How You Can Get Closer To Your Boyfriend After A Fight

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All relationships have conflict. The difference between a great relationship and a horrible one is how you manage that conflict. Listen to this very personal Love U Podcast where I share the one thing my wife and I always fight about – and how we’re using this as an opportunity to get even stronger.

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Hi, I’m Evan Marc Katz, a Dating Coach for smart, strong, successful women and your personal trainer for love. Welcome to the Love U Podcast. Stick around to the end to discover how to come together stronger, even when you have fundamental disagreements. And when we’re done, I will let you know how to apply to Love U to create a passionate relationship that makes you feel safe, heard, and understood. 

So let’s start off with something that you already know about me. I’m a Know-It-All. That’s my job. I’m a professional know-it-all. Imagine being married to a professional know-it-all. 

Now, I don’t actually think I know it all. I’m constantly growing, learning, changing, feeding my brain with new information, trying to improve. That’s my makeup is to find flaws in myself and do better. Be a better husband, a better father, be a better businessman, be a better coach, everything. My wife is a much more easygoing content person. She’s not nearly as introspective or as hard on herself, and therefore she’s probably a happier person than I am. So that’s our personality types. So with that personality type, I’m kind of anal. 

I’m like, get stuff done when it comes to the mail. If I get a piece of mail, I go to the mailbox. I open the mail. I pay the bill. It’s done. That’s just the way I do things as quickly as possible. My wife has a stack of mail, right. If the lights go out in this house, it’s because my wife forgot to pay the bills because she’s occupied. And that’s who she is. So there are two fundamentally different ways of doing things. 

And neither of us is wrong. We just have different approaches. I certainly like to think I’m more right in terms of efficiency, but my wife has been functioning as a fully formed human being for 50 years. I got to give her the benefit of the doubt that she has her way of doing things. And so there’s this thing, this sort of recurring thing that comes up with us. I don’t want to share it with you today because I think it’s interesting, just interesting about how a happy couple deals with the conflict that doesn’t go anywhere. So for me, because of the way we run our household, I’m the breadwinner. She’s a stay at home mom. We have different angles on life. We have different duties and responsibilities that we both agreed to. And we’re both happy with our roles. And sometimes there are things in our household if she runs the house and I make the money, sometimes there are things that come up that need discussion. Maybe it is the kid’s summer schedule. Now that school’s out, what are we going to do with this summer? Maybe it’s our shopping schedule, like how are we buying food? We know how we’re planning our meals in advance. It’s our finances. What’s coming in? What’s going out? Do we need to budget? And sometimes it’s just home improvement. What do we need to do? What’s the next thing we’re going to do to improve our house? So again, my wife is a stay at home mom. Her passion is the kids and being the treasurer of the PTA at school. That’s a volunteer position. She spends a lot of time doing that. And because she takes on that role, a Stay-At-Home mom and the volunteer position at school. She has no time for anything. That’s the least of her take on things. I can’t argue with her experience. So she’s busy with the school budget that takes fifteen hours a week. She’s busy homeschooling the kids, making sure that the family eats three times a day. She’s busy filming the kid’s parts in the school play. My kids are like Willy Wonka. And so my wife is filming that because they can’t perform a quarantine and she’s doing her social distancing, and Zoom calls with. She’s got like four or five groups of mom friends that she hangs out with and does a lot of social calls with. 

And so I want to have this meeting to talk about our stuff. This is not a new thing. This is like two years that I’ve been trying to nail down having a regular meeting with my wife to talk about stuff because, at the end of the day, she’s tired. She doesn’t want to discuss things. She wants to zone out and watch TV. All right. 

So I’m kind of like, “Hey, there’s household stuff that I want to talk about. I want to talk about our finances. Want to talk about our budget. These are things that you’re better at than I am. You’re better with an Excel spreadsheet. So when can we talk?” And so I wait for a week. I wait for a month. And I nudge. And I cajole, “Hey, when are we having that meeting?” So we finally meet Monday. And for whatever her reasons are, she invites the kids into the meeting because we’re discussing their summer plans and she invites the kids to weigh in on what they want to do during the summer. And the kids disagree with us and the meeting goes awry. So I’ve been pushing for this meeting. We finally get this meeting and the meeting is a bust. Right? My wife and I are just on different plans about what we wanted to accomplish during this meeting. 

Now we get into a fight, and we don’t fight very often, but that’s why I’m bringing it up. So we get into a fight. I stormed out of the room, me being who I am, I come back two minutes later to apologize, try to repair things. We send the kids outside to play while we try to figure out, how do we solve this problem. Right. It’s not you’re this or you’re that. It’s OK. Let’s dig in. What are we going to do here? But I start off on the wrong foot instead of seeking to understand my wife. I try to make her understand me. And my point of view, not an unreasonable one, is that my wife is just like everybody else. And she’s doing the things that she wants and she’s casting aside the things she doesn’t.

