#326: Our relationship and communication skills are awesome… too awesome?

The television couple that I picture you two as.

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.

What you’re assiduously avoiding. Good job!

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

Also avoid this relationship dynamic, though agreement doesn’t mean you’ve been assimilated.

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: …[uncomfortable]
Me: What?
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?
Me: No.
HL: Mantels are for swords.
Me: No. Absolutely not. No.
HL: Well, I don’t even have a sword, so it’s moot.
[months later]
Me: Of course! It is not going over the mantel.
HL: But…
Me: It can go by the bed, though. In case of intruders.
HL: :D!

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.

Their love is the truest because they fought the most. Right?

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.

107 thoughts on “#326: Our relationship and communication skills are awesome… too awesome?

  1. I love that HusbandLogic thinks about rocks! Recently my boyfriend and I were getting off the train and I was thoughtfully considering how our evening had gone, what we needed to discuss re: The Long Distance Thing we will be embarking on recently etc. etc.

    Boyfriend turned to me and was like ‘What are you thinking about? Because I am literally just saying the word clowns over and over in my head’. It is nice to hear superthinky/lessthinky couples exist and work and things!

      1. Me too! Mr Piggy comes out with stuff like that all the time, and I am so jealous that it never happens to me and I am mostly thinking sensible type things.

    1. ‘What are you thinking about? Because I am literally just saying the word clowns over and over in my head.’


    2. Recently, while lolling around with my husband’s colleagues on the lawn outside a pub, I noticed that we were all absorbed in picking at the grass. Dr Glass asked me what I was thinking. So I told him: “If sheep overlords had manor houses, d’you think they’d employ flocks of humans to keep the grass nice?”

      Dr Geophysics looked at me carefully and then said, I shit you not, “I was thinking about rocks.”


      1. As a geologist, I can fully attest to the fact that thinking about rocks a LOT is totally normal and a very nice way to pass the time. Or one’s life. You know, wevs.

        1. I’m also a geologist and can confirm that thinking about rocks all the time is totally normal.

          I enjoy asking Mr Gecko what he’s thinking about – I’ve gotten answers that range from ‘the structure of the human eye’ to ’16th century cavalry’ to ‘you sure are pretty.’ It’s awesome.

    3. Seriously! This sounds like my BF and I. I’m still getting used to the fact that I WAY over-think things, and he is far, far more simple in his thinking. He’ll just burst out with some random, obscure thought or conclusion, and then not feel the need to talk for quite a while, while my internal monologue is literally never-ending. When it comes to something that requires a solution, he contemplates, figures out the solution, and that’s that, whereas I need to talk and think and talk and talk and think and talk some more. I’m also glad to hear this dynamic exists with other couples. And it works for us too. When I’m around him, I am more likely to be in the moment, enjoying whatever activity I’m/we’re focused on. He helps me stop thinking so much, which is just wonderful because my brain is almost always on overdrive 🙂

  2. LW, I have a feeling that if I was in a relationship, I would be a lot like Mr. Words. I’m pretty laid back, willing to let those more invested and/or suited take the lead if they like, and open to the best solution. I thought about it, but you figured out a bunch of things that would work better? COOL. Let’s go with that.

    Sometimes it really is just a personality thing. It’s awesome that you periodically check in to make sure that you’re not steamrolling him, because that conscientiousness alone means your less likely to. But yeah, as the Commander said, you may as well trust what he says when he reassures that the two of you are good to go.

    Also, congratulations on having such an awesometastic, understanding marriage. 😀

  3. Oh my God I needed this. I have EXACTLY the same problem as the LW – boyfriend and I talk a lot, but I keep worrying if I’m overpowering him with the force of my personality and if he’s really happy or just saying that to make me happy and OH NO. I needed this letter in my life. THANK YOU.

    1. DITTO – almost exactly! My fella is one who has been manipulated a lot by important people in his past, but to be fair, it’s horribly easy to do it to him (he’s working on that). I am always afraid of accidentally doing it just by being more forceful/decision-makingy. Sometimes he’s happy to have me decide unimportant things like which movie and such – but on big decisions I really want his input, and it seems like I “win” all the time.

      The reason Ella and LW and I think this is a “problem” is because we do want to be fair sharing partners. I am so grateful it’s not just me! (I thought for a while I was manufacturing a problem because we really seem to be super duper great together, and I couldn’t just own and enjoy that – it was always “oh god I am an unconsciously manipulative shrew who is going to ruin his life and maybe he DIDN’T want to make that hallway the gallery of nerd posters like he agreed to do!”)

      I am a planner and he is a muller – so I have already pre-worked out everything in what he considers a “snap decision” based on rapidly processed massive data processing, and he is still considering whether or not he should really mull over it.
      Though I think he and I both would jump at a sword over the fireplace.

      LW: Enjoy it! I am going to! (but don’t be a bitch and take advantage)

      Jedi High Fives!

      1. “The reason Ella and LW and I think this is a “problem” is because we do want to be fair sharing partners.”

        YES THIS.

        I think that at least part of it is expecting opposition and the other part is expecting to only “win” about the half the time. If your partner agrees with your ideas most of the time, isn’t that horribly unequal? Maybe I’m bullying him into getting my way. Maybe he’s just placating me. Otherwise, why would I “win” all the time? HOW CAN I CALL MYSELF A FEMINIST IF I’M A DOMINEERING SHREW?

        For me, it’s even more difficult because both boyfriend and I acknowledge that I talk more about things and am the more “dominant” one, and I think a lot and reason a lot and often do my thinking aloud. Boyfriend, on the other hand, is very laissez-faire, and he finds it really difficult to explain WHY he thinks something if he thinks through something at all.

