, for starters, use birth control (daa).

2. Talk, talk, TALK about it ahead of time! Don’t wait for something to “go wrong” to find out what your partner’s stand on abortions is.

If your having sex with someone, you have a right to know what method of birth control they are using. Does it hurt when they pee? (Just kidding, kinda). And should it come to it, how they feel about abortions/having kids. 

3. Accept that there are probably only two viable solutions and that they both cost money. Seeing as there are two of you, you should both contribute.

4. Find a close friend to confide in (possibly a subjective as possible third party).

Sometimes, it helps to have someone else to regale your happy news/tales of woe too. Especially, if you two haven’t been going out very long, and you still don’t feel confident enough to have a complete emotional breakdown in front of them.

That is not to say I don’t think you should talk to them about it.  They have a right to know! Even if at the end of the day you decide to overrule their opinion. After all, fifty percent of the DNA used to cause “the situation” is theirs.

5. Don’t do anything stupid! Go see your Gyno and talk to her/him about all the options.

6. Obviously, this kind of problem (if it is a problem) is time sensitive! So snap out of the denial mode and talk to your Dr. and partner about all the options.

7. Be supportive of each other!

You’re both probably freaking out, and turning on one another really isn’t going to solve anything. It will  just destroy your relationship! Only proper emotional support will help you get through this as a couple. 

This isn’t either of your fault! (one hopes at any rate), These things just happen. Accept that you need to make a responsible decision, and make wiser birth-control choices in the future.

Abortions are such a complicated subject, and I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone how to deal with the issue beyond being honest, supportive of each other, and most importantly, responsible. At the end of the day, this isn’t the end of the world! If you deal with the situation together, and are there for each other, you will be able to get through it with your partnership intact.

Rule #46- Keeping the Faith

Praying_couple_@_Shwedagon_(4361022275)

via Roger Price, Fæ

I think these days researchers categorize religious disagreements as “unresolvable conflicts.”  I’m not sure to what extent I agree with this statement. But there is definitely something to be discussed as far as relationships go.

Can we date someone seriously who has religious beliefs different from our own? Or is it a non-issue and I’m just old fashioned?

I most certainly can’t call myself religious  I’m probably traditional at best, but I honestly can’t see myself dating someone of a different religion. Not because I believe god will revoke my pass into heaven, but rather because tradition and faith are so fundamentally part of my personality that I have trouble imagining myself living with someone who has a whole different set of them.

I sometimes wonder if maybe I’ve got it all backwards.  Maybe it’s enough that he believes in democracy, and he respects my place as a modern working woman. Maybe all those strange traditions that my ancestors  passed down to me are only secondary to my liberal modern upbringing.

Or are they?

I mean, at the end of the day I love celebrating the holidays. I want to keep those old traditions alive even when I have saved up enough to finally own my own house (fingers crossed that too will happen someday. That is, when I give up teaching, and get a job that actually pays).

So can it work?

I’ve decide to bring in back-up. 

This section was written by a friend of the blogger’s, who is from a secular-but-traditional family and in a happy relationship with a person whose beliefs and religious affiliation differ from hers, and thinks she knows a thing or two about dealing with the “religion issue” — that sometimes painful wedge that exists between the two of you when it comes to matters of faith, culture and tradition.

Back to “Can it work?”: that’s a trick question. When you’re just dating a person, religion isn’t as likely to come up and be a real problem. But when you get more serious about someone and bring them home to meet your parents (and grandparents), you’re bound to start asking yourself the “religion question”, and your significant other might be too.

But this question can have many different answers. If your family’s so traditional and if you belong to such a tight-knit community that you know the two of you won’t be able to be together unless you elope or even cut ties with your loved ones, you might want to come to terms with the fact that your relationship has an expiration date (or, well, just elope).

Bear in mind that being in a relationship your parents are adamant about not accepting will put a heavy strain on you, on your relationship and on your partner, who will want to share your pain. It might prove very difficult to cope without your parents’ moral and financial support, your mother’s hugs and your father’s advice (and occasional proud gaze). Worst of all, should your partner decide not to stick around, you’ll be left all alone to nurse your heartbreak with a healthy dose of “I told you so’s.”

