To have a great relationship, these differences are of minor significance. What is important is communicating your desires and wishes in a way that avoids the following:
1. Attacking the other person, which puts him or her on the defensive and closes off productive and meaningful conversation. “That’s rude that you never text me back right away!”
2. Controlling the other person, which is belittling and demeaning and ignores the other person’s point of view. “When I text you, I want you to take a few seconds to respond to me. Do you understand?”
3. Whining about the situation — a childish and needy attitude — , which is used as a means to manipulate the other. “I miss hearing from you. Are you too busy for me?”
4. Silently holding a grudge, which builds up resentment and resolves nothing.
You can manipulate or badger someone into a desired behavior. But when someone’s actions are emotionally coerced, the strength and autonomy of the individual is undermined. The result is resentment in lieu of passion.
On the other hand, when you honestly express your desires while being mindful of the other person’s feelings and autonomy, then there can be a true meeting of the minds.
When addressing your frustrations, start the conversation with a sense of self-respect as well as consideration for the other person. Tone of voice and body language that embody your respect for the other person’s autonomy as well as your own desires are key.
1. Respect yourself and the fact that you have personal needs and desires.
2. Respect the other person’s autonomy and right to freely make decisions.
3. Express your desires with a positive specific request.
4. Ask the other person what he or she thinks about your request.
For example, “Hey, I really enjoy hearing back from you when I text you. Lately, you haven’t responded very much. Am I texting you too much?”
Or “I really think you’re special and enjoy spending time with you. When I don’t hear back from you as much as before, I get the sense that you are backing off. I would like to be with someone who is excited about being with me. I’d like to know how you feel about the relationship.”
Some people think they need to be aloof and hard-to-get to be attractive. Others wear their emotions on their sleeve. Both are off-putting. What matters is how you manifest your feelings for someone. You can express your desire as long as you aren’t desperate and needy, on the one hand, or controlling and manipulative, on the other. There is nothing more attractive than someone who can express desire or love while still maintaining a sense of self and having the self-discipline to resist engaging in a mediocre relationship.
Whether this relationship works out or not, it’s important to start relationships with clear and positive communication to see if you’re on the same page and to figure out how to reconcile your different expectations. Whether you’ve just been dating for a month or married for 25 years, communicating openly with respect is the way to keep the relationship improving.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD