Dear Captain Awkward (And Awkwardeers),
I’ve been in a fantastic relationship with my partner for a few years now. He’s incredibly supportive of my mental health, and
complements my personality perfectly. However, and this may seem a silly concern, I’m worried about the fact that we never argue. Basically, I’m concerned that this might mean that we aren’t communicating well enough.
Hi there, Conflict Avoidant. Commander Logic here.
I’m going to tackle your last worry first: No one in the history of the earth has been The Perfect Couple. Leave that mountain unclimbed. No one has to be perfect, not for their friends, not for their partners, not for themselves. “The Couple Who Never Fight” can just mean “Who Never Fight In Public.” We can all strive to be that couple, and I’m going to wager that most couples are that couple; fighting in public is a whole other kettle of fish.
You’re also feeling a lot of guilt about being cared for. I don’t know if it helps, but that is a completely normal feeling. Mr. Logic just had knee surgery and for the past three weeks, 90% of all household & baby things have been on my plate in addition to working. He’d try to help more, and I’d order him back to his couch so that he wouldn’t injure his OTHER knee. And it’s ok. Because you know what? 9 months ago I was so enormously pregnant that he had to tie my shoes for me. I had debilitating pelvic girdle pain and couldn’t walk very well. Then I had a baby come out of me and was couchbound again. Whenever I got antsy about all the work he was doing for me, he would tell me that he knew I would do it for him. When he’s gotten antsy and guilty lately, I’ve reminded him of the same thing. “Would you do it for me? Yeah? Then let me do it for you.” I hope you never have a chance to repay all your partner’s care for you, but that’s love.
Mr. Logic’s family has a tradition of getting pudding when you’ve been in surgery. So I purchased chocolate and pistachio pudding to make parfaits, because why not get fancy for $0.70 a box? Two nights ago I made parfaits. Last night, I was going to make them again, and Mr. Logic said, “Actually, can you just put them side-by-side? I like being able to control the flavors better.” So I made his side-by-side pistachio and chocolate and parfaited mine. Was that a fight? No harm, no foul, just delicious pudding.
But you and your partner don’t fight at all, and that is wigging you out. So I want you to think about what a fight is, versus a disagreement or a need. To me, a FIGHT is insulting and yelling and cursing and slammed doors. It’s rage and wanting to hurt feelings and sticking metaphorical pins in your loved one’s soft places.
We do disagree, though. And we argue.
Actually, we try to argue on a weekly basis. Well, we discuss things on a weekly basis, and sometimes it turns into an argument, but that’s okay because we’ve created a space for arguing. Because otherwise, we would fall prey to Geek Relationship Fallacy #2: Disagreements Mean We Have to Break Up. Before I get to how we figured that out, I want to go back to the days in our relationship BEFORE we made our weekly meetings. Then, I was always nervous about when to bring up something that was bothering me. Should I wait until dinner? After dinner? What if I’m too tired? What if he’s crabby? If it was a chore that wasn’t getting done, was I allowed to ask him about it? Or was that nagging? Who wants to be a nag? UGH!
Him: Yeah? What?
Me: [explains the thing]
Me: Great! That’s such a relief.
Him: Really? Huh.
And stuff got resolved (because Geek Fallacies are FALLACIES), but with a lot of stress on my end and a lot of “bzuh?” on Mr. Logic’s. After a while, I got much better about saying things in the moment, but that was based first on positive assertions, and then building on that to being direct.
Him: Of course!
Him: Yeah, you seemed pretty tired.
Me: Thank you!
Me: Will do!
We both intentionally developed the practice of thanking the other person whenever they did something. At first it felt like overkill, and Mr. Logic would say stuff like “I don’t feel like you should thank me for doing normal stuff,” but there is just something to having someone notice all the things you’re doing that shores up a relationship. I’ve talked before about how it’s important to tell and show the people you like that you like them, but it’s equally important to acknowledge that you’ve received their messages in return.
But even with all that, it was still hard to get everything sorted. Just because I like Mr. Logic and he likes me doesn’t mean we could read each others minds.
So then in June of this year, I read a great article by Anne at Offbeat Home called “Family Meetings Help My Relationship” – there’s a weekly meeting calendar attachment with that article that I highly recommend. The basic idea is to have a weekly (or monthly if that’s your speed) meeting with your partner where you talk about the upcoming week’s events, meal planning, household to-do list, and (particularly relevant here) any percolating thoughts. Mr. Logic and I tend to focus on the events and to-do list, and ignore the meal planning. The Captain and her fella do meal planning and everything else percolates out of that. But what I think is going to be particularly relevant to you is the “Thoughts” section.
Anne’s thoughts tend to be positive:
The final section, the Thoughts section, is where we’ve been writing the relationship stuff. Things that are going great, things that need improvement, mostly it’s just a nice chance to pat ourselves on the back for being super awesome together. Last week’s said “Sex = Rad. Six days in a row!” “Thanks for making my lunches!” “I want more snuggles!” and “You’re my favorite person of all the persons.”
The point is: We set aside a time and a place to tell each other what’s bothering us. And it 100% RULES.
When you set aside a time each week to talk about that stuff, that means nothing has to be resolved in that exact moment; you can both think about it and come back to it next week. If you’re using the paper planner, you can even put on the planner what you’re going to talk about. But you could also ignore the paper planner entirely and just have a time you call “Our Therapy Session” where you have a gin & tonic (or other relaxant of choice. tea? cocoa?) and talk about stuff for a half hour by the clock.
And I’m going to warn you now, that first meeting is going to be a doozy. Metaphor time! Right now, your relationship is like a couch that you never sweep underneath. You vacuum the top, flip pillows sometimes, it looks great, but underneath you’re brewing dustbunnies the size of dinosaurs. Now, dustbunnies aren’t dangerous, but the first time you sweep under the couch, HOLY DUSTBUNNIES it’s going to be scary! Maybe you’ll only be able to deal with a quarter of your dustbunnies at first, and that’s okay. Once you get in the routine of regular undercouch sweeping, your dustbunnies will be fewer. Never absent (it’s not all rainbows and unicorns, remember), but much more manageable.
“I’m scared of what would happen if we ever FOUGHT. Does that scare you?”