As a dating coach, principal men do what they want. If a guy isn’t texting you, he doesn’t want to text you. If he isn’t calling you, he doesn’t want to call you.  If he doesn’t want to commit to you and keeps his profile up, people will do what they want. And that’s men and women. 

So my wife is just doing what she wants. She’s not wrong for doing so or feeling the way she feels. She feels too busy as it is, and she resents being asked to take on anything else, stuff that I’m assigning to her to do within our household within our rules. So that’s the way she feels. That’s cool. But I feel that she’s rejecting the very thing that’s important to me. I almost feel like she’s rejecting me. Because I know my wife has three hours to drink wine with her friends and four hours to spend planning for book club and she has time to write and record a parody song for her second cousin’s birthday. But she doesn’t have time to talk to me for an hour a week about stuff that’s important to me and that stings. 

And that sting makes me flashback to my parent’s relationship. My dad, a high school educated small business owner, works 8 am-8 pm each day, doesn’t feel secure in his station in life. His brothers are doctors and he’s the hard-working busting guy commuting to New York City. My mom begs him for 30 years to come home early for dinner, put the kids to bed, take a Friday off. He swears he’s doing this for the family, for us. He doesn’t realize that my mom wants his time and his presence more than she needs whatever extra marginal money he’ll spend working until the night. And then I realized my wife. And then there are all things flashing through my head during this conversation. My wife truly does feel like she has no time because she is doing laundry late at night when I’m zoning out reading my phone. And yet I feel resentful because it seems like she has time for everything else that she enjoys more, that are more important to her than discussing business with her husband. And I’m struggling in this moment to figure out how to frame that to her in a way that doesn’t sound judgmental or attacking. She’s my wife. She’s my favorite person. I don’t want to attack her. 

So the fact is, in most relationship disagreements, there are two sides to every story. Unless he lied or cheated or did something egregious, egregiously wrong. He might just look at the world differently than you do. My wife and I just look at the world differently in this way. Not in most ways. In most ways, we’re really, really aligned. That’s the way we work. So I’ve made a conscious choice to be different than my dad. I work nine to five so I can get out of work, have time to play with the kids every day, sit down, and ask them about their day while they eat dinner, play DJ, I ask him challenging questions. Get him to think. Put him to bed. Read to them for about 20, 30 minutes every night. And then I hang out with my wife. We have dinner at eight. We hang out, watch TV, whatever. But she doesn’t want to talk. So that’s the life I chose to do. I chose to be better than my dad. It does more of the, what we call, emotional labor. My work stops when I leave the office. This stops when I leave the office. My wife is on. She’s planning the kid’s lunch schedule and she’s trying to plot for their doctor’s appointments. She’s got more stuff on her mind. So she has a hard time just focusing and being present. Her mental task list never really ends because she’s in charge of the house and the kids and I pay the bills. So when I’m fresh out of work and I’m ready to be present. My wife is never really present. Almost always got something on her mind. Usually, that thing that’s on her mind has something to do with being a mom. And it almost never has anything to do with being a wife and I recognize next, that’s cliche, right? This is what happens in marriages. And because this is my job, I vowed not to be like those other marriages where people fall into their roles. And she’s in charge of the kids and she’s all in on the kids. And he’s so focused on his business that he forgets what it’s like to be a husband, what were you like before there were kids? Where did you put your time and energy? You have to continue to cultivate that. It’s my job to keep my finger on the pulse of that. And sometimes I think I’ve got my finger on the pulse of that more than my wife does, which is unusual for a marriage. But I don’t want to be a cliche. I don’t want to be that couple where we fall into those roles and we forget why we came together to begin with. 

So I listen and force myself and she cries about how she hates when I ask for a meeting. Even if it’s just a one hour lunch each week to talk about household stuff because it’s stressful and it’s more on her taskbar. And I take it because it has an element of truth, even though it hurts to hear. I understand where she’s coming from. 

And I share in return after hearing that she feels like I’m her boss giving her stuff to do, even if it’s talking about our house. That feels like an extra assignment. And I hear her and I share what it feels like to be number five on her list of priorities after our kids and the house and the PTA and her friends and whatever else she deems important at the time and to always have my priority pushed to the bottom of the list. And she understands. 

Nobody is wrong. We are both right.

I tell her I feel like a husband whose wife turns him away for sex because she’s busy or she’s tired but doesn’t understand the consequence of making it feel like his sexual needs don’t matter. And we conclude that we’re both right. And that’s important. That’s why I’m giving you this content. Nobody is wrong. We are both right. I apologize for leaving the room at my frustration during our meeting. I handled it wrong. She apologized because she understands that, yes, in fact, she does put more time into her interests than she puts into discussing things that matter to me. And she recognized how that must feel for me. I know how frustrated she is because she wants to be a better wife, but doesn’t feel she has the time or bandwidth to do so. And so we hug and we makeup and the whole thing takes less than a half-hour. And I know two things after this conversation. 