        1. “I think that at least part of it is expecting opposition and the other part is expecting to only “win” about the half the time”

          … Wow, I only just realized how bizarre it expectation is. I totally have it. Human interaction should be like flipping a coin, right???

          1. Yeah, it is bizarre, isn’t it? Like, it would work if you constantly had exactly the opposite opinion of your partner, and both of your opinions were equally “right”, and you were equally dedicated to your opinion. But real life doesn’t work like that, so why do we expect it to?

      2. obviously i don’t know anything about your fella other than what you’ve said here, but given that he has been manipulated in the past, his over-mulling could be demonstrating a need for working on assertiveness. a good way to ease into that for a lot of people is to push themselves to make small decisions about things they “don’t care about”, like the which movie situation you mentioned, or what to eat for dinner, stuff like that.

        when forced to choose, people who struggle with assertiveness and/or self-awareness often realize that they DO in fact have a preference but are just not practiced at placing much value on their own preferences. or they find that they really didn’t care after all, but it’s still good practice.

        just a thought 🙂

        ps. gallery of nerd posters?! awesomesauce.

  4. Another thought (though this doesn’t seem to be quite what’s going on in LW’s case): I have a partner who literally does not think in words. He thinks in patterns and relationships and graph-theory style networks, if I remember correctly. That means that it can be easier for me to say “I want X because $reasons” than for him to say “I would rather Y, because $reasons.”

    So it’s reasonable for me to say “Y wouldn’t work for me, because….” but not to demand that he explain why he thought Y was a good idea. He may make that effort, as part of our finding a Z that will satisfy both of us. And it turns out that I don’t actually need a detailed verbal explanation of why he thinks he’d be unhappy if I was out of town for more than $amount-of-time right now in order to balance whether my being gone longer would make him unhappy against the ways that the longer trip would benefit me. I just need to know whether this is primarily about emotional stuff, or about logistics that can be finessed or farmed out. For example, normally he does laundry and I do dishes; if dealing with dishes while I was away was too hard on his back, we could buy some plastic disposable plates. If he’s just missing me, phone calls help, but some times more than others.

  5. “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”

    I remember thinking sadly one day that there would never be a Romance Novel written about me and my Beloved, because we were simply too sensible about the way we fell in love. Unsensible people make better stories..

    LW, My Beloved is in the same line as HL, and I am more like Commander Logic (except that I’m very likely to be the one thinking about… rocks. Or, pink skateboards with neon green hibiscus flowers. I don’t know why, they just show up sometimes when I close my eyes) .

    Anyway, we’ve been together for 16 years, and while I sometimes feel like I have to pull his THOUGHTS and FEELINGS out of him with needle nose pliers, when something matters to him, he lets me know. And then he usually gets “his” way. Because when it matters, he’s very good at making his point. I think it sounds like your dude is much the same way.

    1. PS- if it’s any comfort, I’m pretty sure that at some point there will be a breakdown in communication and you’ll get to have a little drama, with a good long feeelingstalk afterwards to clear the air. It might take 16 years, or so, but then you’ll feel a little more “normal”, lol.

    2. “While I sometimes feel like I have to pull his THOUGHTS and FEELINGS out of him with needle nose pliers, when something matters to him, he lets me know. And then he usually gets “his” way.”

      I once heard a couple’s decision making process described as “she got her way most of the time, with the understanding that he could put his foot down when necessary.” That phrase has tones of patriarchy that I don’t like, but I suspect that the dynamic is fairly common. In my marriage I get my way, oh, about 95% of the time. But that’s because a lot of the time he *genuinely doesn’t care*. I think we’re Making a Decision, and he’s baffled that I actually want to discuss what brand of vacuum cleaner we’re going to buy. It’s taken a while to trust that he really means it and isn’t trying to accrue points by being the self-sacrificing one. At this point I’m confident that he will speak up loudly when it matters, and that’s the important part.

      (We had a bow hanging over our bed for a while. Mine, not his. 😀 It’s been moved due to having a window over our bed in our current place, but it’s still on display.)

      1. Bow… I was thinking of gift wrap, ribbons, etc, but why is it significant that it was yours? Was he like “eeew cooties” or something? I suppose bows are kinda boring, but they’re not hurting anything, and maybe it had sentimental value? People can end up so defensive about their girl stuff, but I wasn’t thinking this was a post on the topic of the weird cultural hatred of all things girly… OH! “bow” as in “arrows”! You were comparing it to the sword. LOL!

        1. LOL! Yes, as in arrows. I’m the weaponry nut in the relationship. 🙂 Although I do have the ribbon bow from my wedding bouquet on display nearby too. It’s never been over the bed, but the hubby probably wouldn’t object. Hm…

      2. This is very much my parents, and while I’m not sure if my anxiety would cope well with that relationship dynamic, they are legitimately very happy and very well suited for each other in their way and love each other very much after decades together.

        My mom has been known to say that as long as he can go draw money from the ATM when he needs it without worrying and the house/pets/children are all in one piece, he basically doesn’t care, and while that’s obviously hyperbole and meant jokingly, it’s not that far from the truth. The times when it has mattered, when he really has had an opinion, they’ve worked out some sort of compromise, sometimes involving him getting his way (he really, really, really wanted a motorcycle, for instance, and mom resisted for a long time, until they reached the agreement that once my brother was a certain age he could do it as long as he took certain precautions).

    3. I remember thinking sadly one day that there would never be a Romance Novel written about me and my Beloved, because we were simply too sensible about the way we fell in love. Unsensible people make better stories..

      Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan got two novels; I wouldn’t give up hope yet!

    4. Personally, I prefer the love stories about sensible people. It’s the reason why Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel– a love story between two deeply awkward and eminently sensible people (plus Anne Elliot was born exactly, to the day, 200 years before I was, which is pretty damn awesome).

