Why can't we be honest with each other?

Last updated 05:00 12/07/2012

They've been together for five years, they've talked about marriage and children, but this couple are struggling to express their true feelings. Will this have consequences for the future?

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My boyfriend and I have been going out for five years. We've had some great times seeing the world and have now started discussing serious things like marriage and children. I think this is great - I haven't wanted to push him but we're in our mid-30s and if he's going to have kids with me, well now's the time!

However, we do have a slightly strange relationship style. When I bring up serious matters (or sex) he starts talking like a child, yet he's also suggested I sometimes make him feel old. Then again, when he tries to bring up serious matters (or sex), I usually have something else going on in my head and will say something flippant without thinking about the consequences on the spot.

I think we both subsequently think a lot about these interactions but don't properly air our thoughts about them to each other. It would be fair to say we're both non-confrontational - which may not be a good thing if we want to retain some spark in our relationship. We're probably also assuming a lot about each other's needs and wants.

Anyway, I have a feeling this could end in a very bad trainwreck which could have dire consequences for me as the woman in this relationship . . . but I don't want this to happen as I really do love this guy and would love to be part of his life.

Assumptions are dangerous

It's great that you are aware of this issue around communication and the possible long term implications for the relationship if it remains unaddressed. It sounds like you have had some good experiences together and now you are wanting to make plans for the future and find some different ways of talking things through.

I would encourage you to tell your partner that you have noticed that communication around some topics seems hard for both of you and that you want to try and find a way forward. Tell him that you would like to make a time to have a conversation about how to talk about important things together. Let him know you love him and this is about improving the relationship because you want it to last. Let him know that you are aware you find this hard at times and want to learn some new ways of doing this together. 

This needs to be a time where you can both be relaxed and have lots of uninterrupted time set aside so you can be fully available for each other.  Can I suggest you might want to warm up the conversation in a slightly different way. Wanting to talk about 'serious' issues may conjure images of duty, responsibility, parents, authority etc and implies the relationship has not been serious to date.

Once you have set some ideas about how you want to talk and listen together you can put it into practice - see it as an opportunity to create a shared vision for the future of your relationship.

Start this by sharing your individual visions with each other -  so you might say something like " I want to let you know that I love you very much and want you in my life. I feel ready to start a family and would love to have this with you". You might also want to share with him that there is a time issue for you.

He then would share with you what his vision is, remembering that if you have different visions it does not make either of you wrong. Such conversations although scary at first can lead to a deepening of honesty and trust in the relationship.

If you find yourself drifting away and wanting to be flippant in the conversation, let him know that you have tripped into old habits and focus again on what he is saying.  If you can find a lighthearted way to let each other know you are either 'using the baby voice' or 'drifting off'  then you can start to change those habits and develop your new ways.

If you find you can't manage this yourselves then do consider seeking the assistance of a relationship counsellor.

For more advice and information on counselling, visit Relationships Aotearoa online or join them on Facebook.

We'd love to hear your take on this week's issue. Before you comment below, though, remember that this is a real-life situation. This reader has bravely shared their personal life with you; please show them respect by refraining from hurtful or abusive comments.

- Stuff

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Lucas04   #1   09:42 am Jul 12 2012

It seems like you both do essentially the same thing to avoid discussing 'tough' subjects, just in slightly different ways. Talking childishly, or being flippant, are both ways to skirt around the issue.

To be honest, I think it will continue to be frustrating for you both, but if you truly love each other you'll find a way to work through it. It took my partner and I years to work out how to speak to each other to get any 'action' on the issues we would bring up. It also took time to realise we weren't speaking to each other in ways we were likely to WANT to listen.

Try setting a 'talking date' ... time you set aside to deal with any 'issues' you have. It gives you time to think through what you want to address, and HOW. Plus it means you won't bring it up in the heat of the moment, but instead at a time you're both prepared to talk.

If you're TRYING to communicate, you're at least on the right track. When you stop trying, that's when it's really bad. The book 'The 5 Love Languages' helped me a lot ... my partner and I used it's help to great effect.