This also depends on your partner’s religious orientation: if he’s technically of your religion but an atheist or of another caste, your parents might eventually come ‘round. If one of his parents is of your religion, your parents might eventually warm to him. If he’s of a different religion but you both share the same values, outlook or philosophy of life, you may have a chance. If he’s of a different religion but of the same culture, or moved to your country at a young age, it may well work, even if he’s of a different religion (my boyfriend and I are an example of this). But if he’s a devout Catholic from Poland and you’ve been raised as a devout Sikh from the Punjab, it might not work out so well for the two of you – because of cultural and religious differences alike. (Remember how in My Big Fat Greek Weddingthe protagonists were both Christians, but one was Greek Orthodox while the other wasn’t? And even after the groom agreed to become Greek Orthodox, the bride’s father still felt betrayed, because the groom wasn’t culturally/ethnically Greek?)

If, on the other hand, your parents are less religious, or more open, there’s a chance that they’ll accept your partner with open arms, even if you have to deal with a rocky start in the first few weeks. If your parents raised you in a secular and liberal home and they still don’t accept your boyfriend, you should ask yourself if maybe the religious issue is not at the heart of their rejection. For example, they may be wary of accepting him because they believe the religious differences preclude the possibility of your building a happy and harmonious home together, and if you convince them that you share the same values, they’ll accept your partner. (Of course, it’s possible that they just think he’s a jerk.)

Or perhaps they think the religious differences belie even bigger cultural differences, in which case you have to ask yourself if these differences are surmountable. Or perhaps they worry about your legal status: will you be able to marry this man legally in your country, and will you be entitled to full rights as a married couple? Does your country have civil marriage? Does your religious denomination recognize mixed marriages? What will the status of your children be?

If you haven’t asked yourself these questions yet, you may find that they are crucial to figuring out if there’s a chance for the two of you – and they’re probably the questions running through your parents’ head, and the reason for their objection to your union.

Under what conditions can it work?

First of all, religion can be many things. It can be  a set of childhood memories of holidays or the name you were given by your parents, but not necessarily something that has had a real impact on you growing up.

Or it can be an integral part of your identity, be it because you want to keep your family’s traditions or because you yourself have a close connection to God. If you are a spiritual person and feel that you share a spiritual affinity with your significant other despite the religious differences, you’ll probably be fine. If religion means little to the both of you but you share the same world-view, you’ll be ok also. And if religion to you is an amalgam of traditions and rituals you want your children (and spouse) to be part of, you have to make sure your significant other is willing to respect that (bear in mind that you will probably have to respect and even keep his own traditions in return – are you willing to change your lifestyle and do that?).

If the question of conversion arises and it becomes clear that the relationship cannot proceed without it, ask yourselves which one of you should convert and why, and what it will require of you as individuals and a couple. If you ask him to convert, will your partner feel like you can’t accept him as he is, that you need him to change too much? Will it alienate and hurt him and tear the two of you apart? Will it turn you into Marta and him into the Baron Münchhausen (an analogy my boyfriend and I often use when discussing this hot topic)? If so, just let it go.

Sometimes the “religion issue” can interfere in the bedroom as well — sometimes being brought up in a particular faith will shape the way we think about sex. For example, you may be all for abstinence, while he might expect sex way before the wedding night. He may have had a wild past, while you may have been “saving yourself”. You may have been brought up in a strict community that segregates men and women, while he may have lost his virginity at 13. You may have been brought up to get married early, while he may be planning to keep his bachelor pad at least until his 35th birthday. You may be pro-choice while he may be pro-life. These are extreme examples, but many interfaith couples are bound to encounter the “grey areas” of having differing (sometimes conflicting) opinions about sex. This is best solved by talking about it. If you’re disappointed that he’s not on the same page as you are where sex is concerned, don’t hide it from him — he might not even have realized.

Basically, it will only work if the two of you learn to accept each other’s religious traditions AND world-view. You should be accepting, mature and strong enough, and have enough resolve, to stay together even if one or both of you become a bit more religious, or show more signs of wanting to keep religious traditions.

What can you do to make it work?