      1. I have nothing of real value to contribute other than to say that it’s my favourite Austen too. Lucky you sharing Anne’s birthday!

  6. All I can say is I’ve been in a marriage like this for 21 years, with the guy for 25. We’re both happy, planning to stay married. As long as you’re not steamrolling him (i.e., you are actively soliciting his opinion, listening and considering when he does have one, discussing any differences respectfully and not like it’s all about attaining his capitulation, I wouldn’t sweat it.)

  7. I’m kind of like your DH, LW. If I don’t have a problem with what my partner wants to do, I say, “OK” and that’s the end of it for me. If I object, I say so. I’m willing to bet at some point you will have a conflict that you will resolve (sensibly and kindly).

    I will echo the frustration of seeing fighting and high-drama relationships being the ones that are “real” or the ones that will last. Me, I’m all about sensible relationships. I save the theatrics for. . .um, er, other times with my SO’s. And they are specific and fun theatrics. Ahem.

    Relationships are work, I suppose, but they should be work like yours–you check in, you listen, you talk, but it’s not a hard slog. If it’s a hard slog it’s probably not good for either person.

    CL, I love the sword story. I have a katana a student gave to me ages ago. I totally want to hang it over my bed. Actually, I want two barbarian swords to hang crosswise over my headboard.

    1. “I’m kind of like your DH, LW. If I don’t have a problem with what my partner wants to do, I say, “OK” and that’s the end of it for me.”

      I’m that way too. I have conversations like this:

      Other Person: Where do you want to go for dinner?
      Me: Dunno. What’s good?
      OP: There’s Thai Restaurant, Chinese Restaurant, Mexican Restaurant…
      Me: Cool. Any of those sound good.
      OP: So which one?
      Me: Any of them sound good. You pick.
      OP: But you didn’t say which one you want.

      That become:

      OP: I think I want Mexican. I like burritos.
      Me: Okay, let’s go.
      OP: Is that okay?
      Me: Yep.
      OP: But I don’t want to tell you where to eat.

      And I understand that it can be frustrating, but I sort of feel like what I really wanted was for someone to take at me at my word and say, “Oh, okay. Let’s go to [restaurant], then.” And I would say, “Cool. [Appropriate menu item] sounds delicious.” For me and the particular person I am thinking of, I think there was a HUGE gender element: he didn’t want to go all Patriarchy on me and choose what we ate or where we went, whereas I felt like the inverse was just as bad because it was implying that my opinions were more important because I was female and needed to be pampered. He thought he was respecting me, and I felt like I was being hounded for an opinion when I had JUST SAID that I was okay with any of the options. I wanted him to trust that if I really wanted Chinese or hated Mexican, I would just say so!

      Granted, my example is really minor, but it would be my communication style for bigger decisions as well.

      1. Okay this is literally what happens every time nobody has a preference, or everyone wants to be polite, regardless of gender.

        1. Um. Okay. So maybe it was a stupid example, but what I am saying is that in this particular relationship we had a very real dynamic where he was all HAVE OPINIONS BE A FEMINIST and I was all I ALREADY EXPRESSED MY OPINION. Sometimes my opinion was–well, opinionated, and sometimes it was “I have no opinion” and sometimes it was “I am okay with what you choose.” I resented the implication that I was letting myself be dominated.

          1. I don’t think it’s a stupid example. In fact, beyond “any of those are good” is “any of those are good, but I really don’t want to have to make a decision, so please, pick something.” That’s within a known set of options: I’m not going to drop Joe-Bob’s House of Fungus on the partner who can’t eat mushrooms, or a cheese pizza on someone with a dairy allergy, but sometimes just “how about lamb stew?” is easier to deal with than a set of several choices.

          2. In retrospective, I think I was reading Bev’s comment as dismissive when it wasn’t–sorry, Bev!

            Vicki: Exactly.

            As Commander Logic said, sometimes it really about trusting that your partner (or friend or family member) means the words they say – and means the words they don’t say. Checking in with each other is good, but there has to be a point where if someone doesn’t say “Hey, this isn’t cool with me,” you can assume there’s a decent chance they really are cool with what’s going on. Ideally, anyway.

      2. I’m not sure if I read about it here or somewhere else, but do you know about the game where you pick an option cooperatively? The first person lists five options (restaurants, activities, whatever); the second eliminates two; the first eliminates one of the remaining three, the second eliminates one of the remaining two, and then you have picked a restaurant, or a thing to do over the weekend. I’m not sure what it’s called, but it’s really useful.

        1. Oh, wow. I am a strong Myers-Briggs type P, married to same. Making decisions as a unit is like pulling teeth. What’s more, I process information internally, whereas he processes it externally, which leads to a lot of conversations like this:

          Me: What movie do you want to watch?
          Him: Not sure. What do you want to watch?
          Me: Um, something either funny or exciting.
          Him: Okay. Anything particular?
          (Continued back-and-forth until we’ve narrowed it to two or three options.)
          Me: Let’s go with option A.
          Him: Well, option B is half an hour shorter, and we’ve both been saying we should get to bed earlier —
          Me (interrupting): Okay, let’s go with option B.

          So I feel frustrated because I feel like he secretly had a preference all along and was hoping that I’d pick the same thing, and he feels frustrated because there he is, trying to make a decision by talking through the pros and cons, and I short-circuit it just as he’s getting started. We’re both improving, but still.

          1. Huh. That last paragraph’s first sentence’s first half is exactly what happens to me with my beloved. I am going to have to ask him if the second half is true for him. (I don’t think it is, but I might get some actual info on why he does things the way he does.)

            The other thing he does is when I choose something, he says, “Are you sure?” It drives me crazy.

