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#458: Things are great, so we don’t have to ever talk about feelings, right?

Leslie Knope holding a big binder that says "Bowling Comment"

“I made you this compilation of my thoughts and feelings. The agenda for our conversation is on Page 3. Please call my office to schedule our relationship discussion.”

Dear Captain Awkward:

My boyfriend and I are in our mid-twenties and have been together for about half a year. He treats me well, takes an interest in what I do and enjoy and is generally a good boyfriend. We have a lot of similar characteristics and the same silly sense of humor. When we first got together it was supposed to be a casual thing, but it ended up escalating into something more serious almost immediately. Right now we are together almost five days of the week and almost never go out alone. We sleep in a tangled pile. We are comfortable with just being in the same room doing our own thing. I have never pressured him into anything and neither has he, everything just happened. It feels SO nice and natural. He seems to enjoy it too.

I am developing some Serious Feelings for him and I can definitely imagine a future with this man, but I am not sure about what he wants from our relationship. I would definitely want to be with someone who wants to have a family and this is not something up for compromise. My problem is that both him and I are absolutely terrible at talking about emotional things. I even have trouble saying „I like you“ out loud, asking „where do you see this relationship going“ is something I feel is beyond me. I’ve tried to find a good moment to force myself to bring up this topic with him, but can’t seem to find one (or I can’t make myself to open my mouth). I’m also afraid that he will not be able to answer my questions for the same reasons (I know I’d have trouble with it). I don’t want to lose him and yet I don’t want to waste my time in a relationship that will not lead anywhere.

So I guess my question is, how do I get over this unnatural fear I have of talking about my feelings/relationship goals? Suppose I get over it, how do I make the conversation comfortable enough for him? Do you think it’s viable if we’re both funny the same way?

Miss Wordless

Ann Perkins holds a binder with "Let's Do This" and a picture of a happy uterus.

Not everyone appreciates the “I made you this binder of feelings & reasons” approach.

Dear Miss Wordless:

If you are happy, you are not “wasting time” in a relationship that “will not lead anywhere.” You are learning to be in a relationship and enjoy the day to day of getting a lot of your needs met by someone cool and nifty who likes you and likes spending time with you. That ain’t nothing, and you should not feel guilty about enjoying yourself for as long as you are enjoying yourself. There is no one right way to be in a relationship, and if the two of you like to keep it light and seem to have similar styles of communication and humor, that can be great.

Being funny (and funny together) is really important and a great way of connecting. But if you’re going to be with someone your whole life and really do that whole in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, through illness and births and death and all the stresses and joys of living every part of this complex and amazing life you’ve been given, you will need more than funny.

Dark times come to us all. If you are very, very lucky, when you reach those dark times you will have someone who loves you to hold your hand and wrap you in their love and support, and remind you of your own worth. This love doesn’t have to necessarily come from a romantic partner to be real and true. Sometimes love is a sandwich. Sometimes it’s killing the giant bug that crawled out of a crack in the ceiling. Sometimes the toilet in the place you’re staying in on vacation is backed up, and love means driving you to a safe pooping sanctuary. Being vulnerable is scary and hard sometimes. It carries risk of rejection. But it’s the only way that we can we connect with each other beyond the surface level and reap all the rewards of being truly seen and truly seeing someone else’s heart.

Fortunately you don’t have to lay out all of your thoughts/feelings/hopes/dreams at once. You don’t have to go right into deep heartfelt talks about THE FUTURE. Relationships don’t have to feel “intense” to be true and important and truly loving. You can use this relationship that is working and where you get along very well and spend all your time together to practice being vulnerable a little at a time and see what happens.

I think one thing that will help you learn to let your feelings cross the brain-mouth barrier is to practice being present in the moment and saying what’s on your mind in the moment.

I think I might love you but I don’t want to say so in case you don’t want a family or see us having a permanent future together” is a lot for anyone to unpack in a relationship where you haven’t talked about feelings before. NOTHING is wrong with having any or all of those feelings, and you don’t or shouldn’t have to make your feelings smaller or more convenient in order to be with someone. But there is a lot of pressure and anxiety tied up in expressing them all at once and with such a strong future-emphasis. So start small, and start in the present, and start with expressing true thoughts and feelings you are having in a way that does not put pressure on the other person to feel any particular thing themselves.

  • I am glad you came over tonight.”
  • “Thank you for making dinner.”
  • “I love sleeping next to you.”
  • I am feeling very happy right now.”
  • That feels really good.
  • That doesn’t feel good, can we stop?
  • I feel sad.”
  • I feel nervous.

See what reactions you get. Does he smile? Does he reciprocate? Does he open up a bit? Does he make you feel glad and comfortable that you said something about how you were feeling? Then things are good.

Maybe next you can practice asking for specific things.

  • Will you rub my back?”
  • “Can you make dinner tonight?”
  • “Can we do (that sex thing I like)?”
  • “Is there’s something you’d like to do today?
  • Does this feel good?
  • “I’d like to have a night to myself to catch up on reading. Can we talk tomorrow instead?”
  • “Will you be my date to x event?”

Practice being honest about your feelings about what is happening now and checking in about his. Start with low-stakes, true things.

You say “we spend five days of the week together and almost never go out alone.” So one other suggestion I have to make things feel a bit less risky is that you do something to get back in touch with your solo life – spend a little solo time with your friends, make sure you do a hobby or art or sport or working at a goal that is yours alone and that brings you in touch with other people. I don’t know if it’s winter where you live, but I do know how tempting it is to curl up in the bundle of two and not motivate to go out and do things with others. That can be so great and comfortable, but right now if you’re feeling uncertain about relationship stuff s it can be good to get back in touch with the fact that a lot of people like you and want you to be happy.

These are the most basic baby steps, and I can’t script out your whole story for you. Maybe you have another year ahead of you before you can say “I’m in love with you” or blurt out “I want to have kids and I am hoping you want to have kids with me and that we can do that together” after an episode of Parks & Rec. This is a good news/bad news situation – until you’re comfortable enough to talk about having kids with the purported father of those kids, you’re not ready to have kids.

I want to leave you with three thoughts.

1) There is no way to know ahead of time what someone else thinks and feels and wants. There is no code for figuring it out and therefore guarantee that they will be on the same page as you before you speak up. Despite an entire magazine industry devoted to “Top Signs He’s Ready To Commit” written by people who have degrees in preserving the status quo from Dipshit University, the tools you have at your disposal for sussing out another adult’s plans, hopes, and feelings are:

  • Saying what you want and seeing how they respond.
  • Asking what they think and seeing what they say.

Your question, and its mention of “sleeping in a tangled pile” (lovely image, by the way) and asking if I think it’s viable because your senses of humor match was a little bit about asking for top! signs! this will work out! I mean, yeah, it sounds like the guy is into being in your company, and “actions speak louder than words,” but I think it’s okay to want the words, too. (See .gif, below).

2) If you are a lady, that does not means that you have to do all the work of figuring out feelings and the future. You are not this guy’s FeelingsTutor. You’re the one who wrote, so probably you will be the one to start saying things like “I really like you.” If he’s a good guy and into you, he will make it very safe and comfortable to trust him with those things, and he will say stuff back, even if it’s hard for him, too. If you start opening up and suddenly feel like you’re dating a Michael Cera character (like an onion, with each layer made of more Michael Cera) who only has one emotional mode, abort!

