Steve is feeling the chirpy-birdy, sunshiny effects of Springtime in Boston. Here’s his wake up call to all of us: communication is not a competitive sport.

Have your love, your lust, your crazed, Cirque du Soleil sex. Enjoy your puppy dogs and rainbows, this-person-is-perfect-for-me, Teenage Dream early days of a relationship. Treasure the weeks and months you will likely never get again– not because of cynicism, but because you simply can only have the joy of discovering someone once. After that, what you need is communication.

Want a great relationship? Communicate.
Want a divorce? Don’t.

It’s almost as simple as that. The communication needs to be respectful, which is equally obvious as it is difficult. But when you hear shit you don’t like, the healthy couple response is “I’m sorry you feel that way– let’s talk it through.” The guaranteed divorce response is “You shouldn’t feel that way… oh, and screw you.”

“All You Need is Love?” Due respect to Messrs. Lennon and McCartney, it’s not so. But “All You Need is Healthy, Respectful Dialogue” wouldn’t have been a good hippie mantra and would have been harder to sway to.

We communicate so poorly when we’re trying to win the argument. But in our competitive world, this the one time we should be aiming for a tie game. (Apart from soccer and don’t get me started there.) Communication, done properly, is a mutual win. But that’s marriage counsel-y stuff, and I don’t have the right feel good degree to help with that. (See: every other post of mine.)

Here’s what I do know. When you cut someone off in traffic, they’ll give you the finger. When you brush shoulders on the sidewalk, you’ll say “I’m sorry” and they’ll say “No problem.” Internet and TV arguments work the same way. It’s what Roger Waters called “The Bravery of Being Out of Range.” But in our closest, most intimate, important relationships, we can get out of range right there at the kitchen table.

(Incidentally, I respond to all rotary enraged bird-flipping by blowing kisses. Smootches, jerkface!)

I really have no other relationship insight. Oh—wait. One more: double sinks. When you’re buying a place, be sure the master bath has double sinks. You have to trust me on this one. Double sinks will make you a nicer person. You won’t fight over toothpaste, how she takes too long, how he leaves his shavings, why there are eleven different bottles of hair goop– double sinks win. In the space of one morning, this means four fewer arguments in tight spaces.

So in the Springtime of the relationship, enjoy the circus sex, the romance, and the googly-eyed sink sharing and synced swaying. That’s what the Beatles were crooning about. But we need to communicate less like Boston drivers to keep things humming. We need to continue the conversation… sidewalk style.

Let's stay on the sidewalk together.

Let’s stay on the sidewalk together.

9 responses

  1. This morning driving along Mass Ave, Huntington Ave, and the Longwood area I could not help but be aware of Spring. The shedding of winter clothes! Huzzah!

  2. I can’t believe how much this resonates with me. My husband and I have completely lost the ability to communicate without being combative most of the time and I am only waiting for it either to resolve itself or our children to graduate before I leave. I do keep trying but he is a control freak who takes any conversation about anything as a criticism against him so it makes it really difficult to make things work. It doesn’t help that his main source of entertainment is to make fun of me about things. Anyway my point was that you certainly have it right that if you have the mutual respect and communication all of the other fun things fall in line. I do remember when that was the case and unfortunately I am not sure where we went wrong. I do say WE as I know any situation is never one sided even when you feel like the underdog. 🙂

    • This is so raw and honest, that I feel sad. And then the bald (brave!) fact that you wrote it here gives me hope. During our pre-marital counseling sessions, our pastor told Bernie and me that we were possibly “too nice to each other.” Not that it wasn’t lovely, but he feared it might not be sustainable. We also needed to learn HOW to fight, he said. After a dozen years, we’re still nice to each other. It’s a highly underrated quality: being nice, saying sorry, not winning. (And the part of me that’s related to Zealot Sister is praying that you don’t feel alone in this.)

    • Goodness, please don’t wait for some future date to come along. I’m hardly qualified to give advice, but I can tell you the realization I came to, and it’s simply this: What would you tell your child to do? Stick it out because “that’s just what you do”, or get moving? Difficult stuff no matter how you attack it. And thank you for reading and commenting. Good luck. Recommended reading: “Stumbling On Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert. It will get you thinking and challenge you.

  3. Steve,

    I loved you first because you love my sister. I love you now because pod this post.

    I spent the first 7-8 years of my marriage playing competitive conversation/argument with my husband. My heart still breaks when I remember our then 3 year old daughter (now 12) yelling at us both to “Stop fighting!” That was the beginning of a turning point.

    I am sure you expect Zealot Sister to tell you that with God all things are possible – yup, I gotta do it. With God all things are possible. God is the master teacher of forgiveness. Add forgiveness to the honest desire to lay your life down for your spouse, and you have the foundation for respectful dialog. Once the firm foundation is in place, then I intended hurtful things said can be addressed head-on in a loving and supportive way or playfully laughed off.

    The only habitat in which I have not yet developed proficiency in loving communication is in the car on the way to a destination that is more than an hour from our home (like yesterday’s 5+ hour trek to the beach for Spring Break).

    Steve, your post inspired my gratitude for my marriage and the road we have traveled to get to our current happy place.

    I love you.

    • Paige: Love you, your shiksa goddess sister, Bernie, the boys and all things Lee and Stockton. Awesomeness all around. And I’m SO glad this resonated with you. I surely expect your advice to be informed by your relationship with God and I’d be disappointed if you didn’t throw it in. I love hearing what motivates people and how their beliefs (especially those counter to my own) guide their lives. I’m not a god expert. But my phoney-baloney journalism degree at least gives me some MS cred in communications. So I would riff on your sentence as such: With communication, nearly all things are possible. Without it – hardly anything is.

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