        2. This is good. I get grumpy at having to come up with the solution, so I tell the spouse man it’s his turn to pick something or suggest something. I mean, I can rattle off fifteen restaurants but then when he goes eeennnnnnnnnnhhhh, what do we do? Your turn, Ambivalent Man!

        3. I love doing this, especially with movies. It makes me feel like both myself and my partner have agency in a decision, so we can watch a movie neither of us hates or go to a restaurant we’re both okay with.

      3. We used to be like this when selecting a movie to watch. And now we just come right out and suggest things, which saves time even when the other person says, “no thanks”.

      4. I can see how that’s frustrating. One rule some friends of mine use is that it’s okay not to have a preference, but if you don’t express one, you have to go with what the other person picks without grumbling.

        “What do you want for dinner? Italian? Thai?”
        “I don’t care.”
        “Thai it is then.”

        It teaches people that you’ll take them at their word by taking them at their word.

      5. I’m the OP and my partner is you in that conversation. Every. Single. Time. I do believe him that he doesn’t care much about anything, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating to always have to be the one doing the work of coming up with ideas and making decisions.
        Although with us, it’s part of a bigger relationship dynamic where I generally enjoy being a little more passive than my partners but he’s so incredibly passive I am forced into the active role close to 100% of the time or just nothing happens, ever.
        It’s getting a little better lately, though. 🙂

  8. LW, it sounds like you guys are doing pretty well.

    When asked once why he agreed with me so often (with a hint of ‘who wears the pants?’ ) my husband replied “I’m an engineer. I don’t CARE who’s right first.”

    So, there’s that. We’ve been together over 25 years and married for 11 years.

    If you are worried you are steamrollering him on small stuff, check in. Trust what he tells you. On big stuff, what we do is to talk about it more than once, taking deliberate and declared breaks. Often those breaks involve doing something together that is unrelated to *Big Issue*.

    Me: So you think we should buy X next month and I think we should wait and do Z first.

    Husband: Sounds like it.

    Me: When do we have to decide?

    Husband: By the middle of next week? I’ll think about what you said.

    Me: I’ll see if I can find that article I read and make sure I didn’t mis-remember it.

    Husband: Cool. (pause) Wanna go over to the coast with me for work on Thursday?

    Me: Yeah. Hey, isn’t that show you like on tonight?

    Then we watch TV/drive to the coast/think over the issue and talk about it again later.

    (He keeps his swords in a re-purposed gun rack by his office door, btw. )

  9. I’m the NotEnoughWords person in our relationship. My husband wants to talk stuff to death before actually doing it. No, it doesn’t matter to me what color we paint the trim. No, it doesn’t matter to me where you put your swords (we have 2 over our fireplace). For most things it’s fine because I trust his taste and his judgement, but it causes problems with the emotional parts of our lives. When I want to talk about emotional stuff I’ve already thought about what I am going to say before I say it, I only say it if it is important to me, and I have a hard time explaining the reasons for my feelings. Even after 11 years together I have a problem with it! So there are ups and downs to this type of communication, really. But we plunge ahead regardless!

  10. (I’m assuming that the LW is a woman. If I’m wrong about that, then what follows obviously doesn’t apply in this case, although it may in others.)

    Haven’t there been studies that show that when people witness conversations in which men and women talk the same amount, they perceive that the women are talking more? I don’t know if the same effect applies to conversations in which you yourself take part, but could it be that the Word Imbalance isn’t as great as you think it is?

    We’ve all been socialized into thinking that women should take up less than half the space (in a room, in a conversation, whatever). But we’re half the people in the world – and you’re half the people in your relationship – and it’s OK to take up space.

    1. I think there are, I’ve read about that too, KHBuzzard – blessed if I’d know the sources, though.

  11. I don’t think I have any stories to tell that would be too useful. My husband and I do our best to make joint decisions but I’m having a real hard time trying to figure out who gets thier way more. We do spend more time with the presentations to each other than it sounds like you guys do, but I guess that’s the way we are.

    What I am going to tell you is that I don’t know how long you guys dated, but you’ve been married less than a year. Right now, you’re ‘getting your way’ with most things (maybe you just have good ideas?), but you guys have a long marriage ahead of you and chances are you’re not always going to convince him. Maybe in 10 years you’re going to move house and for Reasons he’s going to have a very different idea of where you should be living than you do and they’re going to be Good Reasons and then you’ll have more of a chat on your hands.

    Or it’ll be kids, or it’ll be caring for aging parents or changing jobs, or starting a business or…. anything. I think it’s awesome that you guys are so aware of each other and have these discussions because it’s when you don’t have them that things get messed up.

    I hope I don’t sound condescending, I’ve only been married 3 years and I sure as hell don’t know everything. But even in 3 years while we’ve been content and happy with each other, I’ve seen both of us changing getting our way back and forth enough that I’m convinced it’ll balance out for you guys too.

    TL:DR, You’ve got a lot of marriage ahead of you, you’ll get your chance to be ‘wrong’, but yay for you for being aware and trying for parity.

    1. Oh yeah, since we’re doing this survey too, we sadly don’t have any swords but if we did, keeping them by the bed wouldn’t be an option. Sharp things by the bed make him nervous, and the TV is above the mantel so that option’s out too.

      Just asked him and he says we’d have to put it on a beam that used to be part of a wall and divides our living room in 2. (He didn’t ask me why I needed to know that though which is why I love him)

  12. LW, I’m single, but your question really resonates with me. I feel like I often win arguments because I make a strong, well-argued case, not because I’m actually right. I mean, obviously, I wouldn’t take a stance unless I thought it was the right one, but almost every time I win an argument (and I usually win them), I feel guilty because I don’t know if I actually was right in some objective sense or if the other person just gave up because I’m such a pain to argue against.