1. Read and learn about your partner’s religion (and culture!) and have him read about yours – not on Wikipedia. Real books and stuff. Even THE books (the Bible, Qur’an…). Ask your partner questions about his religion, surprise him with facts you read that he might not know, try to figure out how he sees his religion and try to see it through his eyes. Ignorance isn’t sexy, and won’t endear you to his family or community either.

2. Try to find the points your religions have in common, in spirit if not in practice.

3. Try to see his religion in a positive light — you might find that some traditions seem beautiful to you, and you might want to experience them yourself with his family (and someday, with yours).

4. Be frank with each other and tell each other what you will and won’t give up, and which traditions you insist on keeping. In other words: set limits, and respect each other’s limits.

5. Don’t ask each other to make major changes as an ultimatum for staying together.

6. Don’t badmouth each other’s religion, culture, parents and upbringing as a way of trying to deal with the differences between you. Don’t keep your significant other from keeping his/her traditions, don’t put obstacles in the way of their faith.

7. Don’t turn your discussions into a contest of which religion is better. If you can’t accept that the person closest to you doesn’t believe what you believe, you’re better off apart. (Especially when there are kids in the picture — don’t entice them to choose your religion over your spouse’s, and don’t make them choose one religion just to prove a point.)

8. Try not to antagonize your parents to the point of breaking contact, and definitely don’t put on dramatic and rebellious airs of the type you were notorious for when you were sixteen. Try to understand their point of view. You’re not Romeo and Juliet, and your parents are not evil. HOWEVER, don’t let them insult your partner or his religion, don’t let them stereotypify him. Stand up to them. Have them get to know your partner, and if that doesn’t help matters, just keep on standing up to them.

Be prepared for the possibility that like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, your parents will conclude that that “on the other hand, there is no other hand” and never speak to you again. This is probably a very rare occurrence in real life (even in the most closed religious communities many parents sneak out to meet with their excommunicated children), unless you’re a pogrom-stricken Jew and decide to shack up with a village Cossack. Anyway, keep this in mind — any other reaction on your parents’ part will seem like a blessing in comparison…

9. Try to be understanding of your partner if they find the religious issue difficult to handle or fail to realize how significant religion is (or isn’t) to you. Try to explain things in a calm and composed manner.

10. Don’t turn religion into a weapon you can use against your partner, or a place to retreat to when you want to hide from them. Don’t hurt them deliberately by pushing them away.

11. Try to find out what your religion says about mixed marriages. Maybe talk to a clergyman or layperson your trust. Perhaps your religion allows intermarriage without conversion? There are several religions that do.

12. Never say never. Don’t assume tradition will never matter to you, and don’t tell your significant other as much (“I swear, I’ll never care about religion, it will never come between us!”). Sometimes when people start a family they want to pass certain traditions on to their children, so don’t deny that this is a possibility. Discuss it honestly, preferably before the time comes to pass traditions on.

Rule #43- Compare and Contrast

800px-Love_in_Wiesbaden

via Love in Wiesbaden, Jacob Appelbaum

I think humanity would be a lot happier if we could just admit to ourselves that we compare things and that’s all right. We don’t do it deliberately, we don’t do it in order to hurt someone else, it’s something that just happens.  

Be it cooking skills, sex, or even strange things like feet size, reading habits, or spelling abilities, the list goes on and on. It just happens, it’s a fleeting thought that goes through our head during sex, on the way to work, or over dinner. It just happens!

But just because it’s completely normal, and happens to everyone, doesn’t reduce the catastrophic effect that a slip of the tongue can have on our love life.

So, here are some simple, easy to use and implement pointers on: how to avoid such catatonic scenarios:

1. Never EVER verbalize it! Never say things like“but my ex used to do that in bed…” or “mmm…. it’s such a shame you can’t make toast, my ex was an amazing cook.No good can ever come of statements like that. You can think them, it’s completely normal to think them, just never say them out loud! 

2. Your new love interest is not your ex! This is probably a good thing seeing as you burnt all of the things you ex left at your place and swore never to utter their name again. Just remember that when silly thoughts like: “god damn it, why doesn’t she lift the toilet seat back up when she’s done peeing?!” go through your head.

