The Communication Gap

A few weeks back, I posted about the unstable condition of my current relationship. And, while I alluded to things in a few posts following that, I’ve never actually gone back to address what ended up happening. I realize that the first post came across as being very final, almost as though there was no way that our relationship was going to work. I guess that’s how it feels sometimes when you’re in a rough patch. But, as it turns out, we’ve decided to give things another shot. Why? Because our problem has more to do with communication than anything else.

I feel like, at our ages, we’re old enough to have communication down to an art. But honestly, neither of us have ever been very good communicators. It’s something that we’ve both been very upfront about. On his part, he never felt much of a need to communicate with anyone. In his past relationships, he was always the head of the household, the supporter, and the decision maker. He did his own thing, and made all of the choices on his own. I’ve pretty much always been single, and very independent. I never really had anyone that I needed to communicate with. But my inability to communicate created serious issues in my past attempts at relationships. It was something I acknowledged needing to work on long before I met my current boyfriend. He recognized me as being very independent, and from the start decided that, if this was going to work, he’d need to work on communicating as well. He stressed from the beginning that he would never lie to me, would answer anything, and would always be up front with me.

It seems like such an easy thing to say, that you’ll both communicate openly with each other. But things are never that easy, are they? In our quest to be open with each other, we ended up taking very different communication tactics. My boyfriend became a say everything person. Literally, every thought that comes into his mind comes out of his mouth. Good, bad, thought out, hurtful; It’s all put out there into the open. But I always feel like when I say what I’m thinking, it comes across wrong. Like I said, I know I’m a bad communicator. If I don’t say things right, I don’t get my point across, or it comes across as hurtful. So, I was more thoughtful about what I’d say. I’d have to think about it, and figure out how to phrase it right. Sometimes for minutes, or hours, or days, or weeks. And then the problem becomes, how do you bring it back up? So, I’d stew on it, and think, and finally get myself all worked up and upset about it.

A perfect example of this is a conversation we had Friday night. I brought up that I thought it was a good idea that I start looking for another job. Immediately he responded that it would be great if I started looking for a job in Florida, or maybe Arizona. Trying not to stew on it, I replied immediately: “What about your house? My house? Your job?” The problem was, neither one of our responses was well thought out. We’ve talked about living in one of those places, someday. He was just saying what came into his mind. It wasn’t thought out, or reasoned, or even a doable idea right now. It was just the thing that popped into his head at the time. My response came across as shutting him down. So, he withdrew from the conversation, and I felt bad, trying to draw him back out. I responded without thinking how I’d come across. But then, several months ago we had a similar conversation about a job opportunity that had come up in another city. He encouraged me to take it. I thought for a long time about how to respond, until eventually I’d worked myself up into feeling like he was pushing me away. After all, if I moved away right now, he couldn’t come with me.

Last week, our communication downfall was in regards to an ottoman. I’m pushing for us to split our time between our places, so I have more time where I can get things done. I’m more comfortable at his place, but all my stuff is at mine. So, I feel like if we spend all our time at his place, I’m just sitting around, doing nothing. We were at my place, and he pointed out that I really needed a coffee table. I said I’d always thought I’d prefer an ottoman, but I didn’t really want to spend money on more furniture right now. He told me to look into it, pick one out, and he’d buy it for me for Christmas.

Perfectly fine conversation, right? Well, it would be, if it weren’t for all of my insecurities. I was always taught that, if you wanted to keep a guy, you didn’t push for things, but let things move at his pace. You let him pursue you. Let him say I love you first. Don’t bring up things like marriage, or living together. If those things are meant to be, he’ll make them happen when he’s ready. Cementing these ideas was the fact that every guy I’ve dated before hasn’t been ready. Not ready to settle down. Not ready to live together. Not ready to even have a serious relationship. I’ve dated guys who freaked out if you said or did anything that seemed too serious. My mom always said it was because of my independent streak that I dated that type of guy; I liked having my freedom and space. I think it has more to do with insecurities and lack of self-worth; I didn’t feel like I deserved more, so I accepted guys who offered me less.

In getting back together, one of the things we discussed was the house, and marriage, and kids thing. In his quest to communicate every thought, he often said things that came across as plans, or things that he wanted to do. And many of those things seemed to exclude me, or be decisions made without me in mind. When I pointed that out he was surprised. A future without me wasn’t part of his plan. He always intended that, if I chose to stay with him, we would have a house and a life together (and most likely, would have a child). He just throws everything out there so we know all the options, so we can build upon the possibilities, what works for us, and what doesn’t.

So, the plan is definitely to have a home together, and in the not too distant future. But it was never discussed what “not too distant” means. And, again, following his lead, I don’t want to push for details. Obviously, as part of my quest for financial independence, I’m looking to save money at every opportunity. Sure, an ottoman at my place would be nice. But how long am I going to be living here? Six months? A year? It seems silly talking about moving in together, when two weeks ago we were breaking up. But then, that was part of the reason we were breaking up. I don’t want to waste money on an ottoman that we aren’t going to need in the near future. After all, we’ve already got more than enough furniture, between the two of us, to have to figure out what to do with. But all my insecurities have made me uncomfortable in asking “When are we going to take the next step?” And it’s even more frustrating, given that I’ve been single for so long, and always making decisions on my own. In the past, it had always been my decision on if and when I move, and where to. So, the idea of waiting on someone else to bring it up is frustrating.

So, a week has gone by, and I’m still stewing on the ottoman. My problem now is, how do you bring it up again? After all, the time to bring it up was when we were discussing the ottoman. A week later seems a bit ridiculous. But then, if it’s still bothering me, it’s something we need to talk about. And I’ll admit, I’m a little frustrated with myself that I can’t just let an ottoman be an ottoman. Suddenly a furniture purchase becomes a relationship timeline, instead of just a useful addition to my living room.

Am I completely crazy? Or do other women feel the same way in relationships? How do you deal with communication issues in your relationship?

– Cindy W.

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