    I think two things can help with this. This first, and I think most important, is to give the other party a chance to argue their case and actually listen to their points. It sounds like you already have this step covered with your husband. If you actually listen when your husband argues his case, and you don’t just wait for your turn to talk, and your husband knows that, then he gets to make the decision to disagree with you and stand his ground or not. If you just steamroll and ignore what he has to say, or listen to him but don’t actually think or care about what he says, then maybe you need to change your approach, but since that doesn’t seem to be the case, you’re probably fine on this step.

    The second step is to keep in mind that a real, true, objectively right decision doesn’t always exist. It might seem unbalanced to always get your way, but maybe, in those cases, your way is the right decision for the two of you. Since you give him a chance to state his case, you can trust that, if he feels really strongly about something, he can put the time in to create a power point or construct a better argument or just stand his ground and keep disagreeing until you change your mind. And if he agrees with you, you can trust that he’s okay with that.

    This might not always help with any feelings of guilt that you have about always winning and getting your way. You can’t control your feelings, but maybe if you keep these things in mind you can at least save yourself a little bit of worrying.

    1. That’s me – I love debating and arguing with people. Either I’m enjoying a battle of the wits or I’m truly interested in why they feel/did X and asking them to explain every detail. (i.e., I am completely bored by the study of religions themselves but I’m fascinated by why people have faith.) I’m sure I’m annoying as heck about it too. Also, I’d almost always rather be corrected when I’m wrong, so at least I can make the choice to be right or not, but alas, I am always figuring out that other people don’t care so much if they’re incorrect or if they don’t have all the details. I’m a lot better now about keeping my mouth shut or just putting out a simple, “Hey, did you know X?” “reply.” “Okay.” drop subject.

  13. In my marriage we are both “talky” people, and both of us (he more than I) spend time talking in order to figure out our own opinions. So I know what he thinks about EVERY topic, and vice versa, but sometimes we are up all night hashing everything out and geez it would just be nice to SLEEP sometimes. So be careful what you wish for.

    Our decision-making issue is a bit different. I tend to be an analyzer. I know the Commander was joking about the powerpoint presentation, but for some things with a lot of variables I do indeed use spreadsheets and calculate Pareto fronts, and if spouse weren’t allergic to graphs I’d seriously consider powerpoint sometimes.

    Here is how our conversations ALWAYS used to go. Me: “Spouse, we have to decide between A & B. Here are the reasons to do A.” Spouse: “Awesome! Option A sounds great! Let’s do it.” Me “No! Wait! I haven’t yet told you why we should do B. Here are the reasons to do B. In fact, all things considered, I think B is the right choice.” Spouse: “Uh, then why did you tell me all the reasons to do A?” Me: “So you would have a well-considered choice.” Spouse: “Uh, ok, B sounds fine.” He has now figured out that this is my approach and he is more likely to hear the whole argument now. But he still frustrates me by just sometimes “going with his gut” or working with a single metric, rather than dealing with the whole complexity of the situation. For example, for a big move coming up, there was a choice between a cheap flight from a far airport the day before I start work, versus a more expensive flight from a close airport the previous day. I was prepared with about six different metrics for each flight, considering baggage allowances, times, layovers, etc., etc. He cut the conversation short with “we’re going on the Saturday. You are NOT moving the day before you start work.” Well, then what did I do all this research and analysis for?

    The thing is, he was right. Sometimes the additional metrics are just a distraction. I am often so overwhelmed by the number of variables and the complexity of the situation that I can’t make a decision at all. As much as it’s sometimes frustrating, his fast decisiveness is an important counterpoint to my slow, deliberate analysis.

    1. I am Miss Spreadsheet so sometimes I forget that Utility is often the most important metric. Where utility = level of agony/pleasure caused by not necessarily measurable variables. (Have you looked at hipmunk.com? It’s a travel site where you can sort the available flights by “agony.” It makes me giggle.)

    2. I get you, I am an INTP and maybe you are too! I never feel I’ve researched enough, I always do the analysis and often find it’s difficult to decide and therefore I procrastinate. I’ve worked on this and have gotten better but I swear I can spend hours or more researching something like the perfect fondue pot…

  14. As someone planning both her wedding and preparing for her first child, I often feel this way. However, the nice part of being in a great relationship with someone you communicate well with is being able to trust that when your partner agrees with you, its not that you’re winning, just that you two are simpatico. I have learned that there are things I care about A LOT more than my fiance (ahem, nursery theme), but he has no problem
    expressing dissent when he really feels strongly.
    It’s also been great to realize that even though we both have different priorities, we’re able to voice our thoughts openly and honestly. As a talker, it frustrated me at first, but now, much easier knowing that if he’s got words, he uses them.

  15. I have to admit, I’m kind of impressed by the number of members of the Awkward Nation that have swords.

    1. Same here. I had previously associated sword ownership with Weird Compensation Issues but I think I will have to reevaluate this prejudice.

    2. You put two geeky, SCA member, sff fans with costuming habits in a relationship and sooner or later someone’s gonna find themself standing in a dealer room saying patiently “But honey, we both already have a broadsword. Did you see the nifty blasters over there?”

      Or is that just us?

    3. We don’t call ourselves the Awkward Army for nothing!

      Now where did I stash those anti-creep missiles…

    4. Ho-yez.

      (I was actually just about to remark to Boyfriend, “I knew Awkward Army was awesome, but the most common decision-making-paradigm in couples is apparently Where Do The Swords Go, and now they are clearly the Very Most Awesome.”)

    5. I have two! 😀 A 15th century arming sword, and a 19th century sword from the Franco-Prussian war. Alas, I’ve not been able to hang either one up yet!