3. Stop constantly worrying if they are comparing you to their ex. First of all, they probably are. Not all the time, but it’s probably happened once or twice. You’ve done it too, so just deal with it and move on! (And the best way to do that is to make new shared memories.)

4. If your lovely significant other does let something slip about their ex, avoid the temptation to ‘even the score’ by saying something back. Just because they were tactless doesn’t mean retribution is the way to go.

Instead, tell them that is makes you feel uncomfortable when they compare you to their ex.

Just remember. You and your ex aren’t together anymore, because while they may have been a great cook, they were a shitty listener and didn’t give you any emotional support. The sex may have been amazing, but you spent every single moment outside of the bedroom arguing. And remember: your significant other and his ex also broke up for a reason, just like you and your ex. Just because your new love has a couple of flaws doesn’t make them any less amazing or perfect for you, and give you what you need from a relationship. 

And when in doubt, I always recall the Daphne du Maurier novel Rebecca. The main character spends the whole book living in her husband’s dead wife’s shadow. She is constantly wracked by nerves because she feels she can never possibly live up to this amazing woman in his eyes — only to discover that  he was the one who murdered her.

Okay, so maybe this isn’t exactly the same situation. But the moral (of the post , not the story. The moral of the story is to pick a significant other whose wife didn’t die under suspicious circumstances) is this: Don’t let that one tiny thing that your ex did, that your new partner doesn’t, mess up a perfectly good relationship. 

Communications 101

800px-Couple_@_Kasai_Rinkai_Park

I love reading and proofreading this blog (the admin is not only one witty chick, she’s also a ‘creative’ speller), but I wasn’t sure I was up for writing a guest post. In our social circle, I’m usually known as the introverted one, the inexperienced one. I’ve never had a successful “first date”.  My relationships tend to grow out of existing friendships. So what advice could I possibly give?

I’m here to talk to you about something I’ve gotten to know pretty intimately from a relationship perspective. Not so much from a dating perspective, but I know that it’s just as important when you’re dating. It may even be a deciding factor in choosing whether or not to continue dating a person. I’m referring, of course, to communication — the same ability that was so uniquely well-developed among the early humans that it enabled them to conquer the animal world. Unfortunately, today we don’t give our ability to communicate due credit. Sometimes we even neglect it, causing the building blocks of our social and romantic lives to fall apart.

My boyfriend and I got together several months ago after two years of close friendship. We waited so long because all the odds were, and still are, against us – we differ in everything from religion and cultural background to sexual experience and history. But we are the same where it matters – in our hearts and in our behavior toward each other, which reflects the kind of commitment, stability and security (not to mention good humor) our relationship requires to surmount the many obstacles blocking its path.

We know that if we’re going to build a relationship and keep it going despite the heavy external pressure and high stakes, neither of us can afford to up the ante and add internal pressure to the mix by playing games with each other. We have to be as transparent as possible whenever we communicate (which, ideally, should be often) — without false pretenses. Whenever I put on airs, hide things from him or tell “white lies,” my bf calls me out on it. I appreciate and admire him for that.

Despite the impulse to cut corners, it’s best to be true to yourself and honest to others in all your relationships — with friends, and even with acquaintances. This will make others see you as credible and trustworthy — and maybe even dateworthy.  Because when you’re dating or trying to build a relationship – not to mention keep one going – open, honest communication is key.

For me personally, dishonesty and evasive behavior have always been deal-breakers. There was a guy I loved a lot, but couldn’t bring myself to give my heart to him because, among other reasons, I could tell he wasn’t telling me the whole truth (about small things, such as why he was late to pick me up, and about big things, such as his feelings for his ex). He thought he was being tall, dark, handsome (he is all of the above) and mysterious — but to me, it seemed less like a mystery and more like a giant “don’t go there” sign hanging over his head.

This may seem obvious to some of you. I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to hear how important open communication is in theory – but what about in practice? Are you as honest and open with your date or partner as you should be? Or are you playing games?

