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How to talk “the talk”

Posted on Monday, July 26, 2010 in Honesty, Men, Relationships, Women

Sean had done something that pissed me off.

It wasn’t a big thing, it was just a “thing.”

Actually, I’m not even so sure if I was pissed off or mildly annoyed or whether it spoke to a deeper insecurity or just a relationship burp.

Now, I’ve learned that when I feel that way about something and I’m not exactly sure why I feel that way, it’s best not to say anything, at least immediately; better to think about it and understand what’s the “thing” behind the “thing.”

So, that was my unspoken plan when my cellphone rang.

“Hi!”

It was Sean.         

“Hi back” I said.

“What’s wrong?”

Busted! Good God, am I that transparent?

Evidently.

Now that I was stripped bare (and not in the good way), I had to say something. As all guys know, when a woman says “Nothing,” it doesn’t mean everything’s OK; actually, it means there’s a huge problem.

So, I came clean, kinda: “Well, I was upset by something you did and I’ve struggled all day wondering if I should say something to you and if I was going to say something, how I was going to say it to you without sounding like I was crazy or insecure because it’s the kind of thing that could be misconstrued as
something crazy or insecure but I have feelings about it so I’m not sure how to ask you this.”

There was silence on the other end of the phone, a long, deep silent silence, one that made my heart pound like I’d had a triple espresso  — intravenously — and my head hurt as if I were surviving on two hours of sleep after a night of mixing cheap red wine with bad vodka at a heavy metal concert.

That bad.

After what felt like an hour had passed, he finally spoke.

“What are you talking about?”

I detected a slight annoyance.

Beyond that, well, it was a good question; what was I talking about indeed? But, even if I’d figured out just what was behind the “thing” and decided, yeah, this was a fundamental disconnect that we needed to address, I know in my heart that that’s just not the way to talk about it with Sean, or any man for that matter.

And, so instead of an exploratory questioning of whether my feelings were valid or not, we were facing a potential relationship “crisis.”

Not to stereotype, but guys really need to have the issue presented before them ASAP — spotlighted, highlighted, underlined and frontloaded. In other words, get to the friggin’ point. Now.

Not us women, however. If you lay it all out on the line without first setting the mood and making us feel secure and loved, then whatever the issue is, no matter how small, it’s going to take over our thoughts, dietary choices and girls’ night conversations. In other words, we will obsess.

OK, I’m making generalities, but still.

Yet, I get confused. My kid tells me all the time that I’m guilty of wasting his precious teenage minutes by going on and on with unnecessary back story, irrelevant ramblings and nagging monologues. But if I cut to the quick — “Make your bed!” — then he sees it as being disrespectful.

Sean, too. When I’ve come right out and said something that upset or bothered me, he’ll sometimes get defensive, which of course shuts down any hope of open-minded listening and thus communication. Even when I’ve started with the oft-lauded “I” word. I felt bad when …

I don’t think we can take for granted how our partner needs to have a “talk” just because of his or her gender. We just might have to ask — how would you like me to talk to you about something that’s an “issue”?

Of course, I did ask Sean exactly that once. As usual, he was honest.

“I’d rather you didn’t.”

Well, that’s one way to deal with it!

  • Guys, do you really want us to get to the point, and then be done with it?
  • Gals, do you want the same, or do you need your partner to make you feel secure first?
  • How much of relationship talk is much ado about nothing?

More “talky” stuff:

Girl talk: It isn’t all about feelings

My “yes dear” relationship

photo © www.doglikehorse.com – Fotolia.com

Bring on the comments

  1. jim
    Twitter: mobilene
    says:

    I don’t really mind the kind of opening salvo you gave your guy there. It’s a signal to me that I need to go into dealing-with-it mode, and lets me prepare for that. If you came to me and said flat out, “You did x, and it pissed me off,” I’d feel caught flat-footed and might hem and haw or, worse, get defensive. So letting me know first that there’s a problem to discuss is helpful. But then, yes, please get to the point. I can take it.

  2. Steve says:

    I like *some* build up, so I don’t feel like I am being attacked. If the build up is too long I begin to feel defensive as if I did something horrible or I get impatient.