Parks and Rec's Ben proposing to Leslie by saying "I am deeply, ridiculously in love with you."3) If you really know that you want to have kids someday, you gotta speak up about it sometime. Whatever that heart’s desire is – if it’s to live on a boat for a while or move to Finland or start a theater company or go back to school – you have to be able to say it out loud to the people who you want to really know you.

By saying it out loud*, you do take a risk. You risk that people will laugh at you, or not be on board. You risk that this person right in front of you will not be on Team You while you go after the things you want. You risk pain and disappointment.

By NOT saying it loud, you also risk never, ever getting what you want. Not because some evil nemesis put their evil boot down on your neck and stood in your way, but because you stayed silent, the people around you never knew what you wanted, and you never gave them a chance to actually be on your side or walk away from your side. And then time happened. Your silence + time + fear came in and stole your dreams from you, and then it was too late.

Every good thing that ever happens to us because someone said “Yes, let’s try it.” There is no love without courage, so be of good courage. Take your faults and walk into Camazotz. Take your passion and make it happen. Say “I really care about you and want you to stay in my life” to your boyfriend, and see what happens.

 

*can mean voice, text, email, letter, skywriting, or any form of expression.

 

 

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98 comments
  1. lillerina said:

    It is awkward and difficult to say ‘I really like you’, but actually a lot of people need to hear it said like that. People who like you will act as though they like you… but sometimes, people who like you will tell you that they like you. And sometimes you need to tell someone that you like them before they will say that they like you.

  2. Stephanie said:

    Thank you for using an image that helps me imagine what My Boyfriend Adam Scott will look like as he leans in to kiss me.

    “By NOT saying it loud, you also risk never, ever getting what you want.” – this really resonates with me, so thank you Captain for saying it just this way.

  3. PBnoJ said:

    “By saying it out loud*, you do take a risk. You risk that people will laugh at you, or not be on board. You risk that this person right in front of you will not be on Team You while you go after the things you want. You risk pain and disappointment.

    By NOT saying it loud, you also risk never, ever getting what you want. Not because some evil nemesis put their evil boot down on your neck and stood in your way, but because you stayed silent, the people around you never knew what you wanted, and you never gave them a chance to actually be on your side or walk away from your side. And then time happened. Your silence + time + fear came in and stole your dreams from you, and then it was too late.”

    Can someone go back in time to me-in-my-20s and say this to me? Repeatedly?

    • Amen a thousand times. When I learned this lesson I then went on to really try… and it crashed and burned and was painful and messed up in all new and interesting and unpleasant ways. But I NEVER WONDER IF IT COULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT and I don’t look back and say “man, wish I’d tried X.”

      There’s not a Right Way to talk about your feelings with someone, Wordless. If you’re awkward or reluctant or shy it’s okay to say “it’s hard for me to express things like this the way I want, but I’m really happy with you/right now/being here” or whatever. The whole point of being with the right person is that you get to be you, not some idealized or pre-defined version of a lover.

      • tcheasdfjkl said:

        “When I learned this lesson I then went on to really try… and it crashed and burned and was painful and messed up in all new and interesting and unpleasant ways. But I NEVER WONDER IF IT COULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT and I don’t look back and say “man, wish I’d tried X.””

        Thanks for this.

        The Captain’s original point resonated deeply with me too – I’m at a point where I’m scared to take a step in my maybe-a-dream direction (or even many other directions!) because I’m a bit hung up on what others will say/think, and I’m trying to make myself really realize that that’s a risk I need to take. So this reminder was helpful.

        But what you just said above made me stop and think and smile. What if I try what I want to try and it fails? Maybe it will be okay anyway. :)

        • Tautological Cat said:

          Yes. Sometimes using your words doesn’t turn out the way you want it to. And it can be okay anyway.

      • M Dubz said:

        The whole point of being with the right person is that you get to be you, not some idealized or pre-defined version of a lover.

        Yes all of the this. Dating is really hard for me right now, and it’s easy to buy into the idea that I should tone down the me in order to get dates. But then I have to remember the truly weird and lovely people that I have loved over the course of my life, and keep on being myself. Because someone is bound to love my nerdy, overenthusiastic, religious self.

  4. Josie said:

    Perhaps I’m the only one thinking this – and certainly all relationships are different – but you have only been together 6 months. I know it is so easy to get thinking about the future, and I certainly want kids too, but at 6 months a lot of couples are still getting to know each other.

    With my boyfriend I started small, as the Captain describes. Specifically with the kid thing you could phrase it like you really want kids in the future, but not necessarily WITH HIM. So, it’s more about YOU than your relationship. My boyfriend and I started talking like this as we both want children and then progressed to thinking of each other as the other parent. But this took time, and it should: it’s a major thing to feel sure you want children with someone.

    • espritdecorps said:

      “Specifically with the kid thing you could phrase it like you really want kids in the future, but not necessarily WITH HIM. So, it’s more about YOU than your relationship.”

      This is a very good point. You can just talk about what you want out of your individual life, at some point, in the future a-ways. That’s more like daydreaming out loud than having a “Where is this relationship going?” talk, much less scary.

      Also being around children together in a casual way is a good gauge of compatibility on that issue. I was in a very intense relationship with a guy, when we spent time visiting a mutual friend and her toddler. Afterwards he mentioned that I had “looked very natural” with the child. I said I loved kids, and that my friend X had always joked about me having 5 kids one day ha, ha. Then we talked about dinner.
      I didn’t have to spell out that I wanted kids one day. He picked up on it, and a couple months later made a casual comment about how he wasn’t certain if he wanted to be a father, and that he enjoyed being able to travel and eat out. I nodded and agreed that children didn’t lend themselves to that lifestyle. And then we gossiped about a friend.
      When our relationship ran its course, we were better able to let go since we both knew we wanted different lives.

      I hope whichever way your relationship goes you have fun with what you have now, which sounds all kinds of wonderful.

  5. FarmerStina said:

    I really really love that one of the ads being shown to me is: Signs you are about to get dumped [Video]. Give the ad generator a giant award for MISSING THE POINT!!!!!

    Anyways, great advice as always!

    • JenniferP said:

      The ads are terrible. I know it, you know it, even they know it. But honestly? They just about cover the monthly costs of my asthma meds, which is why I don’t take them down even though people are awesome about pledge drives.

      • ReanaZ said:

        I think it adds an extra layer of awesome in how often they ridiculously miss the mark. IT makes me giggle. Also, it’s always good to have a reminder that robots are not yet smart enough to be our overlords because we will outsmart them WITH FEELINGS. And good communication.

      • H.Regalis said:

        I’ve been wondering, have you looked into/do you have time to look into Project Wonderful? I know a lot of web comics–Questionable Content, Shortpacked!, and Hark a Vagrant as examples–use their stuff.

        Disclaimer: I have never used PW so don’t know much about it other than reading in an interview that Kate Beaton (author of HaV) uses them and thinks they’re great; and also, I don’t know even a rough ballpark figure for how much monthly asthma meds cost.