    6. I don’t own a sword, but I’ve got a spear! (Mr. Canadensis does own a sword, so as a family we’re good)

      This threadlet is giving me teh happeez.

    7. Me too! I don’t have any swords, but after HusbandLogic got his sword (and we had a great dinner at their house and watched Game of Thrones and stuff) my Gentleman Caller went immediately to the Song of Ice and Fire Sword Replica Website and started checking out cool swords.

      Swords are the gateway swords.

    8. I am too! I have a Tai Chi straight sword.

      I use it though, so it lives in its case by the door.

  16. I’m new to the site, but just wanted to post about one of my favorite family anecdotes.
    My mother did Debate in college, and taught debate to HS kids when she met my Dad. After they got married, he realized that he always lost arguments.
    So, he joined Toastmasters, a group that teaches public speaking and debate skills.

  17. This letter and answer and comments are awesome and funny and I love it here. Also this totally read to me like mostly worrying that they should maybe be fixing something that’s already fabulous. It’s already fabulous! And it’s working great! Don’t fix it!

    Anyway I think about rocks a lot.

    1. Another rocks story:

      Once when my brother was helping me pack up a trailer for a long-distance move he asked me what was in the box labelled ‘rocks’? I said it was rocks. He said, No really, what’s in this box labelled ‘rocks’?

      Apparently when he moves house he does not have three cartons of rocks.


  18. I’m going to have to go poll my boyfriend on sword placement in the Hypothetical Future House…(right now we are in an apartment where we can’t hang things because Landlord.) I’m the one with the swords, but I could always negotiate against the rifles that are currently in the bedroom closet….

      1. It can work very well. However, when I followed the instructions for removing them, some of the strips ended up peeling off a patch of underlying paint. The landlord was nice and returned the entire deposit despite the minor cosmetic damage. After all, he was the one who insisted on the 3M Command.

  19. Very good advice from the Captain. One thing to add is that it may be that the LW is a decision-making maximizer, while the husband is a satisficer. PhysioWife and I follow this pattern, with she the maximizer and I the satisficer.

    The maximizer values the process of studying, carefully considering, weighing, and discussing options with the goal of making the optimal decision. She only feels most comfortable about the ultimate decision if that process has been appropriately engaged and she can conclude that the decision was, indeed, optimal.

    For the satisficer, on the other hand, the desire to efficiently arrive at an acceptable–but not necessarily optimal–is paramount. Engaging the process of studying, carefully considering, weighing, and discussing options beyond the extent necessary to make an acceptable decision is an unnecessary burden.

    This has some consequences for a relationship between people whose overall goals and priorities are well-meshed, as appears to be the case for the LW and her husband. First, the maximizer is always going to seem more engaged in the decision-making process, including talking a lot more about it. Second, the maximizer’s decisions are almost always going to be the ones that prevail, because they are more likely to be closer to optimal on average than those of the satisficer.

    Third–and most importantly–this is all 100% OK! The optimizer gets what she wants: engaging the full decision-making process and arriving at an decision that is perceived as optimal. The satisficer gets what he wants: a decision that is acceptable.

    There are only two things that can ruin this dynamic: (1) the maximizer attempts to force the satisficer into engaging the decision-making process to an extent beyond what he is comfortable with and/or (2) the satisficer attempts to prevent the maximizer from engaging the decision-making process to the full extent she is comfortable with.

    We explicitly eschew those pitfalls, and this works great for PhysioWife and me, but, for obvious reasons, only because our fundamental goals and values are consistent.

  20. I was totally psyched to see a positive letter today AND find out there was a replica of the ICE sword, then I went to the link and got this: “Ice is permanently sold out.” NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, I need ICE to go under the dragon on the fireplace!

    Oh, LW, you have a wonderful relationship, you obviously do not need a sword 🙂

  21. LW, I think I used to be like you, but as others have noted, priorities can change. I used to care deeply about brands of vacuum cleaners and flight schedules and restaurants, and now I am happy to cede those thought chores to someone–anyone!–else. You and your lovely husband will know what to do as you grow and change together.

    I have a song for you. I hope this link works correctly. Enjoy!

    1. Sorry–it didn’t work the way I wanted it to. It’s James Taylor singing “Steamroller Blues.”

  22. It’s kind of telling that when a heterosexual relationship in which a man is more verbal and the woman is more likely to agree without a ton of conversation, that it would be seen as “normal” and “ok.”

    But in a heterosexual relationship with a more dominant and verbal woman and a man who is more agreeable and internal, there’s a significant amount of more drama and sadness and worry about “steamrolling” even if it’s not remotely the case. Remember, if you’re part of TEAM RELATIONSHIP, and you’re both paying attention to one another, chances are, the steamrolling is not an issue.

    But gender roles and the “evil harpy wife” trope sure do make it harder to feel comfortable if you’re a more verbal “REASONS” sort of lady.

  23. Me and my wife are actually a lot like you, LW. Except that I’m Silent and she’s Words, anyway. She excuses this with the fact that she’s Irish(first generation born in the US), which seems as legit as any other reason, considering her entire family is like that. We’ve known each other for almost 9 years, been together for 5, and married for 2.

    Speaking from the point of view of Silent, you may be making something out of nothing. A lot of the time, we go with my wife’s idea. I don’t feel like I’ve been steamrolled- I’d say 7 times out of 10, I’ve probably reached the same conclusion she has. What you’re reading as “he doesn’t seem to have thought about it as much as I have” might just be him making sure you’ve covered all your bases, if you get what I mean. I like to explain it in terms of the Evil Overlord Checklist- “One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.” This isn’t to equate any party in the relationship with a 5 year old child, but the reasoning’s the same. “Here’s what I think could go wrong. Oh, you’ve already got that, cool. Let’s do it” is my usual thought process in the kind of life-decision-discussions you’re talking about. Do you get what I mean?