  3. KC says:

    Good morning Kat,
    Hope you’re weekend went well. Discussing issues is always a tough one for fledgeling relationships. Just as much as it is for relationships that have been going on for tens of years… FOR ME, I’ve found that it works best for me if my partner comes to me or calls me and tells me that there is something on their mind that they would like to talk to me about and then asks if we could set aside some time to have a talk. At the same time, they can reassure me that it isn’t a relationship ending talk, just something that has been on their mind and that they would like to talk about in a calm, no threatening way so that the air can be cleared about something or a disagreement can be cleared up. I work best when I’m not confronted, yelled at or made to feel less than. I’m not into yelling. It immediately makes me shut down or causes me to start thinking about how I’m going to respond and then my listening skills go out the window. Confrontation is never a good way to talk about issues. At least for me.
    Have a great week Kat!

  4. T
    Twitter: tsquest
    says:

    Ha ha ha! That is SOOO me. I do that whole “analyze before speaking” too. And my bf sees right through it too!

    Hey we’re at least TRYING to speak their language, right?

  5. bigLittleWolf
    Twitter: BigLittleWolf
    says:

    What an interesting post! Now that I think of it, the women I know have a variety of styles when raising an issue, but with men, it has tended to be more direct, or nothing at all. (Can you spell cryptic?)

    And I get a lot of eye rolling from my teen sons, because I try to provide context or back story. I always think it will help. But honestly – I never know.

  6. dadshouse
    Twitter: dadshouseblog
    says:

    Men are from Mars, and Women are from Venus!!!!!

  7. So??? How did the rest of the talk go?

  8. Kat Wilder says:

    Jim — thank you. Are you single, by chance … OK, just kidding. But, I agree; anyone who’d come out and say You did x, and it pissed me off doesn’t know anything about communication, or being compassionate. You can think that way, you just can’t be that way.

    Steve — build up like .. a nice blow job and then, after a nice snooze, she lays the bomb on you? Or, something like, “Honey, there’s something that’s been bothering me?” Or can you have both?

    KC — I had a super weekend, thanks. You? I have to agree; confrontation that’s aggressive and accusatory sucks. But, can’t it be with compassion and kindness?

    T — I would never peg you as a woman who analyzed much ;-).

    BLW — I never know either. I just go into it with faith, hope and kindness, and the rest is up to the world.

    Dads — But, I wanna be on Mars, too!

    Woman with Kids (an isn’t that a strange universe?) — Like all of our “things,” he went into his shell for a day or two, and then we fell happily into bed together, clinging to each other tight. No more talking about it, but each saying how we’ll handle something like this the next time (because there will be…). Don’t know if that’s right or wrong, but it works for us!

  9. shannon kim says:

    I really enjoy reading your blog. It’s funny and insightful! Thank you!

  10. Edgar says:

    Kat – some kind of weird dude you have there (going into his shell and all), but it sounds like great sex comes of these things. The thing that drives me a little crazy about my sweetheart is that she expects me to know when she’s upset (which I suppose I could glean from her subtle changes in behavior) and then expects me to broach the subject. I, on the other hand, take the approach that you should address something that’s a problem as soon as you can recognize what the problem is. And if I’m the one with the complaint, I should bring it up. In a loving way, of course – “Light of my life, when you bit me a little too hard on that particularly sensitive spot, it draws blood. Let me suggest a minor change to your technique…” or something like that. Agonizing over whether or not it’s a big thing, little thing, paranoid schizophrenia, or whatever, just prolongs the misery – I always recommend spilling the beans and dealing with the issue. And THEN have great sex.

  11. Steve says:

    Kat, you sure know how to settle a dispute. LOL! 🙂

  12. Kat Wilder says:

    Shannon — thanks. Nice pics on your Web site!

    Edgar — Yikes! You’re dating a mind-reader type!?! As for the cave dweller, I thought that’s why Man Caves became so popular of late …

    Steve — There are really only three ways to solve just about anything — “Yes,” “No” and “Sex.” Right? 😉