        And also, since this is all web stuff in this comment, I really like that you changed your WordPress to have “continue reading” links instead of full posts on the front page. It makes reading it on a mobile device much better!

      • FarmerStina said:

        I get that the ads bring you in revenue and don’t think that’s it bad at all for you to bring in revenue that way. I just loved how the robot totally missed the point of the post.

        In related news, I always click on the halfway decent ads with the hope that they’ll eventually stop showing me a certain reality star’s butt. Oh, internet!

      • Oh man. I have expensive asthma and now I feel more like I have a moral imperative to click!

        • JenniferP said:

          I get paid based on total page views for the site, not clicks (which is one of the reasons I use WordPress’s platform, despite some shittiness with the content), so just read the blog and it will be fine! #floventistheonlythingthatworks

          I’ve had some people get really, really shirty with me about it both here and on Twitter lately, and I’m in no mood to defend it. I’m either providing a space for shitty admakers to shit directly into your eyes, or I’m tricking shitty admakers into supporting stuff you want to read – choose your own adventure, take screen caps of inappropriate stuff and send it to support@wordpress.com and hopefully things will get less shitty.

          I’m really grateful for pledge drive support, in a perfect world I wouldn’t need both that and ads, but the ads do provide a small regular stipend that I’ve come to count on. I also don’t have time to individually curate/select/cultivate advertisers because this isn’t my full-time gig.

          • I definitely wasn’t asking you to defend it, not to me! You work hard on this blog, the content is free, I scroll right past the little boxes.

            I’m an advair girl myself and asthma meds are crazy expensive, even with insurance. My lungs would stand with yours and click on little boxes sometimes! (Indirectly. It would be a bad day if my lungs directly clicked on things.)

            But I am more glad that you only need me reading, since I do that already.

          • Vicki said:

            Thanks for letting us know that clicking is irrelevant. I read an often-political blog where the ads are laughably off-base: last year, reliably, a screed against candidate X would produce ads from that person’s campaign committee. The blogger encouraged people to click through, because it drained the coffers of the disliked candidates. I haven’t the stomah for that, though.

  6. “I don’t know if it’s winter where you live, [...]”

    Odds are excellent that the LW is in Europe. The diagonal double quotes are unique to German. (German orthography is a trip. It’s less common now, but they also used to typeset books with no extra spacing between paragraphs, and also no tab indent. I never could decide if that was better or worse than the French/Spanish format where they use em dashes instead of opening quotes, and no close quotes at all.) Which means it is indeed winter there, and parts of Germany certainly get cold enough to trip the whole hibernation instinct thing.

    I haven’t anything to add, other than that. I always just solved this problem by being completely tactless and just asking. Carry on!

    • 13425 said:

      Except it’s quite warm here now, right at the feet of the Alps. ;-) No need to hibernate at 10 °C.

      – A german typophile.

      • I said parts of Germany get cold enough to hibernate — I didn’t say anything about whether they were that cold now. :) Truth be told, I haven’t checked anybody’s weather forecast all day. I’m in New England and the weather service thinks we’re all going to DIE OF SNOW OMG, the same way they do every time we get more than three or four inches.

        I think the people who are panic-buying milk and bread and Cheetos or whatever at the drug store are pansies. I went to college in Flagstaff, Arizona, where anything less than a full blizzard with whiteout conditions was considered a weenie excuse for missing class. It’s not even up to my knees yet, I’m FINE. :D

        • Irene said:

          Have the implications of “pansy” changed? Because where I grew up that was a really nasty homophobic thing to say, right up there with “limp-wristed” and the like, and I’m sure that’s not what you meant.

          • I think currently it’s been mutated to the point where people mean “fragile flower”, but certainly most flower/fragility insults have their roots in femmephobia, if not homophobia.

            It’s been a source of some chagrin to me that the expression “hot mess” has kind of taken off, given its roots (originally “hot [that slur for trans women] mess”.) Does excising the slur make a phrase acceptable? Does institutional memory leaving behind the origins of a phrase mean that the phrase has been sterilized in some fashion? I think we do need a joking/cutting way of saying a person constantly makes their inability to do things everyone else’s problem, but equating that to femininity isn’t the way to do it.

            … it’s possible I have been thinking about this for a few days.

          • I wasn’t aware pansies were specifically associated with homosexuality, actually. I’ve only known it to mean “easily crushed flower,” flowers being things generally smished by winter.

          • Irene said:

            It’s in the Merriam-Webster definition:

            2
            a usually disparaging : a weak or effeminate man or boy
            b usually disparaging : a male homosexual

            It was one of the standard terms for gay men for quite a long time. Dorothy Sayers has a character in a play joke about the theater not being a bed of roses — “Far from it. Pansies, pansies all the way.”

          • Irene said:

            I’d never heard that about “hot mess” — had assumed “hot mess” came first and people later started adding various middle terms. I associated it with a steaming pile of fresh shit.

            According to this 2008 article, Christian Siriano was the first one to popularize “hot tranny mess,” and “hot mess” is definitely way older than Project Runway (started out as African American slang as far as I know). http://bitchmagazine.org/post/is-christian-siriano-making-a-hot-mess-of-the-term-quottrannyquot

          • therufs said:

            In some parts of the South, pansies are the flowers that go in the flower beds from November through February because they are sufficiently cold-hardy to last several freezes …

      • Myrin said:

        Arghlblargl, another person from Germany and another person living at the feet of the Alps! *waves madly*

    • I think the only thing I find more troublesome than German orthography is French. Also, I love that there are other orthography/language geeks round these parts.

      • I’m a general polyglot. I pick up languages, says one of my friends, like other people pick up loose change. He has started to default to just asking me if he runs into something in a language he doesn’t read and he wants to know what it says. My brain just seems to be built for it; when I was in college and I needed to fill in a semester with random credits to bring myself up to full time, I took language courses for an easy GPA boost.

        It gets interesting explaining to people in first-semester German that I’ve never been out of the US, much less to Germany, or that I can tell you what a lot of the shop signs in Chinatown say, but have no idea how you’re supposed to read that word aloud. I am also notorious for glancing over at someone playing, say, Skyward Sword, and asking “What’s that sign say?” only to be told the player had no idea the glyphs were anything but random decoration. I don’t know how many false negatives I get on that for obvious reasons, but I have not had a false positive yet — it ALWAYS tuns out to be decodable language.

        • If I remember correctly, most of the signs in Skyward Sword say things like “Hi! I’m a sign!” and other such nonsense.
          <3 language

          • One of them says “You can read this”. The sign at the shops that appears when you buy all of something says “sold out”. At least some of the large panels in the factories are actually just a listing of the alphabet, if you get close enough to look.

    • Linguaphile high-five!

  7. Just. Guys that don’t express any feelings ever are not mysterious. Even if he occasionally writes you a deep song or a poem. All that enigmaticness doesn’t equate to being a good partner. The Jordan Catalano’s of our lives are best looked at from
    afar.

    • Agreed. My love is not a talkative person, but he tells me how he feels about stuff, because he knows that my imagination can take a nasty turn sometimes, but if I *know* he hasn’t secretly decided that he hates me forever OMG because I asked him to get the car inspected/haven’t finished painting the bathroom/bought the wrong cereal/breathed funny that one time, then the Jerkbrain has nothing to hold on to.