    Try not to fall into the idea that there’s a “score” in relationships and that there’s something wrong if you think it’s lopsided. You guys are a unit, and it’ll all work out in other ways as your relationship continues. For instance, I do almost all the cooking in my marriage, but I’m not quietly wondering why my wife doesn’t ever make anything. I like to cook, she likes my food, everyone’s happy. I’m also horrendously bad at sweeping and mopping, so she handles that, because we both know it’s easier for her to do it once than for me to do a half-assed job(I’m trying!) and for her to re-do it ten minutes later.

    I don’t really see a ton of reason to change what you’re doing, if it’s working out and everyone’s happy with how it’s all going. The right decision is the right decision, regardless of whether it comes from you, him, or a talking dog after you’ve taken Nyquil.

    note- I don’t endorse making life decisions based on the advice of hallucinatory animals.

  24. Now I’m really wondering if Husband Logic is a geologist or just a rock enthusiast.

    Also, I love letters with happy problems.

  25. Apologies if someone brought this up already, it is past my bedtime and I can’t read the whole thread.

    LW, my most important question for you would be: do you trust your partner to tell you if he ever feels uncomfortable with your (as a couple) decision process/any of those decisions? Partner, would you tell her, and do you trust her to take your concerns seriously? If both of you answer yes, then I think Commander Logic nailed it, and you should just keep on keepin’ on, because how it is not is not necessarily How It Shall Always Be, and if the process or the decisions stop working for you, things can change, using Words of varying brevity.

  26. Hir swords are in hir office or the truck (zie teaches a broadsword class). My bows are in my office. Hir rifles are in the bedroom closet, and my machetes are split between the bedroom and my office. One of these days, I’ll have to break down and buy a sword for my tai chi class, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. That one will probably stay in the living room where I practice, which is where the stupid plastic toy sword I use now resides. But not over the fireplace. I have a picture of a fire over the fireplace. Well, not really the fire, just the massive smoke column at dawn.

    Decison-making styles…I am definitely a researcher. I like to read lots of reviews and specifications and comparison shop and think about all of the advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes that’s paralyzing. And sometimes I reach a decision to discover that the preferred model is no longer sold, or not available in my area, or whatever. And sometimes it works out.

    We’re definitely doing the consensus approach. And when one of us has a stronger opinion on the matter, we usually go with that. But if neither of us has a strong opinion, then it’s more like who’s turn is it to make a decision? There are some days I just don’t want to make any decisions. So you pick out the restaurant, dear.

    Mind you, we’ve been in this house 2 years and have yet to pick out paint colors. I suppose we’ll get around to it someday. Often a strategy that works for us is to discuss the general direction that we both agree on. Then I create a short list of options, and zie makes the final decision from the short list. Quite often, it was the one I was leaning toward anyway.

  27. Words are like paint. Some people cover everything with paint, while in the process of covering a specific object; such as a wood porch. It’s splattered on drop cloths, their clothes, dripping between the cracks in the porch boards and running down the sides of the can.

    Others, carefully dip their brush, insure the correct amount for the bristle, and apply only to the object at the correct application rate.

    Who’s the better painter? That’s were it get’s sticky and the arguments start. Both probably are, but convincing either the other method is better is a waste of time. In the end, it all boils down to who cleaned up their mess and avoided painting their self into a corner.

  28. This morning I went in to wake my husband and ask for a ride to the train. I calmly answered all of his questions on how it came to this and alternatives I tried. He was quiet for a moment.

    “It’s only fair for me to drive you because there were WAY MORE boobs than I was expecting in that first episode of Game of Thrones I watched while you were out last night.”

    Reasons: not always what you anticipate, sometimes funnier.

    (I don’t mind about the breasts, and he told me in the car some of the scenes actually made him uncomfortable because they were rape.$

  29. One of my first thoughts was “Well, if X partner wins the argument, if things go wrong X partner will feel like it’s their fault.”

    I know I do!

  30. My spouse came home last week after we had a verbal rough up and said, “I don’t like that you said and did X when I said and did Y and my feelings are hurt.” And I jumped out of bed an apologized for my behavior and thanked him for being expressive and talking to me. It was a bit of a breakthrough for him to state that so clearly and I was thrilled, THRILLED I say!, that years of learning how to talk to each other and argue worked.

    I often feel like I’m the Decider because I think about things way more than spouse does. But I think that’s OK. I’m trying to be more OK with it because it does often feel like I’m doing more “work” at times. If it is working for you two, it ain’t broke.

  31. Oh dear. Those are so not the right pants for Ross. 90s was the Worst.

    Just chiming in as one more victim of the domineering harpy stereotype. Women get lumped in such awful stereotypes that it’s only reasonable to want to compensate. In light of that, it’s hard to learn to take one’s partner by their word, but I for one need to definitely learn that he’s a grown-up who is perfectly capable of disagreeing with me if he wants to.

    (in our apartment, the sword technically should hang on the wall of the rabbits’ room, but their prize ribbons have taken up all the space.)

      1. Because you asked: Ross’s. According to some style guides, you include the apostrophe-s no matter what. According to other style guides, you don’t insert the s after an apostrophe following an s, but only when you wouldn’t be pronouncing that last s. (For instance, “Cinderkeys’ opinion is that Ross’s relationship was stupid.”)

        Yeah, I never got the whole Ross and Rachel thing either. 🙂

  32. I feel compelled to chime in with a conversation between myself (Wordsy type) and my partner (Silent type) not too long ago:

    Me: You look kind of sad. What are you thinking about?
    Him: Oh – just thinking about shrimp.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d said rocks, either.