TURTLE   #2   10:27 am Jul 12 2012

Stock Response for the comments on this column.

Leave his A**

hmmm   #3   10:43 am Jul 12 2012

It sounds like they both want to talk about things but the timing's off. Might I suggest writing or typing letters so that they can each think about and reply in their own time? They're big issues, I wouldn't expect anyone else to have what they want to say on the spot either.

AJ   #4   11:49 am Jul 12 2012

You said this: "Then again, when he tries to bring up serious matters (or sex), I ... will say something flippant without thinking about the consequences on the spot."

I was the same. It was a hard habit to break. So next time, if you do unintentionally give some sort of random response, perhaps immediately apologise for saying something weird and give him a serious answer. At least that way he'll know you're up for discussion whether it is then, or some stage in the future. Hopefully though, you can skip out the random comment, and go straight to adult answer.

I was the same about marriage for example, every now and again it'd get hinted at and I'd say "pfft, who'd wanna marry you?" and then I thought, well he is probably trying to actually figure out whether I'm for it or not. So the next time it was brought up I said "that'd be nice one day". And left it at that. And now I have shiney diamonds :-)

Anyway, sometimes it is hard to pick your timing. So next time the opportunity arises, seize the moment!

Erina   #5   12:37 pm Jul 12 2012

5 years and you haven't worked out how to communicate properly? Communication is the basis of all relationships. If you're not doing it yet, then I would seriously question or have a discussion about how suited you are together. Considering marriage and children at this stage is just nuts!

Maximus   #6   03:40 pm Jul 12 2012

Alert! Mid 30s and you're discussing your future? If you want children you need to be working on that NOW, nature isn't going to wait while you write up a list, save for a house and make plans for a wedding. Men want to have families at a later age. In the post-feminism world women are delaying families too, but biology places greater restrictions on them. This used to be compensated by men marrying women about a decade younger than themselves, both were at ages when they wanted children. Women wanting a partner of similar age need to make sure he is ready for children while she still has the opportunity.

Jackie   #7   04:34 pm Jul 12 2012

@Erina #5

Agree that communication is an important part of a relationship I mean save my more partner he hears everything Im feeling, thinking wanting lol

But marriage and children together isn't nuts - they obviously love each other and want to be together, just need to talk or as #3 said, email is a good idea, it'll also make it easier to talk after writing it down.

Lucas04   #8   08:11 am Jul 13 2012

AJ #4 has highlighted what I reckon is actually a big side-issue here: "every now and again (marriage would) get hinted at and I'd say "pfft, who'd wanna marry you?"

I'm not saying guys don't do it too - but it seems to be more and more common for Kiwi women to ridicule and deride their men, even when their men are doing their best. It's like you've got in your minds that the best way to keep us, is to keep us down. It's actually a really good way to get your man to resent you, and want to have an affair with that hot girl at work who puts him on a pedestal.

Point being, communication is one thing, but GOOD communication is another. We all want to feel appreciated, especially by our partners ... and when we don't feel appreciated, we wonder what we're doing in that relationship! Stop pushing your men away ladies, and see what happens when you keep them close.

Bea   #9   08:51 am Jul 13 2012

If i couldn’t communicate with my partner after 5years i'd really be questioning my relationship. The only way through this is to bite the bullet and just tell him everything your feeling and thinking. Surely after that long together you know when he has spare time?? If not you both need to make the time. If it matters to you work it out, if it doesn’t then don’t! . It really is that simple.

Louise   #10   11:13 am Jul 13 2012

Wow I cant believe you have been together for 5 years and you still can't discuss the serious stuff properly without joking around. I would have been very frustrated with that by now.

Have you told each other you love each other at least?

I had a relationship like that where the guy I was with found it hard to tell me he loved me still after 5 years. I'm sure he did but he just had problems in that area. He broke up with me eventually after I gave him a some food for thought. He is still single 11 years later.

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