    • Yeah. I tried to plumb the depths of an enigmatic guy once, and my plumb line didn’t even get wet. I mean, he had feelings, I’m sure–but he was totally unable to understand not only what those feelings were called, but even what they felt like. He honestly didn’t know he was feeling feelings when he felt feelings, partly because they weren’t very strong, and partly because he was Just Like That. There were no mysterious depths to uncover. He was nothing but emotionally BORING.

      • Ha, this could be my husband.
        I know he has “happy”, “hungry” and “horny”. But I’ve not really met much else. I’m really hoping to see “excited” when our baby is born in the next couple of weeks. But I dont know if I’m really holding out much hope. :)
        I lovingly refer to him as my favourite emotional retard (given he is otherwise a genius), though he is more a Leonard than a Sheldon in the Big Bang Theory sphere of emotional / genius-ness.

        • JenniferP said:

          Could we not with “retard”? It’s 2013, so maybe file that one under pet names you are too embarrassed to share.

        • ona555 said:

          It denigrates mentally handicapped people when others use ableist slurs as pet names for those they consider smart. As much as it does when slurs are used as an insult.

          It really sucks and is incredibly hurtful.

          http://www.r-word.org/r-word-effects-of-the-word.aspx

  8. Turtledove said:

    It is also very useful to practice being present and saying what you feel in the moment. It’s good for all of your relationships. But I also feel like women in particular are brought up to see marriage and/or kids as some sort of relationship end-game. Marriage is a long, long thing and kids are a long, long thing and there is no actual end game to them (especially if you have kids– even if you divorce, you can’t really walk away from the ex-spouse entirely). This means that all that time you spent being present and all that practice you got speaking up about your feelings will stand you in good stead. You’ll have had practice– you can tell your spouse and kids the nice things and the not so nice things. Forever is a long time to bottle up your feelings.

    • ona555 said:

      Oh goodness, this. I don’t have much if anything to add but THIS, so much.

      Talking openly about little things, making small steps toward expressing your full emotions, that is a pretty good way to find out how your love interest will respond to big life stuff in the future, and it’s also practice. If the two people can successfully and respectfully negotiate something small like going to the movies, and get practiced in doing so, they have a good chance (if they apply the same communication strategies) of negotiating their way through heavy life stuff, and if they cannot negotiate their way to a theater selection chances are good they will be unsuccessful at negotiating bigger decisions later. It’s a fairly strong indicator, if my own life is any representation.

  9. misspiggy said:

    You can always say, ‘I wanted to tell you how I feel about (having children), just so you know – have you had any thoughts about the subject before?’ And leave it at that for the moment.

    But making yourself say any of this – perhaps it’s about trusting that you can cope no matter what the consequences are. Practice saying it in your head? Take any pause in the conversation, say to yourself, ‘NOW’, and then dive in? As you already know that he’s great, it’s likely that he’ll respond with something sensible, or at worst a blank which you can fill with ‘Maybe you can let me know how you feel about this some other time, when you’ve had a chance to think about it?’

    You could always preface anything big with saying ‘You know I think you’re lovely, and that’s been making me have some thoughts which I wanted to share with you.’ You’ve got as much right to talk about serious things as you have to talk about silly things.

    • JenniferP said:

      Right, because the letter writer’s thoughts & feelings about having children are important and real even if they don’t perfectly match up with the boyfriend’s.

  10. ‘Take your passion and make it happen.’

    You can have it all. We all have fears deep inside our minds. Still, we can dance right through our lives.

    (Oh, was it just me that got Flashdance in her head? Right, just ignore me then.)

    • JenniferP said:

      You’re welcome!

      Leg warmers not included.

      • roramich said:

        But can we have that ripped up off the shoulder sweatshirt?

        • JenniferP said:

          That’s more of a DIY project, don’t you think? :)

  11. I too am a hider of thoughts, which is not the best way to make your passion happen…as it were. One of my problems with this, which maybe you do to, is to then build up whole SCENARIOS in which I’m like ‘I LOVE YOU’ and my partner looks deep into my eyes and the music swells and….yeah, these things DO NOT HAPPEN. Equally, I fear that I say ‘I LOVE YOU’ and all of a sudden there is a Boy-shaped hole in the wall and he is GONE.

    So one thing I really had to practice was not running those scenarios. And also working out what would be a Not OK answer to big questions like ‘do you want kids’. I mean, I am not considering this right now, but if I were looking at kids in the next few years, my partner would have to want them too for things to work. Are there any big questions you do need particular answers to? What are they? What would happen if those answers were not the ones your boyfriend gave you? These are big, scary questions, but they are important!

    Take your passion, LW! Make it happen! *sings Flashdance loudly*

    • espritdecorps said:

      This is so true.
      I wish Mr. Corps and I had shared more specifics of our ideal lives. It’s easier to compromise on “I like buying new cars every 5 years” and “I’ve had the same car since high school” than to compromise on “I would like to try living in (far-away place with entirely different culture)” and “Lets buy this place within 10 miles of all our relatives and friends!”

  12. Brava, Captain!

    LW, I completely understand your frustrations and worry about your future, your need to look at your life and situation and ask “where is this going?” and your need to be doing something PRODUCTIVE with your time. But I would suggest that perhaps relationships are not something you have to Win At All the Time. It sounds like you have a pleasant, supportive, happy, safe relationship with a guy who excites and delights you. At the moment, you are certainly not “wasting your time.”

    Relationships aren’t board games that you can win at. It’s not like a preset timer goes off after six months with an alarm blaring “SIX-MONTH RELATIONSHIP ALERT! FUN HAS BEEN HAD BUT BIG TALKS HAVE NOT COMMENCED! RELATIONSHIP HAS NOT YET PROGRESSED TO SHIRT-SNIFFING STAGE!* TERMINATE RELATIONSHIP! UNTANGLE LEGS AND SEPARATE POSSESSIONS!! PLEASE PROCEED DOWN THE CHUTE OF FAILURE!” And at the end of the Chute of Failure there’s this machine that slowly prints out a receipt for your relationship, and you haven’t achieved enough of the requisite milestones for the time you’ve put in, and so two years of Productive Adulthood have been deducted from your tally, and you’re like “NOOOO! NOW I WILL NEVER BUY MY OWN WASHING MACHINE!”

    Futures happen to everyone, and it is particularly delicious when your futures match up. But when you get to these talks with this boy, in six hours’ time or six more months from now, you won’t be “wasting your time” if he sees himself with children in five years and you see yourself traveling the world instead. You will have had a nice relationship that made you very happy, and you may decide to end it because you would like specific things in your future that this partner simply cannot provide. That’s no waste; that’s a beautiful and productive use of your life.

    * shirt-sniffing stage: whereupon committed partners lose their own sense of smell-identity, such that they cannot detect their own body odor anymore, and must exchange used shirts with one another, asking “Can I still wear this?” and the recipient partner must take a big huff of the possibly-stinky bouquet and look very pensive and roll it around on their palate, because this is How to Adult Together.

