Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Relationship Advice No One Asked For! Fun For All!

Anytime anyone spouts advice on a blog, you should probably take the advice with a grain of salt.

When I spout advice on my blog about anything -- especially about relationships -- you should take it with a whole, giant margarita glass rim of salt. Plus the tequila.

I am sharing this with you now because it's been on my mind a lot lately, for a few reasons. Mostly because I've just entered into a new, wonderful marriage...and thus, it seems like a good time to remind myself why my first marriage went up in big shooting orange flames.

(I am also sharing this with you because I was not kidding when I said I was going to start blogging like mad. Muahahahahaha!)

Luckily for the internet, the entirety of My Relationship Advice can be boiled down into just two pieces, as follows.

(And don't worry, we'll be back to all kinds of blogging hilarity any minute now.)

* * * * * * *

Piece of Advice Number One:
Being Passive-Aggressive is destructive to you, to your partner, and to your relationship. It is also dishonest. It is your job, as a grown-up, to say yes when you mean yes and to say no when you mean no. If you aren't sure how you feel, it's not your partner's job to figure it out.


Being passive-aggressive can take on about a bajillion forms, and I am pretty sure there aren't enough blogs in the world to cover them all. Especially when there are so many cute cats to take pictures of.

But there are some really really straightforward ways to avoid being passive-aggressive in your relationship. Trust me on this.

If your partner asks you about something you don't like, do not say "okay" if you don't mean it. The moment you say "okay" or "fine" or "sure" or "I guess so" -- even if you sound kind of sad when you say it -- the onus is on you. You don't get to say yes if you mean no. You especially do not get to say yes if you mean no and are going to spend the next days, weeks, or even years holding it against your partner.

Now, this can get tricky, especially when the whole point is that you wish you weren't being asked the question in the first place. You want your partner to know the answer is "no" without you having to be the one to say it.

Let me use an example from my current relationship.

Last Thursday, Ish asked me if I'd mind if he spent Saturday afternoon with a friend. I looked at the calendar and realized it was Valentine's Day. I immediately felt hurt. I was, momentarily, at a loss for what to say.

  • If I said "Sure, fine," I'd be lying. I didn't feel fine about it, and that disappointment in me would likely seep into our relationship.
  • If I said, "No," I'd feel guilty for saying so. I don't want to force my husband to spend Valentine's Day with me.

What I really wanted was for him to not have asked the stupid question in the first place. You know? And that was what I said to him.

I told him that I felt bad that he'd rather hang out with a buddy on Valentine's Day than with me. I didn't like saying it. I felt a little stupid and exposed, and I wished he'd just magically known where I was coming from. Like, of COURSE I would want to spend the day with him.

But then his response surprised me. He apologized, and said he didn't see it that way. He didn't think much of the "holiday" and had no idea I put any stock in it -- we'd never had a conversation about it. He said we'd already made special plans for that morning and evening, and thought a few hours in the afternoon wouldn't make a lick of difference.

Let me just say that this example would have gone very, very differently in my first marriage.

I dunno, I've just seemed to witness this a bunch lately with some couples I know. The case of, "I said it was okay because I love him and want him to be happy!" Which is very nice and wonderful and good if you can live with your making-him-happy decision. But if you hate your decision and it makes you unhappy, and you find yourself complaining about it, and even perhaps adding it to an arsenal of "Things I Do For Him Because I Love Him"...um. I don't think it takes long for that arsenal to breed resentment. And that resentment will come out eventually.

Which brings me to...

* * * * * * *

Piece of Advice Number Two:
All the improved communications in the world can't make the person you're with be a different person. If your partner wants something other than what you want, (or simply IS something other than what you want) you either have to accept it or move on.


This seems kind of "duh"-y, but it'll sneak up on you.

No matter what relationship you're in, there will come a time or two or forty when you realize you have very different ideas about something. You'll want one thing and your partner will want another.

In my first marriage, we spent a lot of time figuring out how to communicate, how to compromise, how to find common ground in those situations. Yay for us.

But...if we were so good at figuring that out, why were we still so unhappy?

Ah-ha! Because there is ANOTHER part!

What we didn't realize for far too long, what no one told us, was: Okay, yes. All relationships require compromise. But there is such a thing as too much compromise.

It's great if you can be all honest and forthright about how you feel in any given situation, but what if your partner seems to never want what you want?

I knew of a woman whose husband couldn't do anything right. He mishandled bill-paying. He was a bad driver. He went about vacation planning all wrong. He couldn't even load the dishwasher properly. The list went on and on and on.

Of course, what this really meant is that he wasn't doing things the way she would have, or the way she wanted him to do them. These were all just surface-level issues, but they all pointed to the same thing: he wasn't what she wanted him to be.

I know plenty of couples who have very little in common, who come at everything from almost entirely opposite perspectives, and who absolutely delight in each other's differences. But the flip side of that is exhaustion -- feeling like everything is a compromise, and that every compromise is a struggle. You wish that just once you didn't have to "put up with" something to get your desired result.

And all of this is my long-winded way of saying it's not, actually, always easy to recognize it; sometimes we get too deep in. Sometimes the little things that bug us are really just the little things. But sometimes they're not.

