My Boyfriend And I Can’t Resolve Important Issues Together

Over the years (and several relationships), I’ve always found comfort in your blogs; thank you for that. I will try to make this brief. I have been dating someone for a little over a year, and there is this unexplained connection we have to each other. We have the same interests, same values, we make each other laugh. We have very early on determined that we are going to marry each other.

The problem lies in our expectations of the logistics or norms of relationships, like how often to have sex, how frequently to talk to each other while we’re doing a “middle distance” relationship, when to get engaged, etc. We have found that we have different conflict resolution styles (mine is to discuss and his, in his own words, is to avoid).

Ultimately, we have had numerous discussions on if these are merely logistical issues that can be resolved with appropriate conflict resolution tools or if we are simply just too incompatible. How do we handle conflicts when our methods of resolving are so far apart? Appreciate any advice based on your experience. 

Kim 

Kim,

I don’t know how old you are, I don’t know where you live, I don’t know anything about you other than what you just wrote to me. Maybe it doesn’t even matter.

I do know that you have two massive blind spots that we need to shine the light upon.

First: “We have very early on determined that we are going to marry each other.”

Huh? I mean, I know you feel this way, but I have to question the wisdom of someone who has determined she’s going to marry someone before she has determined whether she’s compatible with him.

Wise people don’t make decisions first and ask questions later. They ask questions first and make decisions based on that information.

It’s like determining that you’re going to jump in the next pool you see, before asking whether there is, in fact, water in the pool. Or whether you’re 50 feet above the pool. Or whether the pool is frozen. Wise people don’t make decisions first and ask questions later. They ask questions first and make decisions based on that information.

So even though you come by your “you just know” feeling with your boyfriend quite honestly, “just knowing” that you think a guy is your soulmate is not a real reason to get married.

I even made a half-hour free video about the deception of passion that you can view here.

Second: “We have the same interests, same values, we make each other laugh.”

So what? I have met hundreds – maybe even thousands – of people in my life: kind, relationship-oriented people who enjoy reading, sports, and comedy, and I wouldn’t be remotely compatible with ANY of them.

Because compatibility is not based on laughter or similar hobbies. It’s based on healthy communication and the ability to navigate 100 tiny decisions a day as part of a team. People who can do this are happily married. People who don’t? Well they sound something like this:

“The problem lies in our expectations of the logistics or norms of relationships, like how often to have sex, how frequently to talk to each other while we’re doing a “middle distance” relationship, when to get engaged, etc. We have found that we have different conflict resolution styles (mine is to discuss and his, in his own words, is to avoid).”

Compatibility is not based on laughter or similar hobbies. It’s based on healthy communication and the ability to navigate 100 tiny decisions a day as part of a team.

I am certainly not suggesting that you’re blameless. Maybe your way of communicating is to attack, blame, misinterpret, nag, or yell. But if you are a healthy communicator – and can let him know how you feel and how to please you without making him wrong – and his default setting is to shut down, walk away, or avoid conversation, then you have simply chosen a man who is incapable of being a husband. Doesn’t mean he’s evil. Doesn’t mean you don’t genuinely love him. All it means, objectively, is that he doesn’t possess the skill set – or the desire to develop the skill set – to be a good relationship partner.

I am not judging him as a person, nor judging you for falling for him. But in good relationships, people are not only willing to talk about stuff, but they are able to somewhat easily get on the same page. If you have that much friction when negotiating your relationship, then I would suggest what is patently obvious: you really don’t have the same values after all.

Find a guy who you CAN discuss important things easily and you won’t worry too much about whether you have the same interests, I assure you.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Noemi

    “We have very early on determined that we are going to marry each other.”

    Based on what? Anyone will admit that having an unexplainable connection with someone can feel surreal–it’s like a darn drug–but it does nothing to ensure the longevity of a relationship. It’s like deciding to purchase a house after merely driving by it. Connection and character are not at all correlated.

    1. 1.1
      Beverly

      Noemi, I like how you said that: “Connection and character are not at all related.” Right on.

      I knew someone who married a person with PTSD after a 3-month whirlwind romance. It was a hellish marriage, last I heard. One day she said “I wonder how I got into this situation.” I said “maybe by marrying someone with a mental illness whom you’d only known for 3 months?” She thought it over and said, “No. It felt right.” She didn’t learn from it.

      Here’s a heady quote from a book I’m reading: “A great part of the disaster of contemporary life lies in the fact that it is organized around feelings…the will is then left at the mercy of circumstances that evoke feelings.” He’s saying that feelings come and go, and are not the best basis for decision making.

      Cool.

      1. 1.1.1
        Noemi

        Wow.I guess some people never learn. Love the quote.

        My parents were married after 4 months of dating. Six years ago, my mom told me that she married my dad because he was a good looking man and she was attracted to him. I was floored. Their marriage is rough. Really rough.