    • There is a part of me that loves the concept of the Chute Of Failure, SO hard. I think it may be the same part of me that got maniacal about constructing complex marble runs out of toilet roll tubes sellotaped to the back of my bedroom door when I was a kid. ^_^ <3

    • Pana7otta said:

      May I just say I love this comment?

    • I love this, it speaks so much to one of my big pet peeves. A relationship in which you are happy and have good times together for 2 years and then end it because it becomes TIME is a good and valid use of your time. And in the next 2 or 5 or 10 year relationships you have you will still be using things you learned from those happy 2 years in your 20s.

      Duration, house buying and kid having are not the barometer of a successful relationship, how well you treat each other is.

    • MamaCheshire said:

      And at the end of the Chute of Failure there’s this machine that slowly prints out a receipt for your relationship, and you haven’t achieved enough of the requisite milestones for the time you’ve put in, and so two years of Productive Adulthood have been deducted from your tally, and you’re like “NOOOO! NOW I WILL NEVER BUY MY OWN WASHING MACHINE!”

      *cringe*

      THAT. That what you just described is the biggest reason for the entire second year of my relationship with Darth Vader Ex, with a side of “I said I’d marry the guy, so I’m a Horrible Person Forever if I break it off!”

      I was all of 22 years old, and thoroughly convinced of both of these things. It didn’t help that some of Darth’s favorite gaslighting tactics played on this exact fear in some of the most hideously emotionally abusive ways possible. (Short version: subsequent to being date-raped several years prior, I went through a phase of “I can’t be raped if I don’t say no!” and as a result, my total count of partners is probably about double what it would be without that factor. Darth considered this number proof of how damaged I was and made it very clear that nobody ELSE would EVER want to commit to a “whore” like me. So I genuinely felt like Darth was my very last chance for a committed lifetime relationship, even if it was turning out totally not the way I wanted. And I was only 22!)

      LW and anyone else staying in a relationship to avoid the Chute of Failure and loss of PRODUCTIVE ADULTHOOD: You don’t have to do this. Even my own spouse, much as I love him and would be completely fucking devastated if I lost him through death or divorce, is not my last or only chance to ever have a good relationship – and knowing that makes the relationship we do have so much better.

  13. Jo said:

    I just wanted to emphasise what the Captain said about saying something out loud maybe also meaning in a letter, email or text. Because I too can have difficulty expressing myself over big, scary emotions (I’m a little better now) and email was what saved me when it came to needing to have a big scary conversation about them. It’s a fine line to walk between honest email and FEELINGSmail, but if you get anxious and the words vanish when you’re face to face with someone (or you rehearse every possible iteration of a conversation before having it until you get paralysed with anxiety, like me) then simply writing down what you want to say can be much easier!

    Also, one thing I used to do with my first girlfriend, before we were girlfriends and before I had any idea how to express my confusing emotions, was give her a heart cut from some paper. Just a little gesture like that was very helpful in opening up some sort of communication about feelings.

    • Beth said:

      Yes. I find email very helpful for communicating my feelings because I can organize my thoughts well and make sure everything is phrased perfectly and nothing is left out. My boyfriend and I have pretty great communication, but sometimes there will still be something I’m nervous talking about, so I’ll tell him “Hey, I’ve been thinking a lot about X. Mind if I email you my thoughts and feelings on it?” and he can say “Yes, send the email. I won’t be able to read it until Y o’clock, but then I’ll get back to you.” It gives us both more time to process our feelings before the talk, too.

      • Beth said:

        Oh, and I forgot to mention that the email gives me the chance to edit out a lot of unnecessary tangents too. I always read it, wait a few minutes and re-read it before I hit send.

    • Frances said:

      Oooh your paper hearts remind me – in the pre-“I love you” stage of our relationship, my boyfriend and I would gchat each other <3's. It was a good way to test the waters!

    • AB said:

      This! My SO wrote ‘I Love You’ on big bits of paper and stuck it in every room, after he went through a tough time. We’d been together ages by then but we still sometimes have trouble expressing the big things.

      I also used to leave post it’s on the bathroom mirror or in his lunchbox- in the beginning they were cute and funny but also meaningful. It meant he could see the serious, but if uncomfortable, just treat it as the cute and silly. He often responded in kind if he was also too shy to say something to my face :)

      “I think I love you”
      “Enjoy your lunch. Hope you don’t mind eating the same thing for the next fifty years?”
      Also “enjoy your lunch. Stick around for a while and I might even learn how to make it taste good!”
      On the mirror- “what’s cookin good lookin? You are, cooking dinner, for me. Thanks hunny!”

  14. Amy said:

    “So I guess my question is, how do I get over this unnatural fear I have of talking about my feelings/relationship goals? Suppose I get over it, how do I make the conversation comfortable enough for him? Do you think it’s viable if we’re both funny the same way?”

    Am I the only one who interpreted this as unrelated to the LW’s sense of humor? Coupled with the two preceding sentences, it seems to me that LW may have meant “funny-weird” rather than “funny-haha”.

    “Do you think it’s viable if we both have this same difficulty in communicating?”

    • Medusa in the Mirror said:

      I read it the same way you did, as unrelated to humor.

    • keelyellenmarie said:

      That is how I read it as well.

    • LW said:

      I’m happy you read it this way, as I was beginning to worry that I’m the only one who uses such expressions. Yes, that’s exactly what I meant by “funny” – being weird in the same way.

      • JenniferP said:

        Oops!

  15. I really dislike how society has decided a woman talking about marriage and/or kids = NEEDY RED FLAG RED FLAG GET OUT.

    I’ve always started relationships by saying bluntly “I don’t want children and I’m not religious” because I didn’t see the point in waiting an appropriate length of time before I was “allowed” to bring up children. I do recognize I’m coming from a different angle than most women would be, and likely have privilege because of that. A dude isn’t going to be able to pretend I’m a psycho that wants ALL THE BABIES when I’ve just told him I don’t want any.

    But really – would it be that difficult to just have a first date where you both lay out what you want in the next 5/10/whatever years and see if you’ll be compatible before you invest months or years in your life? And to not have the other person react as it’s completely crazy that someone would like to have a rational discussion about a theoretical future?

    • Christen said:

      I hate that stereotype too. I don’t necessarily see the kids conversation as one that needs to happen on the first date, but I’m good with it happening very early on. Still, the stereotype is so pernicious that sometimes it doesn’t matter what you actually say or do; I had a guy tell me I was “getting too attached” because I waited for him when he was late for a date. I thought we were only seeing each other casually and I was just being polite! But I guess I was wrong! *facepalm*

    • I have had conversations with casual friends about whether or not they want to have kids. It can just be part of getting to know someone, talking about kids doesn’t always mean DO YOU WANT TO HAVE KIDS WITH ME LIKE SOON? Granted there is more pressure in a relationship, but understanding how a person views their individual future is part of getting to know someone, whether or not you see that future merging with yours. Travel? Masters degree? Kids? City/Suburbs? Dogs/Cats?

      • SkeetPea said:

        Yeah, that was part of the getting-to-know-you conversations I had with my ex-gf before we ever started dating. Sharing and comparing backgrounds and possible futures is fun. We would have scored pretty high on the compatibility scale at that point; it was only later and for other reasons that the relationship cratered.

    • I would not be shitting you if I told you that I once had a (speed!) date with a dude who told me how many children he wanted, when and what he would name them.

