As amazing as these past couple of questions have been, they’re also kind of depressing. I want to thank the following questioner for presenting us with a pleasant, happy sort of problem in which no one is being even a little bit of an asshole. Cheers!
Hello Captain (and Awkward Army)!
So here’s the deal. I’ve been married to a ridiculously fantastic, supportive, patient, loving husband for just under a year now, and we’re still delightfully twitterpated. We’ve worked hard to create a mutually supportive relationship, to Use Our Words (and our ears) and to work as a team whenever possible. Overall, that’s working great….but there’s one problem: I have Words to Use a whole lot more than he does.
Don’t get me wrong: he’s smart and articulate and more than willing to stand by his strongly-held convictions. But, for various reasons (including several chronic diseases that pretty much force me to think out everything ten steps in advance if I want to have any chance of success), when we’re talking through Life Decisions (of which we’ve made many over the past few years), I’ve generally thought things out in much more depth than he has. And I try very hard to draw out his thoughts and opinions, and he tries very hard to give them. But generally, I still manage to have about 5 Words to Husband’s 1.
Unsurprisingly, our Life Decisions almost always end up being what I think they should be. And (so far, at least) they’ve worked out pretty well! But it still doesn’t seem entirely healthy that I almost always get my way, just because I have more Words and Thoughts on the issues than he does. Unfortunately, I don’t exactly know how to make it better. As far as I can tell (and I’ve asked Husband more than once), it’s not that I steamroll him or demand my way; it’s that we mutually discuss things until we’ve both said what we have to say, I’ve usually thought things out in greater depth and therefore usually make stronger cases than he does, and then he almost always comes to agree with me. But I firmly believe that Having a More Compelling Argument =/= Being Right; at least, not all the time. But obviously, in any given discussion I think I’m right, or else I would think something else…
So here’s what I guess my question boils down to: how can we both Use Our Words and use them well in a way that allows for more balanced end results?
-Too Many Words?
P.S. Husband and I have discussed this issue before, and although he’s not particularly bothered by the situation (since, as I said, pretty much every decision has ended up with us in genuine agreement), he’s definitely interested in any advice you might have to offer. Anyway, we’ll both be reading the responses, so thanks again for your help!
Hallo! Commander Logic, here.
Congratulations on an extremely awesome relationship. The short answer is: you’re already both doing what works for you as a decision-making team, keep on keeping on.
But obviously, we are fans of the long answer involving history and experiences, so settle in for story time.
Every single one of us has been sold a narrative about what “good relationships” look like. It’s not always the same narrative, but it’s there. Maybe you (editorial “you”!) have a “traditionalist” narrative where a man pursues a lady, they marry, and then he makes all the major decisions, or maybe the lady lets him think he’s making the decisions but is lovingly manipulating him. (Beware! Herre be sitcomme fodder.) On the other end, the two (or more) humans in a relationship are equal, and do everything equally and decide everything together via hivemind with full attention being paid to everyone’s feelings and needs. While that’s closer to what you seem to want, bear in mind that you are not actually a hivemind.
The reality is balance. While I’m sure those symbiotic couple-blobs are out there, I’m also pretty certain that the majority of relationships fall somewhere between ManWifeHierarchy and EgalitarianCoupleBlob. Someone in the relationship may be a talker. Someone may be a silent thinker. Someone in the relationship is just going to care more about certain things than the other person does, and that person is going to take the lead on that subject. If I care more about dinner tonight, I’m going to say what I want to eat more forcefully. When the Logics get a new car (next year, fingers crossed!) whoever will drive it most will have the most say in the end. If you lean more towards the ECB ideal, that is going to freak you out a little bit because OMG if I take lead that means I have POWER and then someone might not get exactly what they want and we will no longer be Totes Egalitarian and aaaaauuuuugh.
So here’s what I see going on:
1 – Big Scary Decision is coming
2 – You and husband talk about making a decision by [date]
3 – You both think about it a lot
4 – You and husband talk about it on [date], with you taking lead on discussion
5 – Husband agrees with your point of view
6 – Cue distress
I actually get where the distress is coming from, because I have the same thing when I discuss things with HusbandLogic. He does not like to speak his opinion until he’s 100% sure of what it is, while I’m an out-loud processor. I need to tell people what I’m thinking about to work through it. HL thinks through it, then tells you what he thinks. In, like, a sentence. I’ve had to learn to trust what he says in that sentence. It’s not less true for being short. I think what you may be dealing with is also a feeling that Mr.Words isn’t “putting in the effort” that you have. And then beating yourself up for thought-accusing him of that, because that’s how EgalitarianCoupleBlob rolls.
