most of these fellas think they mackin' but they be actin'
"I don't know"
"If you want"
"It's up to you"
During a recent conversation, I was reminded just how excruciatingly frustrating getting a response like this can be. Particularly in one of those non-commited, in limbo, we're-acting-like-we're-in-a-relationship-but-we're-not-actually-in-a-relationship relationship. Let me provide a couple of examples so we're all on the same page here.
In our first example, a newly single girl recently hooked up for the first time with her longtime guy friend. Post-hookup, they have both articulated feelings for each other (and hooked up several more times), but no commitments or labels have been established. Girl is in town, and crashing at his place for the night. At bedtime, she asks if he wants her to sleep in his room, instead of on the couch or in the other room like she used to before they hooked up.
His response, "If you want."
Example numero dos: New-ish single guy is having a summer fling with girl. Things started off super adorable, very hot and heavy, but it's now a couple months in, the guy has gotten cold feet a bit and therefore has pulled away a little. Girl typically spends the night anytime they hang out, but sensing the distance asks him if he wants her to stay over after they have dinner together one night.
He answers, "It's up to you."
What the actual fuck. As someone who has experienced first-hand being on the receiving end of one of these blatantly apathetic replies, I can say that - at least for me - it feels like a jab to the throat. Like an insult. You might as well have just called me fat. Because it obviously means you DON'T want me to sleep in your room / stay over, right? Because if you did, you would have just SAID THAT, right? I'm sure that it means that not only do you not want me to do whatever I just asked you if you want me to do, but you also hate me. You loathe my presence. Despise my soul. You have detested every minute we have ever spent together, and spend your free time cursing the day I was born. You're actually probably counting down the seconds until I leave forever, and your life can resume to being filled with joy and pleasure.
OK, so maybe that's a little dramatic.
But I'm gonna say something. Girls (many girls, not all girls; yes I'm generalizing here, but recognize - which we all should - that this will not apply to every single girl who has ever existed) can be a little dramatic sometimes. There! I said it! Full admission! But I'm also going to say that it is TOTALLY UNDERSTANDABLE. Let's take a step back here and look at these examples with our objective glasses on. In neither of these examples was the girl asking a yes or no question. I mean, can you IMAGINE if either of these guys had just answered with a hard no?! Yikes! What both of the girls in the examples were asking was for validation and assurance.
We all need security in our relationships. In fact, safety & security is one of our most basic human needs, second only to physiologic needs (read air, water, food, shelter). I'm going to guess that in both of these examples, the girls were looking for the validation and security that the boys did indeed want them - be it their company, affection, etc. Perhaps there would have been more accurate and effective ways for the girls to ask their questions. Perhaps knowing that this is what the girls needed, the guys would have responded differently. Because I'm going to assume that neither of the guys in our examples had the intention to communicate "I don't like you" or "I don't want you" or "I don't care about you" to either of the girls. However, that is very potentially the message they received given the indifferent responses.
I'm going to guess that these guys were both trying to communicate respect, and did not want to assume that the girls would sleep in their room or spend the night. They wanted to be respectful of their freedom to choose whether or not to share a room or sleepover. How thoughtful! How considerate! Who would have thought, in that moment of sheer aggravation, when our inner voice is spiraling out of control, that in reality - everything was ok. Deep breath, everyone!
Communicating is such a tricky fucking process. What can we do to make it better? My thoughts:
- Use your words. More of them. DESCRIBE your feelings, thoughts, intentions, etc. One word answers usually don't tell the whole story. (This gets easier with practice)
- Assume innocence: People who care about you likely aren't trying to hurt you - even if their words currently are. Try your best to see things from their perspective, or ask more questions - especially if they aren't using their words.
- Take a deep breath and listen. I mean REALLY listen. Actively. Clarify what you're hearing to make sure you've got it right.
- Honesty is the best policy. Even if it stings. If you care about someone, have the respect to give them all of the information so they can make informed decisions.
Who can relate to these examples? I've already told you I've been there. What are some other examples you have on when a TINY miscommunication got out of hand?