      I, who am charmed by awkwardness, was not put off by this but by the fact that after ten minutes of being BLAH’d at, I knew that he wanted his children named after his grandparents and he did not know my name.

      TL;DR – ‘I would like children’ is not nearly as off-putting as ‘I WANT TO TALK ONLY ABOUT THE CHILDREN I WANT YOU TO BEAR ME AND NOT AT ALL ABOUT WHAT YOU DO FOR A LIVING’.

    • H.Regalis said:

      I agree and disagree. I have friends who bring that up a few dates in and are very blunt about it, but personally it would be a turnoff if I were on a first date with someone and it talking about that. I’d rather have the early stages be hiking/bar trivia/Arkham Horror/sex/MST3K/[other fun activity goes here], so I tend to bring it up the same way I prefer people to bring up fetishes: when we’ve been dating long enough that we know we like spending time with each other, but before we’ve had enough time to get seriously emotionally invested in the relationship.

    • MamaCheshire said:

      Eh, from what my childfree friends have said on the subject, I don’t think you have privilege on that score. Most of them have had at least a few relationships that ended because the guy insisted she’d change her mind because ALL women will. Which…ew.

      • Oh, ick. That makes me appreciate my last ex much more. He was ambivalent about kids when we met, then decided he couldn’t live without them … and that was that. He didn’t have any illusions that I’d have a sudden and inexplicable change of heart.

    • theLaplaceDemon said:

      I dunno, I don’t think there is anything wrong with being blunt and upfront if you know what you want out of your life and what sort of partner would be compatible about that, but I don’t think it’s relevant to LW’s situation. LW said that this situation started out as casual. If you are intending to have a casual relationship with someone, there is no need to give them your 10 year plan and long-term partner requirements. And I totally get how, once your with someone, and it started out as casual but now it’s not, it can be really hard to try to navigate talking about feelings and thinking about the future.

    • M Dubz said:

      I’m of two minds here. On the one hand, I definitely think it should be okay for people to start laying out their hopes, dreams, ideas of what a relationship should be, etc. early on. However, I don’t think that’s necessarily a surefire way for people to avoid incompatibilities, since people change and grow over time. And couples often compromise over things, even big things, and I would worry that laying my ENTIRE ten year plan might be unnecessarily specific. I mean, the really big things, like children (my future desire thereof) and my job (which is going to be a life suck), come up early on. Most of the other stuff I’m willing to wait and compromise.

  16. CODA said:

    Did you know there were two Letter #446s?

    Anyway, this is great advice, Captain!

  17. Christen said:

    Just want to echo the point about how, if you have a hard time talking about emotional stuff, it’s totally OK to have some of those conversations via e-mail. (It is also OK to write out a big old FEELINGSMAIL to sort out how you feel and what you want to say, and then just delete it. I do this for certain types of conversations; it helps me sort out what parts of the issue I want/need to deal with on my own and what I need to ask for from the other person, and also gives me a flexible script I can use to talk to them when I see them next. Another thing that has worked with my current partner is saying, “OK, ) It’s generally true that you shouldn’t say something to someone in e-mail that you wouldn’t say in person, but not all of us are with-it and collected enough all the time to communicate well about emotional issues face to face. You can also have a face-to-face conversation and then say, “Well, this has given me a lot to think about. Is it OK if I take some time to think about all of this and then maybe follow up via e-mail?” There is no seamless, bumpless way to talk about important things, but the bumps are almost never as bad as you imagine beforehand.

  18. Elle said:

    Also, if this is a general difficulty in expressing feelings, not just related to saying “I love you type stuff” to life partner, isn’t therapy possibly a good idea? Just to talk through why it might be the case and get some perspective from a neutral third party.

  19. Rossweise said:

    I’ve had three relationships, all of them started out as more casual/sexual relationships.

    In the first I was the first to proclaim that I had developed romantic feelings, after more than a year (for the most part of that time I didn’t have romantic feelings for him). I didn’t prepare the anouncement, so I believe it may have come a bit sudden for him. It continued as a kind-of-romantic relationship where I a few times were sincere and open about my feelings but always got the reply “I like you, but I don’t know”, so in the end it just felt like a dead end. I think that for both of us it was a way to learn (it was the first sexual relationship for both of us), that it felt good for both of us to have someone we could be intimate with, have sex with and get support from. In hindsight it felt more like an alliance than a romantic relationship – we didn’t have much in common but i think both of us enjoyed the feeling of having someone to be close with but other than that we didn’t contribute that much to each others life.

    In the second my partner was the first to drop the FEELINGSBOMB, we were already having sex and flirting and had being doing so for a bit more than a month. He proclaimed his feelings and it was a bit like an ultimatum: I didn’t feel I had the option to say “I like things as they are, but I haven’t made my mind up about the future or my emotions”. So I had to take a leap, which in the beginning made me feel as if I faked my love for him, although later on I didn’t have a single doubt about my love. I wanted to spend my life with him. Due to long distance it gradually ebbed out and we mutually agreed to separate.

    In the third I was the first to out my feelings. After about two or three months of constantly sleeping at each others’, deep late-night talks and being very tender and affectionate towards each other, especially him against me, I told him that I loved him. Due to his behaviour towards me I was sure that he would love me, but he wasn’t sure of his emotions, even though he really liked my company and our relationship. About a month later he told me he loved me as well, which didn’t really come as a surprise neither for him nor me. It only felt natural. at this point we’ve been a couple for a bit more than a year and we both feel that we would like to spend the rest of our lives with each other.

    I don’t know if this is relevant to the discussion, but I felt that in my experience so far that several outcomes are possible. What separates the first from the second and the third was that we didn’t have something that brought us together other than the feeling of being alone, which could be dampened by being alone together. In the two later relationships I was personally interested in my then-partner, both before and during the realtionship. Although I don’t know for sure, it feels as if my then-partners had the same stance regarding to me before and during our relationships.

  20. MamaCheshire said:

    Take your faults and walk into Camazotz.

    BEST ADVICE EVER, y/y? :)

    • Because one DOES simply walk into Camazotz… if one is armed with looooooovee.

    • Best reference ever. :)

  21. Jolly said:

    I’m gonna be honest: I’m not sure you get to dictate what is and is not a waste of time for the LW. While I do think that it is definitely best to appreciate a nice, enjoyable relationship, that doesn’t really change that if you want a family, there is a limited timeframe to make that happen. Sure, spending years with someone who you really enjoy spending time with is great. But she sounds like she wants to settle down, or at least wants to avoid waking up in ten years, realizing she sort of left behind working toward something she really wanted because she found something she was just comfortable with.
    If he doesn’t want the same thing she does, spending time monogamously with him instead of searching for someone who shares goals that are really important to her… it can definitely be a waste of time. Maybe she wants to relax for a bit and be cool with spending her time on this. But to me, it is like if you have a paper due in a few days, but suddenly there are SO many interesting, unrelated Wikipedia articles you need to read, and fascinating documentaries to watch, and galleries to go to, etc. You might be learning so much good stuff, and accomplishing a lot, but if you focus on all of that other stuff at the expense of spending time working on the goal with the limited timeframe, then you’re still gonna look back on them as things you shouldn’t have done. It doesn’t have to mean those things are objectively bad, just that the time you spent on them was probably misused.

