I just want to talk to you
November 10, 2012 12:21 PM Subscribe
How do you learn to communicate with your partner when your communication styles don't match?
posted by anonymous to human relations (22 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I'm having a lot of trouble just having a simple conversation with my romantic partner. Talking in online chat exacerbates the problem, but it's there in person too. It came up today because I'm traveling in a new city right now and my partner is at home, so we chat online to catch up. Here's a sample conversation:
Me: "I went to see such-and-such place today."
Partner: "What a place!"
Me: "Maybe tomorrow I'll see such-and-such other places."
Partner: "See all the places!"
Me: "You know, this city is all right, but I was kind of hoping for something more exciting."
This kind of conversation, where I try to start a topic and my partner just repeats my words back to me in nonsense form, feels really alienating and distancing to me, like my partner doesn't care in the slightest about my experience in this new city. So I talked to them about it, and here's my best recount of what's going on.
From my perspective, I am giving an opening line and trying to gauge my partner's interest in the topic (and if they show interest I'll continue, and if they don't I'll stop). From their perspective, they feel like they're being prompted for an obvious and trivial response, almost like a robot. This feels manipulative to them, so they give a minimal response or say nothing at all. They suggested that I should "just say everything that I want to say" all in one go and then they can comment on that. They said they *are* interested in hearing what I have to say, but they don't want to be a conversation robot, because that "feels shitty."
But for me, "just saying everything" feels rude and even impossible. I would feel strange and awkward just pouring forth an entire narrative about my day, without any response to indicate interest or at least presence. And sometimes, I don't even know what I want to say yet -- having some questions would help me process my experience and come up with something coherent, rather than a jumble of half-formed thoughts.
I have absolutely no idea where to go from here. I can't just do what my partner suggested because it feels so wrong, I can't go on the way it is now, and I don't know of any alternatives. I've read one of Deborah Tannen's books on conversations, and while enlightening, it didn't really offer any solutions. My partner and I have also been to couples counseling together, but it didn't really touch on this. And while a temporary solution might be to just not chat online and leave it all for when I come back home, the same thing happens in person (although to a smaller degree -- at least there is eye contact and maybe an "uh-huh" or two, which helps, but they still won't ask questions or provide any of their own perspective unless asked directly).
How can I have a conversation with my partner and *feel* like they're actually interested in hearing about my experiences?