You have to be honest about the difference. And it's probably a good idea to move on if you (allow yourself to) realize you're angry at your partner for simply being who he or she is.

You will both be happier for it.

* * * * * * * *
Okay, so yes? No? Do you agree or am I nuts? Am I missing a big point in here?

Also, is this stupid for me to be blogging about?

* * * * * * * *

~ Previous entries you might want to read ~

Related to this post: The one at the beginning of my divorce story where I realize my husband will never want to go to the stupid party with me.

From the archives, mid-February two years ago: A post about PORN CHARADES! With no pictures because I accidentally renamed them all in Flickr. Oops. (But rules for Porn Charades can be found in the comments!)

81 comments:

  1. If I didn't know better, the second piece of advice was written just for me. ;-)

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  2. (Sizzle shared this. Hi -- I'm Nat.)

    The Man and I went through some really rough waters a while back. These two things are what it boiled down to... Simply brilliant.

    Thanks.

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  3. K-
    You are a smart cookie. And right on target.
    And some of us, while we know those things and are trying to follow those with everything we are, are still feeling 'pressure' from the outside world to be settled down and peacebly 'happy' in some relationship just for the sake of being in one.
    And I needed to hear that I am not alone in my desire to be true to myself and honest with whomever I am around.
    Thank you.
    :)

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  4. that number one I am good at, but I wish I knew number two a year ago.

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  5. spot on Kristy. just this morning my partner and i played the "passive-aggressive" game. well i played, and he didnt. which is usually the case with us women, we tend to expect the guy to know what we want. heck we dont even know what we want half the time, how can they?!
    so yeah, stumbling on this post was perfect timing. set my thoughts back on track.
    need to quickly go give him a hug now!
    :)

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  6. I have been saying this exact thing for years! To me, they are both totally "well duh" but some people just don't get it. Now I can point to your post and go "see?! I'm not the only one that thinks this way!!"

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  7. seems like oddly solid advice to me!

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  8. This is why I read your blog. You get it. I just wish it could be injected into other people's heads at my whim.

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  9. Excellent advice. Could not have come at a better time. Thank you.

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  10. Kristy,
    Thank you so so much for that.

    I couldn't wrap my head around #2 for several years. It's hard, because you love this person and you want them to be happy and there isn't anything WRONG with them, except that they're not what you want in a partner. And that can be so difficult to articulate especially when everything else is just fine.

    I rarely comment but please know that I read this blog constantly.

    =)

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  11. Absolutely spot-on, well articulated. And congrats on your marriage! (I haven't been here in a while)

    I'm recently remarried, and just had a chat with my bride about these very things (about our former lives). Thankfully, we have learned from it, and it's wonderful.

    My ex was a master of both PA behavior and padding her martyr chest by doing things she didn't want to do (like the dishes), calling it a sacrifice for me.

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  12. I've heard the second before in terms of expectations. That most issues in a relationship are due to someone's behavior not matching your expectations, even though you may not have made them clear so there was no way they could live up to them anyway. So either your expectations need to be more reasonable so that a human can actually meet them, or they need to be communicated more clearly.

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  13. Truly awesome! Great advice for every relationship, not just romantic ones. And now I will have to see if I can find a decent margarita in Belgium....

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  14. I am notoriously good at being passive aggressive, and they way you posed the subject and why I SHOULDN'T be that way.. makes absolute sense.

    Great post!

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  15. This reminds me of some advice I heard from someone who had spent some time in couples therapy. She said it all boils down to two things:

    1) Men and women are different
    2) No one can read your mind

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  16. Brilliant advice! The passive-aggressive behavior is so easy at first -- keeps everyone happy?!? -- but becomes toxic so quickly.

    Whenever I give friends relationship advice, I always say, "Are you going to become resentful about this in the next few weeks, months, years?"

    Thank you for sharing things like this! Your honesty is beautiful!

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  17. I would only add one thing: both of you are going to change over time, maybe a lot. You have to keep loving both yourself and your partner as you are, with changes, not as you were, perhaps twenty or thirty or four years ago. If you hang on to version 1.3, you're never going to be able to be madly in love with version 4.6. (Obvs if the changes involve heroin or new lovers, maybe you can't love them. But that's another conversation.)

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  18. I agree with #1 definitely. I think marriage vows should include, "And I will always say what I mean because he/she can't read my mind."

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  19. First time poster, long time lurker, de-lurking to give you a big thumbs up. You are right on with both your pieces of advice.

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  20. Hey~that's sum good advice! Number #1 is hard because some of us chicas are trained our whole youth to think of the other's feelings and it just doesn't help us in our grown-up life. ESP is not reliable.

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  21. I'm a bit late in commenting but I loved this post and I think you should do more. I've read a lot of your relationship posts and from someone who is 33 and, not only single, but also divorced after only a year of marriage, the advice you give is very apt. apt? I'm not sure if that was the word I wanted. Helpful? Yes. Helpful. Anyways, thanks.

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  22. its funny how all these things seem so obvious like "duh" we all know this Kristy but they're not so obvious when your in it. Like you let it happen and you don't realize until you read/hear someone else say...like hey i hate this and that about this person. hmmm...i like this post and congrats on the pregnancy.

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