    1. That’s so funny. Sometimes when we are out for a walk, I’ll get a little quiet, and PhysioWife will ask me, “You seem pensive. What are you thinking about?”, and I’ll be all like, “Deciding between a sesame bagel and a poppy seed bagel for lunch.”

  33. Just a note from another thinky decider type here. LW, it’s okay for you to NOT be okay with this dynamic as well and want to modify it, even if it feels like you’re the “winner” and the one getting your way. In similar circumstances I was getting frustrated and didn’t know why until I realized that on some not really conscious level I was reading my partner’s agreeableness as apathy. I ended up talking to her and saying that sometimes I needed a little more elaboration or just reassurance from her. I needed to know that when presented with a choice that her “I don’t care” meant “I’m excited to go out and spend a nice night with you, but it doesn’t matter to me whether we eat Chinese food or Indian” and not “I don’t care whether we go out or not, our date isn’t really important to me, but I don’t have anything better to do.” Having my more laid-back partner be able to clarify that on occasion eliminated the weird sense of discomfort I was having about our decision making.

  34. One of the things that this discussion brings to my mind is the research on ’emotional labour’. That is, that making decisions – doing the research, thinking through the ideas and implications, taking time to discuss them with your partner, thinking about the emotional repercussions, taking the burden of responsibility for the outcome, etc, etc, (as well as the more traditional understanding of the term as taking care of other’s feelings, performing the expected emotions for your audience, looking out for other family members etc) – is a form of work, and many studies show a form of work that is often performed by women.

    Now there are a few ways we can respond to this knowledge: 1) is that LW is performing the emotional labour and so can see getting her own way as the reward for the work (and this might be viewed as perfectly acceptable compromise); 2) performing ’emotional labour’ can be exhausting and time-consuming and sometimes it’s good for the other party to take their turn at doing the labour.

    I’m guessing that in the case of many decisions if you will perform the ’emotional labour’ anyway, because it’s your personality, then you might as well be the one doing it. But, I think it’s fine to not want to do it every time and to hand it over, which can lead to: it’s your turn to make the decision about x, I did it last time, although I’m fine for you to discuss your reasons with me and I’ll help you make the decision. I certainly find as I get older, despite being someone who likes to do the research and think through all the implications, having to do this work for every decision we make becomes tiresome and I’m increasingly happy to hand decisions over to my partner, even if it might in CPP’s words not lead to the ‘optimal’ choice (as he tends to go for the more efficient satisfier model). Moreover, I also think it’s fair to ask my partner to at least do the research part of this type of labour sometimes- so we need a new car; I’m not happy to go with your gut, give me some statistics and reasons; it’s not my turn to do this, I did this work when deciding about our last house – or whatever. Moreover, sometimes this type of research needs to be done, and cloaking it under different personality-types can disguise the labour involved.

    I also would be prepared to critique the power dynamics of ‘choice’ slightly more. So, for example, historically many lower class women were handed a household budget by their husbands each week and were expected to make ends meet. But, despite the fact such women made all of the decisions about how to spend the household budget, we don’t generally see this as an indication that such women held all the power. Usually, we like to think about what decisions are being made, by whom, the implications, the labour involved, whose feelings, needs and wishes are being prioritised, and who is being absolved from labour and responsibilty in the process.

    1. ” 2) performing ‘emotional labour’ can be exhausting and time-consuming and sometimes it’s good for the other party to take their turn at doing the labour.”

      This. This is the problem I had with my last SO. I felt like I did all the work. That meant I always got my way, which he thought I should be happy about. But really it just felt like he wasn’t invested at all and I got Really Bored.

      This was mostly a personality mismatch, I think, but the other issues in the relationship made this one thing something feel very important.

  35. I don’t actually have much to comment here – perhaps being in a relationship with *two* people who don’t especially care about the little things and tend to agree on the big things makes for an easy life? – but I just wanted to say that reading this post and some of the comments made me HOWL WITH LAUGHTER.


    Thank you for brightening my day, y’all.

  36. Commander Logic, those were the CUTEST STORIES EVER.

    LW, I have been in a similar dynamic where my partner had lots of thinky thoughts and reasons and general decision-making cleverness and was a verbal processor…and I’d care about the topic but as often as not be distracted by dinosaurs or nuclear fission or sparkly nail polish. My partner often felt like she was doing all the work, and I often felt like she was so awesome that most of the time there was nothing to improve upon her decisions. Either I agreed with her already or I didn’t have a strong preference so we might as well go with whatever she put all that brain work into.

    One thing I found that helped in that relationship was for me to practice being more demonstrative around decisions after explaining this was just how my brain worked and it didn’t mean I didn’t care. You’re off to a great start by using your words about using your words but you may become caught in a spiral of the very thing you’re trying to examine. If this is the only thing that’s really bugging you as a couple, the less wordy partner can try to be a little more vocal during the decision process and the more wordy partner can try to be a little more accepting of the lack of vocalizing. With practice, you’ll each end up stretching yourselves toward each other a safe distance out of your comfort zone.

  37. I agree with CL. It was nice to read such a positive letter that still warranted much discussion and advice. =D

    No new advice to give that hasn’t been given wonderfully, but wanted to chime in about unrealistic relationship expectations causing issues where otherwise there were none. The trust issues in my relationship were about the same as Letter Writer’s; we trusted each other pretty strongly, but, because my partner didn’t choose what we did most nights and agreed (or disagreed!) with my ideas without much pushback or discussion, I felt that I couldn’t trust her short yes and nos. Eventually, I realized, when she disagreed, she’d let me know, and that I could also trust her when she agreed with my suggestions. It was a powerful moment.

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