That’s right, folks — the opposite of being open and honest in any social connection — be it friendship, family ties or a romantic relationship — is hiding things and playing games. Playing games isn’t sexy, spicy, fun or exciting in the long run – even if it’s Christian Grey who’s doing it. All it does is introduce confusion, discomfort and tension into a relationship. Not to mention jealousy, suspicion and all that rot.

Our “honesty is the best policy” policy doesn’t mean we can’t have fun, pretend or roleplay in the bedroom – we can and do. But there are other things in the bedroom (and out of it) we won’t lie to each other about — such as if we’re too tired to do anything, if something hurts or isn’t pleasurable, if we’re insecure about something sexual or about our bodies, if we’re too scared to try something, if we want to try something but don’t know how or if one of us has trouble reaching climax (for example, he’s made me swear I’ll always let him know what’s going on if I get the urge to fake it), and so on and so forth.

Each of us knows the other is there to support and help (or, if need be, laugh about it), and we don’t shy away from each other, even if we feel too scared, insecure or embarrassed to talk about whatever it is that’s on our mind. At the end of the day, making ourselves vulnerable and transparent to each other doesn’t make us weaker; it makes us stronger both as individuals and as a couple. It gives me strength to know that he accepts and supports me exactly as I am, without any embellishments, without any of the masks I usually put on in the outside world, in a professional or academic environment. And I know and love him just as he is, no illusions to be disenchanted when the Oxytocin dissipates.

At the outset of our relationship, we discussed at length our exes and past experiences. He said one thing that bothered him about his exes was that they always expected him to automatically know what they were thinking and feeling, to always be aware of their wants and needs. If he couldn’t guess, confusion would ensue: he would feel inadequate, and they would feel he wasn’t being attentive enough, wasn’t a proper “knight in shining armor” — because he couldn’t preempt their every need. They hoped he would change and become what they needed, he hoped they would accept him as he is. Eventually — inevitably — they broke up.

At the root of this dissonance lay an acute lack of communication. You can’t expect your man to know what you want and need without telling him anything and just expecting him to guess. And you definitely can’t put him down, think any less of him or wish he would change when he doesn’t, because he’s hardly Mel Gibson in What Women Want – odds are he’s just as shy and insecure as you are. What he needs from you is communication and validation, not enigmatic behavior and mind games. He’s no mind-reader and you’re no fairy-tale princess — you’ll just have to tell him what you want and how you feel. Because if you don’t, he might misunderstand or never know — and disappoint you for no reason at all other than fucked-up communication stemming from misguided expectations and a failure to accept one’s partner as (s)he is.

I’ve known some people who loved their partners a lot, but didn’t respect them enough to be open and honest with them. In the long run, this state of affairs culminated in a traumatic break-up. But how did it come to pass in the first place?

They say that love is blind. It really is. But if a stable, lasting relationship is what you’re after, you can’t afford to overlook the truly important things – and not just if the stakes are high, as they are in my current relationship. And definitely not just when the shit hits the fan.

Anger, frustration, embarrassment and other not-so-positive emotions can accumulate and cause tension between you and your partner if you don’t let them out through the proper channels – and by that, I mean without shouting, screaming, crying or being hysterical in general (and taking it out on your partner, at that). As the admin of this blog wrote in her previous post, you have to be attentive toward your partner and make sure there’s nothing wrong on their end — otherwise there’s quite a lot you’re going to miss.

But there is something you can do on your end, too. Some of the people I know aren’t that open with their partner, but really they mean well – they love their partner and think they’re being honest with them. What they don’t realize is that they’re not being honest with themselves first and foremost. There’s something they won’t admit to themselves or have convinced themselves is not true or of no consequence. But usually others – sometimes even their partner – can tell that something (that you don’t really see yourself with that person in the long term, that the sex isn’t really all that, that you’re repulsed by their porn habit even though Cosmopolitan says you should embrace it, that something about them just bothers you) is wrong and has been left unsaid. That is also the case with things you can admit to yourself, but not to your partner – sooner or later (most likely later, because they’re probably in denial too), they’ll figure out that you don’t really love them or that you’re actually allergic to their beloved cat Fluffy. And it’ll hurt so much more when they do.

So just be honest about things — with your partner, yes, but first and foremost with yourself. You’ll probably thank yourself later.