        1. Beverly

          Well, I guess they’re still hanging in there, your parents. Best wishes to them, and to you. It almost seems like people should wait until they’re at least 40 to get married, so they have more of an idea what to look for. Except then very few children would be born…but wait, we do have an overpopulation problem…hmmm…

      2. 1.1.2
        marymary

        Feelings are important. Especially these days when there isn’t the social advantage to marriage that there used to be. Charles and Diana couldn’t maintain their marriage even though it was in everyone’s best interests for them to do so.
        it’s important to love your spouse. All over this blog you see people who are dissatisfied because they feel their partner is with them for their money/looks/reproductive capability/convenience and not for love.
        When my parents got sick I took care of them both. It felt completely different doing it for one rather than the other. What you do for duty and what do you do for love feels different, even if the actions are the same. I can’t say if they felt the difference, maybe they were past that. But your wife/husband would know. Your children know. I think even your dog would know.
        Assuming that the OP and her boyfriend love each other, they could try viewing their relationship as a “third party” that needs to be looked after. In the same way that you have to bend and adapt to a job, you need to accommodate your partner’s differences. I strongly believe that if you cannot resolve conflict, do not get married. Trouble will come, that’s guaranteed.

        1. Noemi

          marymary, you’re right. Feelings are important. But should they trump rational decision-making processes in a relationship? Should people let their feelings prevent them from seeing the other person’s actual character? Should feelings be the sole factor in making important decisions like choosing to marry someone? That’s the issue here.

        2. Noemi

          Marymary, you’re right. Feelings are important. No one claimed otherwise. But are feelings so important that they trump rational decision-making? Should the decision to marry someone be solely based on feelings, as in the situation above?

        3. marymary

          I don’t think there has been any decision making. A person can’t decide on their own how often to have sex or when to get married. It’s not her feelings driving this, but her hope. Maybe she should listen to the feeling that prompted her to seek advcie on her relationship.
          I agree with Evan that having the same interests counts for not very much.

  2. 2
    Noquay

    Marriage is a series of small and large conflicts that must be resolved/compromised upon every day. If you cannot at this point even discuss how often to have sex, communicate, etc, what’s gonna happen when you have to discuss buying a home, having children and so on?! Lots of people can make you laugh, you can feel connected with; heck, my dog makes me laugh, doesn’t make her marriage material. If you have to resort to conflict resolution strategies in order to resolve issues, you’re incompatible.

  3. 3
    mery

    I don’t think there is anything wrong about making decisions around your feelings-IF you know yourself and your feelings very well. A lot of these issues people are having is because they interpret anxiety, unsettling, discomfort as love, rather than that calm, relaxing, peaceful feeling. So if a person wants to make decision base on feelings, there is nothing wrong with that, if the person knows his/her feeling very very well, which, by the way, is uncommon.

  4. 4
    Noemi

    Marymary, the couple in this situation have made decisions.

    “We have very early on determined that we are going to marry each other.”

    That is a decision, and it was purely based on a feeling. It was driven by the “unexplained connection” between them.

    And as Evan pointedly explained, she has “simply chosen a man who is incapable of being a husband.” Yep–you got it. That’s a decision!

  5. 5
    Lori

    As someone who has been married and divorced and then re-entered the dating scene, I have learned an important lesson. The decision to marry someone cannot be instantaneous – if you “know early on,” you are basing the decision based on physical chemistry. You and your BF may have things in common, but ultimately, a good relationship should be a partnership, not a battle of wills. When my ex husband and I can get along, we are great together. But we were a horrible couple because we have different communication styles so even little things caused conflict, we want different things in life although on the surface, when we were dating, it seemed like we wanted the same things.

    1. 5.1
      Fay

      Just curious Lori, how long were you dating before you married? Perhaps if it was a longer time frame you would have been able to sort it all out before committing.

  6. 6
    Jay King

    Based on what you wrote on your letter, Kim, I feel you and your boyfriend are not ready to put your relationship into the next level (marriage). Deciding to marry someone based on how he/she makes you happy alone is the first step on having a disastrous marriage life. Making decisions based on feelings is not a wise move. True connection is based on being able to solve all couple problems you have, may it be petty problems or big problems.
    Give it time, know your partner well enough before deciding to marry him, problems are speedbumps which may derail you or not.

  7. 7
    Farah

    I appreciate the question being asked and the answers given. I have learned quite a bit from just reading the blog and the comments. I feel that I myself committed to a relationship before I knew the person and it was rough for almost the entire length of the relationship. My mistake was thinking that even though we don’t know each other that well we’ll get to know each other as the relationship went on. I was hard going through this and finding things out about this person that I didn’t like as the years went on. One of his biggest flaw was not being able to communicate and resolve issues. It’s a lesson learned. I believe that even if in your heart you feel that this person is exactly what you are looking for take the time to get to know them it will be well worth it.

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