EmunaDating re-post: Learning to Talk

By Samantha Hulkower

My mom recently announced to me she's done with facebook. "All those people posting all of those pictures and things, and you know what, none of them really have anything to say. I'd rather do my crossword puzzles." I went on to the site myself, to look at the 'conversations' people were having online. I didn't have to scroll down far to see a few quickly escalating arguments - most of which started over basically nothing. Also, where both parties were actually on the same side, but were so busy arguing their point, they didn't bother to listen to what the other person was saying. In this light, it's no surprise that more and more of my friends are telling me they are going on a facebook diet, or otherwise unplugging from social media. The truth is, while that might cure the symptoms, I don't think it really solves the problem that is the root of most arguments, whether on facebook or not, lack of sensitivity, jumping to conclusions, and otherwise not listening to the other party. While escalating arguments might make for entertaining fodder on television, it's not a good habit to fall into, especially when it comes to dating. Poor communication can take two otherwise very compatible people and quickly make them feel like strangers with nothing in common.

How many relationships end, or never even get started, because one or both members fail to talk about something that is bothering them. Usually, when a friend comes to complain to me about the person they are dating, they know what response they will ultimately get from me, "Have you talked to him/her about this?" While sometimes we just need to get things off our chest, talking to everyone but the person it's about is not only loshon hara, negative speech that is actually a sin to discuss, but it's not productive.

A friend of mine came to me for advice on a girl he really liked, but was ready to break up with. The first date he said was great and asked her out for the second before it was even over. The second was less fun because she was much shyer, and by the third date he felt like while he was having fun again, she wasn't really opening up. I suggested he just ask her about the change in her behavior, since he was ready to break up with her he had nothing to lose. He did and she explained that she had recently been out with a few guys who ended things rather unceremoniously after 3 or 4 dates. She told my friend it was too exhausting to always open up to them only to have the relationship end and her left feeling vulnerable. So, she decided she would open up, but only after she felt like the relationship was advancing to the point where she was confident there would be another date. He pointed out that it might be hard to keep the relationship going if the guy felt like she was holding out on him, but understood where she was coming from. His frank conversation with her allowed her to see how her behavior was setting herself up for continued failure in dating, while teaching my friend that talking about an issue rather than avoiding it is not as scary as it seems. Everybody wins.

Another example shows the importance of being willing to initiate hard conversations while dating. Another friend of mine had been dating a guy for a short while and things were going well. One day he suggested they spend their time together walking in the park, enjoying the nice weather. He told her that since she was relatively new to the city he wanted to show her some cool things in the park she probably didn't know about. They came up to a duck pond, my friend was ecstatic - she loved ducks! He didn't know, and she figured he would appreciate the fact that he unwittingly scored some major points. But when he asked her if she had been there before and she tried to explain yes, and how happy she was to come back, he got angry and sullen. They continued the date, but she couldn't understand the dramatic change in his behavior, and let it go. 

She was upset and confused - things had been going great, but she figured he was emotionally unstable and wanted to end it. I suggested if things had been going well for so long, why not just ask him what happened? Either he'll have a rational explanation for his behavior or he won't, in which case she could break up with him knowing she gave him a chance. Over the phone, she mentioned that something happened the last time they were together and she felt like there was something going on she didn't know about and wanted to understand. He was quiet for a moment and then sheepishly apologized for his behavior, explaining that his former girlfriend used to always one-up him. He could never take her to a new place or suggest a new book to her, because she had always already heard of everything. He appreciated that she recognized that this behavior was not indicative of how he usually conducted himself and gave him the opportunity to explain. This began a new conversation about communication, and they both vowed to be more open with their feelings. 

Being able to have honest, and even uncomfortable, conversations while you are dating is imperative if you want to spend the rest of your life together. If you think things will magically become easier to talk about once you are married you are sorely mistaken. Fortunately, we can work on this while we are single. You don't just have to wait to be in a relationship to work on learning how to share your feelings or really listen to what another person has to say. I can guarantee you daily exercises are provided to you from family, friends, coworkers, etc. The more effort we put into making it a habit to talk to people when we sense there is a problem, rather than shut down or run away, the easier it will be to work through these problems when in a relationship.

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