Know-It-All: Communication between lovers

Dear KIA. I’ve been with my girlfriend for a year and a half and I can’t talk to her about anything without her getting angry or thinking I am attacking her. What the fuck do I do? Marshall

Dear Marshall,

Love your name, thanks for the question.

Sounds like an assy situation, dude. Honest-to-God, I will keep saying it until I am blue in the face: clear communication and good fun sexing times are the keys to any lasting and healthy relationship.

First two most obvious questions that you have to ask yourself before you open your mouth:
1) Does she have the right to get angry with the subject matter; and,
2) Are you in fact attacking her?

Then move to the key communication techniques, intended to ensure that you have a safe space inside of which to talk, and an outcome that will hopefully suit the reason you had to have a difficult conversation in the first place.

Before the Rules, remember the Foundations (according to your WebMistress):
1) Have your conversations in bed; and,
2) Leave room for a laugh.

You shouldn’t be so grossed out by one another’s presence or behaviour that you can’t have such heavy conversations in the most intimate of settings and circumstance. If that is the case, however, then you need to re-evaluate if you’re with the right person. I know I would.

First Rule of Communication: Don’t ever accuse your partner.
Drop entirely from your vocabulary “Why did you…” and instead always start with “I feel hurt when…”, because when a conversation starts with an accusation, you place yourself on offense and your partner on defense. Automatically, the rules are shifted to ones of competition rather than understanding and collaboration. Please remember that your intent is to engage in dialogue so that you might figure out if something you perceive is in fact true. As a team, you need to always work at a situation together, not one-up the other and “win” an argument. (Unless one of you is genuinely stupid and in which case they should lose, like if you were dating a racist homophobe.)

This approach also communicates to your partner that something they do hurts you, and then affords them the opportunity to address it. If you can’t trust that they love you and that they don’t hurt you intentionally, then you are likely in the wrong relationship with the wrong partner. Additionally, if you find that this is the case in every single one of your relationships, you should probably seek therapy. (I am not making a funny.)

Second: Your problem is with a behaviour, not your actual partner (else, why in the shit are you with them in the first place?).
Focus on the matter, and how it makes you feel. Don’t confuse that an alleged mistake is a character flaw. People make mistakes; they are not the mistake.

Third: Learn to let things go.
This one sounds so easy but very few people know how to do this. There is nothing worse than having someone dredge up something you may have done a year or two or more ago and which you thought was dealt with but suddenly it is not.

I hate to admit this, but I see that it’s more women who are guilty of this than men. Either it is because men have shit long-term memories, or because they really are single-minded and focussed only on present situations and strategies forward while women approach things from a much more continuous perspective. I honestly don’t know, but either way — gender specific or not — it is critical to deal with a situation in the present and then when you put it to bed, you really and truly put it to bed.

Fourth: Apologize when you’re wrong, and only when you’re wrong.
The “only when” part will be recognized by your partner and they will understand that when they receive the apology, it is genuine rather than a means to avoid further discussion.

If you don’t know why you’re apologizing, don’t apologize. Ask what’s up and talk about it. Don’t ever use “I am sorry” as a means to band-aid a sitch because eventually, you will start resenting them for your “I’m sorry”s. And this is not fair to you or them, and it is something which will eventually play itself out badly on your ‘team’. Trust.

Fifth: It’s alright not to agree, so long as you respect your partner’s position. Self explanatory, but remember that once you agree to disagree, you don’t bring it up and use it as a pawn or tool to punish your partner later in your relationship.

Sixth: Be honest with yourself.
Are you engaging in this conversation because you want to hurt/punish/feel vindicated, or are you engaging in this conversation because you are genuinely seeking a resolution?

Hurting, and punishing one another in order to feel vindicated are not the stuff from which healthy living situations are made. Be honest with yourself, asshole, and then move forward.

If you love someone, and you have chosen them to be your partner, your intention should be to build them up, to balance them out, to believe in them, to support them, and to protect them. It is not — never, ever, not under any circumstance is it ever — to hurt, punish, or one-up them.

Sixth:Define both your Foundations, and Rules of communication.

– No flannel in the house.
– Hugs. Lots and lots and lots of full-bodied snuggles and cuddles at every opportunity. I honestly don’t think it’s right when couples can keep their hands to themselves, I don’t care how long they’ve been together. Also, I am judge-y.
– No eye-rolling or making faces (use your words!).
– Kisses. Friday nights, go to a drive-in and make out in the back seat. Don’t have sexing. Just the smooching, like 16 year old non Muslims.
– Time apart. When I am hurt, please leave me alone for a few hours because I need to figure things out so that I don’t say anything stupid and hurtful.
– Time apart. When you are hurt, please go for a walk to figure things out so that you don’t say anything stupid or hurtful.
– Laugh. One of the reasons you can’t keep your hands to yourself is because your partner makes you laugh and keeps things light and is fun. I know this not because of ipsos reid, but because I have yet to come across an on-line dating profile that reads: LOOKING FOR A SOPPY WET BLANKET. PLEASE MESSAGE ASAP.
– Find a new recipe and cook one new item once per week.
– No yelling. Absolutely under no circumstance are you allowed to yell at one another.
– Also, no throwing of objects.
– No cursing when angry.
– Regularly tell one another: I like you. I think you’re lovely. I think you’re amazing. I love watching you walk. I am so happy to know you and to call you my partner. Those pants make your ass look amazing. You make me happy. Please remove your pants. I believe in you. I appreciate you. You make me want to wear my panties on my head. Etc. ad infinitum.
(P.S. The more chores a man does, the more sexing he has. Just, you know, FYI.)

Seventh: Go to sleep angry and remember that sexing is a form of communication as is withholding it for reasons of punishment.
Don’t try and sort through everything in one night, and don’t listen to the asshole who said “never go to sleep angry.” Go to sleep angry, but still have the sexing, to remind one another of why you chose one another in the first place. If you can’t use your words right then and there, please use your booty.

Eighth:Partner with someone who shares your communication techniques, and in the absence of that immediate sharing, partner with someone who wishes to learn to share your communication techniques.
Again, self-explanatory.

Finally: Send them a link to this article.

Good luck to you, Marshall!
Image from the National Wildlife Federation. These are some of the prettiest little birdies I have ever seen, and they are called Rainbow Lorikeets.