So you’ve said, “I think X because Reasons which are… [minutes pass, powerpoint presentation, video highlight reel]… and that’s why I think X.” and he’s all “Those are awesome Reasons! I agree about X!” because it all chimes with what he thought, and there’s NO REASON to state them all again. And it is a victory for you! Then in your head there’s “But I just did a big powerpoint presentation about X, where is HIS powerpoint? where is HIS video? DOES HE NOT CARE ABOUT X?” And then you feel shitty because your lizard brain is saying that you did ALL THE WORK and he did NONE OF THE WORK and so you are obvs not an ECB, and we are now dancing precariously close to ManWifeHierarchy territory and what if you’re manipulating him like that awful sitcom wife who is way too hot for her doofus husband and nooooooooooooooo
But as I said: that’s the lizard brain talking.
The reality of what happened is that you took point on explaining the Reasons because Reason-finding is your THING. Mr.Words’s job was to consider, point out anything you missed (which of course you didn’t) and provide his opinion. Then you have to trust that he’s being honest because (drumroll!) you can’t see inside his brain. The fact that you agree so often is a sign that you are well matched.
If what you want is for Mr. Words to process his own thoughts out loud, so you feel like you understand his thought process, then go ahead and ask him for that. But I get the sense that he’s an internal processor like HusbandLogic, so I’d encourage you to just let him respond in the way that feels most comfortable to him. Trust that his response is true. Trust that he will tell you when he disagrees. That is all.
Two anecdotes from the House of Logic.
1 – Whatcha thiiiiiiiinkin’?
I’ve recounted this story SO many times, because I think it’s illustrative of a bunch of things, but mostly trust.
Me: Hey, HusbandLogic, whatcha thinkin’ about?
HL: I’m not thinking about anything, is that okay?
Me: Uh, of course it’s okay! Why wouldn’t it be?
HL: Well, I feel like you want me to come up with something.
Me: OH HECK NO. I’m just curious, because I can’t read your mind. I’m not thinking of something all the time either. “Nothing” is a perfectly cromulent response.
HL: Really? What if I was thinking about rocks?
Me: Then say “rocks.”
HL: Really? I’m thinking about rocks a LOT.
Me: Cool. Then say “rocks.”
Readers, he really does think about rocks a LOT. I trust him to tell me what’s actually on his mind, and he trusts me to believe him and not give him grief if the answer doesn’t meet some arbitrary metric of “interesting.” TooManyWords, you have to trust that Mr.Words agrees with you. Ok?
2 – The Case of the Enormous Freaking Sword – Compromise
HL: OMG, there’s a replica of ICE for sale!
Me: Cool. But what would we do with a… 55″ long sword?
HL: HANG IT OVER THE FIREPLACE OF COURSE.
HL: Mantels are for swords.
Me: No. Absolutely not. No.
HL: Well, I don’t even have a sword, so it’s moot.
HL: OMG YOU GOT ME ICE FOR MY BIRTHDAY!
Me: Of course! It is not going over the mantel.
Me: It can go by the bed, though. In case of intruders.
I fully anticipate that we will continue to wrangle over sword placement for the rest of our married lives, but I think we both approach it with amusement and fun. Now, this isn’t a BIG life-changing kind of compromise, but it kind of shows how we roll when we disagree about something. When we’ve had something we REALLY disagree about (Maybe twice in… four years?) we talk about it until we come to a solution where we both get something we want, even if there’s something we don’t want mixed up in it.
As a culture, we don’t get as many good relationship role models through media as we do messed up people in bad relationships. Good relationships usually make boring stories, so we don’t hear about them as much. Then, when you see or are in a relationship where the couple never really fights, it pings your “something’s not right” radar. Couples fight, right? Then they have hot make up sex? Then they are jealous? And there are forces standing in the way of their love? And there’s a love triangle? With vampires maybe? No. Not always.
Maybe someday, TooManyWords, you’ll find a subject where Mr.Words is in strong opposition to your opinion. As long as that subject and the difference isn’t a dealbreaker, that difference can make you stronger. But if you never find that subject, that doesn’t mean your love is less. You are lucky. You are in accord. Your love story is short on explosions and long on sweet summer afternoons. Keep using your words, and trust the words your love gives you.