Why can't we be honest with each other?

22:14, Jul 12 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?

Send your questions to lifeandstyle@stuff.co.nz, and remember to include a nickname if you don't want to be identified. 

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.