We’ll be talking a lot about communication in March.
One of the things we see over and over again in our work with women who are dating or in relationships is that many misunderstandings start with assumptions about the words and actions (or inactions) of our girlfriend. And we assume that they can understand our words and actions. The real truth is, most often our assumptions aren’t correct, and our girlfriends can’t always understand our words and actions without explanation.
Here is an example from our clients:
Patricia and Jasmine (not their real names, or exact situation) have been dating for 2 months. On their 2 month anniversary, Patricia gives Jasmine a gift of a really nice pair of earrings. Jasmine outwardly thanks Patricia for the gift, but is inwardly afraid. She assumes (based on her past relationships and experience) that Patricia gave her the earrings because she wants to take the relationship to another level, and Jasmine isn’t ready for it. Jasmine knows Patricia wants to get married some day. Jasmine starts to withdraw. She doesn’t text. She doesn’t suggest dates. When Patricia doesn’t try to pressure Jasmine, and stays what seems to her to be aloof, Jasmine then thinks that perhaps the earrings were a goodbye present, and Patricia has decided to end the relationship. She spends a week depressed and stressed.
Patricia loves to give gifts. She often gives gifts on a whim to her office mates, and regularly gives gifts to her friends and even acquaintances on birthdays. Patricia knows that Jasmine is being withdrawn, but she ascribes that to the fact that she’s been really busy at work, and she seemed stressed, so Patricia gives her some space.
Finally, Jasmine calls Patricia, and asks if she wants to end the relationship. Patricia, of course, is completely floored, and can’t figure out where that idea came from. They finally straighten it out, but not without a lot of tears. It has also eroded their trust in each other.
You’ve heard, or perhaps even experienced, stories like that (and worse.) This happens because people aren’t transparent. They are not expressing their feelings, and they are making assumptions based on what they themselves might do or expect, or what has happened in their experience.
When you just meet someone new, it’s so cool and amazing that you are different people. But when you get deeper, those differences become things that you have to navigate. And you can’t navigate them unless you are transparent.
So how could have this turned out differently? When coaching them, we helped them see how transparency could have made a huge difference.
Patricia gives Jasmine the gift. Jasmine should say something like:
These are so beautiful. Thanks! You know, I’m feeling some fear as I look at these. I’m afraid that maybe you are saying something about our relationship. Are you?”
We of course, know the answer. Patricia would say something like:
I saw those in the store and I thought of you. I like to give gifts. I’m happy with were we are right now – this isn’t a message, it just makes me happy to give this to you.”
They go on to have a nice dinner, and Jasmine is spared a week of depression and stress. Speaking in this way, and asking questions like this takes some coaching and practice, but it can be done, and will make a huge difference in your relationship, and make it a lot easy to navigate conflict and differences.
Transparency, which is expressing your feelings clearly, and asking questions when you have concerns, is one of the key parts of a healthy, fulfilling relationship. She can’t read your mind, and you can’t read hers. So speak, and listen.