    At any rate, though, the relationship as it stands won’t be a waste as long as you want to be in it. Now you just have to decide if you do want to be in it.

    LW, there is good news: you are only six months into it, and in your mid-twenties, so you DEFINITELY do have time to enjoy this while you get to know him, and while you figure out what you want out of this. I’ve always been a fan of the direct approach: one of those times when you’re just sorta hanging out in the “whatcha thinkin’ about?” mode, just straight up ask him, “do you want kids?” or perhaps easier, “where do you see yourself in ten years?” Honestly, these are questions that can end up being pretty interesting discussions of themselves, so don’t feel like you need to pin him down and extract the information. It doesn’t have to really be the kind of thing, especially six months in, that you Sit Down And Have A Talk About. But casual queries about what he wants out of life and where he sees himself going are kind of just part of getting to know someone, so just try to remind yourself that This Is Just Another Thing To Chat About. It is the kind of conversation that I envision happening in bed, .

    And if he doesn’t see himself as a family man and you two aren’t compatible in that way, and you can’t go back to casual (which would probably be wwwwway too messy), I wouldn’t be in too huge of a hurry to dump and move on. If he doesn’t want the same things you want, and it isn’t gonna go anywhere but it is really great right now, there is nothing wrong with doing all of the fun things and staying intimate while keeping an eye out for a better match. Maybe revisit it in a year or two if you are still together, as you feel your biological clock ticking a bit louder.

    • lunette said:

      Good points here. My thought was that if you’re worried you’re wasting time, then you are feeling under pressure. That pressure is going to color the conversation, which might be one of the factors making it hard to open your mouth. So what could you do to ease things up a little and lower the stakes?

      You could remember that There Is Time.

      You could scenario-plan – if he doesn’t want kids, then (as the Captain says) you have the option to enjoy what you’re enjoying til you feel a clear nudge to move on, and then use your experience of happiness to create a happy family down the line.
      (Relationship ending =/= relationship failing! Sometimes relationships are good and then they are over, and then they are fondly remembered.)

      Instead of launching treaty negotiations on “where is this relationship going”, you could treat it as more of a research project – use questions like Jolly suggests to gather info that will help in thinking through your options and what you want.

      You could give yourself some room both to like what’s going on and to want what you want. If you are thinking “I like X, but I want Y”, try changing the “but” to “and” and see if that feels a bit different.

      And if you have a thing you do that helps you relax and feel like you’re okay, you could do a bunch of that. :)

    • Nanani said:

      Um, no. There is no limited time frame for making families and babies happen.
      Fertility technology, it’s a thing. If you weren’t trying to make a “BUT BIOLOGY!” point, then I don’t even know what to say.

      The Captain’s advice is good and you are just wrong.

      • Fertility technology is a thing but it’s not an EASY thing, or a cheap thing. Yes, it’s absolutely possible for many people to have children even after their “prime childbearing years”, but for many people it also gets a lot more difficult, and it makes perfect sense that some (like the LW) would try to organize their lives in a way that avoids that difficulty.

        “But your biological clock is TICKING” is atrocious as an attempt to convince other people how to organize their lives, but it can be a legitimate consideration (not the only one, to be sure!) when organizing one’s own. And Jolly, here, was not doing the former but defending the legitimacy of the LW doing the latter.

      • While I think there is value in gently pointing out how sometimes people get stuck into the Plan Of Record about Being Married By Age and Having Children By Age and so on, it is also the case that for some women, if you’re gonna have kids, you’re gonna have to have them by X age. I know several people with specific conditions that limit their likely fertility.

        I do not intend to enquire about the LW’s fertility or lack thereof; I think that is between her and her doctor. But I do think that “Bah, you can just do an infertility treatment” is not a good way to respond. Unless you are familiar with the details of the LW’s reproductive bits, you have no idea if the LW is wrong about whether she can use them to make babies in ten or twenty years, with or without fertility treatments.

        And that’s all leaving aside how fertility treatments are expensive, often quite miserable for the ovary-contributor, unreliable (depending on the treatment), and morally problematic for many people.

        It’s like needing to hire a lawyer. If you really need fertility treatments, they are a wonderful thing and it’s worth the money, but really it’s better for everyone if you never actually need them.

      • JenniferP said:

        Have they invented Betan uterine replicators or something and I missed it?

  22. Bunny said:

    If it helps, remember that discussing future hopes and desires and feelings doesn’t have to be a serious FEELINGSCONVO. Some examples of various feelings me and the mister expressed to each other in the first period of our mutual togetherness and the way we expressed it:

    *Hugging after intimate stuffs*
    “Mmm, I like this.”
    “It’s nice. We should keep doing it…”
    “Definitely.”

    *Sees adorable child being adorable in public*
    “Cute kid!”
    “Aww, yeah. I could never be a parent, but that kid is really cute.”
    “Yeah, me too. I wouldn’t mind being an indulgent uncle, though.”

    *Random convo about past*
    “I fell HARD for my ex. Love at first sight, whirlwind romance…”
    “Oh wow, I never even thought that stuff was real outside of movies.”
    “Yeah, it took me by surprise, too. We were engaged, even.”
    “At 17? Damn, you really did fall hard. You don’t mind that we’re being casual now?”
    “Whirlwind romance was fun, but it didn’t last and MAN it hurt. I’m happy with this.”
    “So tell me more about…”

    *Watching TV advert about wedding show*
    “You ever want to get married?”
    “Ehh, I don’t mind. It’s not something I feel that strongly about.”
    “That’s fair enough. I don’t know how I feel, really. It’d be nice to do some day.”
    “Mmm.” *more hugging*
    “Oh wow, that show looks really awful.”
    “Wow. Reality TV at its worst…”

    The more time you spend together where you’re doing more than just cuddling and sleeping together, the more random conversations you’ll have and the more this stuff will inevitably come up. It helps if there’s a general background radiation of good communication, though.

    “Thanks for the cuppa, I really needed it.”
    “I’m popping to the shops, do you want me to pick up anything?”
    “Ah, crap. I’m sorry, I completely forgot.”
    “I don’t really like tomatoes.”

  23. Lucille said:

    I sympathize a lot with the letter writer as someone who used to find the idea of bringing up anything serious and feelings-related completely paralyzing…and this is despite the fact that I’m really very good at talking about my feelings (as far as being cogent and self-aware), once I get going. Getting started just makes me anxious. It still does (saying “I love you” to my current boyfriend definitely took a couple of tries before I really got it out) but this is definitely something that can get a lot better with practice (things you have never done tend to be scarier than things you have done, especially if past experiences have been positive). So first I just want to say that it gets better!

    I can’t tell from the letter how similar our challenges are but maybe this will be helpful. Or helpful to someone else having the same problems.

    So here are two things I used to do to overcome my own anxiety:
    1) Commit to saying something–this one is actually backed up by psychological research: if you can get someone to commit to something small, they are more likely to commit something larger. This is a trick people can use to manipulate you but it is also a trick you can use to manipulate yourself into doing stuff your anxiety is preventing you from doing.

    This can be something small. I used to start off bringing up something big by saying “So, um…” or taking a significant breath or otherwise indicating that I was going to start talking. Then I would get stuck and pause. But by that point the person I was speaking to would have picked up on the fact that I wanted to say something and would wait, rather than just continuing the conversation and letting me lose my nerve. Which gave me a second opportunity to blurt it out. If I still couldn’t do it, the person would often ask if I wanted to say something. I still had the opportunity to bail, but often them asking was enough for me to get out what I wanted to say.

    You can achieve the same effect by starting out with saying “Do you have a minute to talk?”

    Another thing to do is pick a specific day you want to tell him something and really decide to yourself that you are going to tell him. Maybe even write it down in a journal (another way of making a private commitment ahead of time). Try to believe that you are really going to do it.

    2) Be honest about how difficult this is for you–Honesty is important in any relationship and if you are having trouble getting your honest feelings out, that is also something you can be honest about (“Sorry, there was something I wanted to talk to you about but it’s making me nervous”). It’s also another way to achieve item 1 and get the conversation going. Bonus: if the person you are talking to is awesome, they will probably say something supportive which may help you feel a little more comfortable. It also gives you a chance to have however long you need to bring yourself to get out what you want to say.

    3) Bring notes!–I support the Captain’s footnote about all media’s being acceptable. I personally prefer to have emotional conversations in person so nothing gets misunderstood or comes off as FEELINGSmail but I also need to write in order to get my thoughts straight. So at some point in my last relationship I just gave up on not looking ridiculous and started bringing notes when I wanted to talk to my boyfriend about something. I wouldn’t read off of them, but I could refer to a list of talking points so I could make sure I didn’t forget anything. He was super awesome and didn’t mind at all. A similar idea would be bringing a letter of what you want to say and physically handing him, letting him read it, and then continuing the conversation in person.

    FINALLY, I really like Cliff Pervocracy’s suggestion to have a relationship summit. This involves have a pre-set time that you and your partner have agreed on ahead of time that is set aside for discussing your relationship. I think especially for people who might have trouble communicating spontaneously, having something scheduled might be really beneficial. You could introduce the topic by first mentioning that you are really happy with how things are going but are interested in having more communication in the relationship and then the two of you can discuss the idea of having this type of thing. This is also a nice low pressure discussion you can have that is about feelings! But you are not really invested in the outcome. You could even introduce it by saying “Hey, I was reading this blog and came across this cool idea, will you read it and tell me what you think?”

    Link is here: http://pervocracy.blogspot.com/2013/02/getting-negotiation-going.html

  24. Becca C. said:

    Oh my freaking God. This could have been written by me. And actually I did recently write to Captain Awkward with an extremely similar thing. This helps soooooo much. Thank you!

    PS I spoke up last night to my guy kind of — “When there’s a night where we both don’t work in the morning, would you be into me sleeping over?” And he said yes :) Happy!

  25. Rowan said:

    OMIGOD – A Wrinkle In Time reference for the absolute WIN!

  26. LW, I have so been in that boat. I was/am lucky to have a partners who encourage me to talk about how I’m feeling, what’s on my mind, what I’m excited about etc., especially after I mentioned that I’ve had a hard time even discerning what I want because I bury it as an emotional defense mechanism (see Cliff Pervocracy’s Perfect Girlfriend Who Never Wants Anything syndrome, with a side of “if I don’t have opinions, then I can’t be wrong.”) Having a space intentionally created and held for me to express my needs is sometimes scary and hard, because then I have to actually DECIDE THINGS YIKES, but it has been so helpful in my self-development and in the maintaining of my relationships, and now I’m getting better at initiating those conversations too! I do still have moments where I have words and they just Won’t Come Out, though.
    The other thing that helps me (and one of the reasons I adore Cap Awks) is that I have a really difficult time talking about things I don’t have a rough script for. This is why reading a lot of fiction actually might have been the best thing I could have done for my social skills when I was a kid, and also why up until fairly recently it was REALLY HARD for me to talk about sex with partners; in the books I was reading it tended to be “they kissed a lot and maybe made innuendos, cut to next scene” so I just didn’t know how sexual negotiation even happened. I’ve mostly had to build my own scripts for that, with help from partners and The Pervocracy.

  27. Darcy said:

    you’re dating a Michael Cera character (like an onion, with each layer made of more Michael Cera)

    You’ve tapped into my nightmare.

  28. LW said:

    Thank you Captain for posting my letter! I almost forgot I’d sent it in so it was delightful and at the same time, very scary to see it here!

    Just to be clear – like someone said earlier, when I said “funny the same way” I meant that we both are weird and unable to discuss serious matters without panicking. Sorry for the confusion.
    About the wasted time, it’s what Jolly said above – I have about 8 years of prime fertile time left (wow that was horrible to write) and if, say, I want two kids, that means I should have my first in about four years the latest. I don’t want to enjoy the ride and then realize that 10 years have passed and I have pretty much missed the train. This is definitely the best “train” I’ve ever been on, but if it’s going in the wrong direction, it’s not the right train and I need to get off. As awful as it would be.

    Your advice is sound and this is pretty much what I’ve been trying to do. Talking about little things, like the ones you mentioned (“I like the way you do x”, “can you come with me to this event”, “you are the awesomest being alive” etc) has never been a problem for me or him and he reacts in a way that makes me feel happy and safe. It’s also interesting that talking about sex has never been a problem for him (and I’ve improved a lot since I started reading Pervocracy), so it’s really just the Big Feelings and Kids topics that never come up.

    I think I sent my letter around the time Pervocracy’s relationship negotiation post went up and I’ve had it bookmarked on my browser ready to be sent to him with “this looks cool, can we do this?” attached. Now if only I could actually send it…

    Sorry for the rambling post, I am so excited! There’s so much to think about what you wrote. Thank you again.

    • Shaenon said:

      Oookay. It’s great that you know what you want, really, but preparing for menopause when you’re 25 is a bit much. If having kids is important to you, I suggest that in addition to talking to your boyfriend, you schedule an appointment with a gynocologist to discuss your childbearing plans. S/he will probably reassure you that you have more than four years to start having kids, and can also set up tests for possible fertility issues in case there’s something you _do_ need to plan around.

      Also, consider what you’ll do if your best-case scenario doesn’t work out. What if you have two kids but they’re less than four years apart? More than four years apart? What if you have one kid? Six adopted kids? Twins? No kids but you spend the rest of your life with the man of your dreams? Put some thought into which alternatives are acceptable to you and which aren’t.

      Trust me: you cannot make life follow a schedule. Instead, be prepared for anything and take advantage of every opportunity, even if it comes along in a form you didn’t expect. And don’t be shy about it! Like the Captain said, using your words works wonders.

      • K said:

        I think that maybe we should allow LW to state with certainty that she has a certain amount of years left to have kids! It seems a little rude to assume she hasn’t seen a gynecologist just because she didn’t share her whole medical history with us!

  29. anonano said:

    OH CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN,

    this is me, except the scary question I keep putting off is about polyamory, not kids, and the weight of “If I’m not upset enough about mono-amory to say anything I guess I’m not that upset” is strong.

    I will write “By NOT saying it loud, you also risk never, ever getting what you want” until it sinks in.
    <3

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