Number one, we will have this conversation again sometime in the next few months. Guarantee. This is not going to change. This is our life. This is the fact that we just don’t fundamentally agree on what’s important and we never quite will. Number two, we will never break up because of this repeated conversation. We will learn to find our way around it, through it, over it, whatever we got to do because our relationship is amazing. And if this is the biggest problem we have, we are one very lucky couple. 

So how does this pertain to you? Well, it’s important to do the following as you apply my little story to your life. First, seek to understand your partner’s side of the story, not to reiterate how you’re right. Try to listen. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to agree with it 100 percent, but you do have to validate his truth. The same way I did for my wife. Instead of treating him like he’s wrong or he’s crazy. If you’ve ever been with a man who rejected your truth and treated you as just disagreeing with him was wrong or crazy, you know how awful it feels to be invalidated. 

Now that you’re in it, reiterate the strength of your relationship and just focus on solving the present issue instead of bringing up a whole bunch of other issues that are tangential to what’s at stake in this conversation. Somewhere in this conversation, this became about me reading my phone and not doing the dishes the way she wants. And I was like, “honey, bring it back. We could have that conversation later. Let’s just talk about why it’s so hard to get a meeting on the books with you and solve this problem.” We can address the other ones separately because it’s easy to conflate those things. And remember the emphasis as a couple, presuming that you’re a good person, your boyfriend’s a good person. The emphasis is on Problem-Solving, not finger-pointing. You are a ‘we’. Together, we have to figure out how to have some mutual respect and create consensus moving forward, even if you can’t have a lockstep agreement. You have to find some sort of consensus, some overlap in the Venn diagram between what you want and what he wants, where you could both live. So when a disagreement or some minor mistake becomes the whole story and defines the entire relationship, now you’ve got a major problem because no one can thrive in such an environment. 

If your issues become the defining feature of your relationship, you’re in trouble. And often it’s because we have a set of expectations of how things should go. Right? This fantasy that with the right guy, everything would be perfect. In fact, in any relationship, unless you’re with yourself and even if you are with yourself, there’s going to be friction, because no matter who you marry, there’s no person who’s going to do whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want on your terms all the time without fail. So in a good relationship, 90 percent of things become easy and you’ll work out the 10 percent. That’s what we do. In a bad relationship, that 10 percent blows up, takes over, and suddenly it’s 50 percent. Your relationship isn’t worth preserving because the 10 percent weighs so heavily on you. 

So this is about a good-faith argument, assuming the best in your partner. Yes. He cares about you. Yes. He wants to understand. Yes, he wants to please you. And how can we not blow things up and make things worse? But how can we focus on solving the problem? And if you’re a good guy on your hand, you’ve got to give him the benefit of the doubt. You got to speak to him in such a way that he doesn’t feel attacked and you can’t treat him like he’s a bad guy. 

Nowhere in this conversation with my wife and I really do disagree with my wife’s priority list, that I treat her as if she’s a bad person or that she’s fundamentally flawed. I told her that I felt neglected. I told her that I felt deprioritized, and unimportant. And I know that was not what she intended. But that’s the byproduct of someone saying, I never want to talk to you about something that’s important to you. And that was a message she could hear. 

So that’s my best advice on resolving conflict. A relationship has to be strong enough to fix it, and you have to own your stake in it. You have to apologize when you do something wrong. Otherwise, you’re just pouring gasoline on the fire. 

I got a big mouth and you know I got a big mouth. I don’t pretend to have anything other than a big mouth. What I know, what my wife knows, and what we do well is that I can’t always help what comes out of my mouth at the moment. My wife gives me lots of mulligans, but if I screw up, I can take ownership right away. Make it right directly afterward, and with that level of good faith, conversations that could be divisive actually become moments of growth, bonding, and strength that you can build upon the next time you have a disagreement and the next time you have a disagreement because I guarantee you will. If you’re in a good marriage, it’s going to continue to happen. It’s how you deal with it, that makes the difference. 

My name is Evan Marc Katz. 

Thank you for tuning in to Love U podcast. 

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I love you. I appreciate you. 

I look forward to seeing you on the next Love U podcast. 

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Robyn

    Here’s a thought – instead of having a small number”really big” meetings on all of this budgeting & scheduling stuff, why not agree (if possible!) on having one smaller meeting each month (like the monthly “board meeting” that most company directors have).

    As most organizations do, have a standard agenda of discussion items.
    I would limit it to the 3 most important topics (budget? major event scheduling? bill-paying?), with other items added as needed on an ad-hoc basis (and when the ad-hoc items are over/finished they drop off the agenda).

    I would even go so far as to fix a standard day & time of the month to have your meeting, and block that slot out in the calendar for the next 6+ months.
    And to sweeten the deal, add a post-meeting treat of some kind (go out for cocktails? dinner? couples’ massage? or even just wine in a bubble bath at home?).

    1. 1.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Appreciate the suggestion, Robyn. The goal was to have Monday afternoon lunch and meeting from 12:30-2 to relax, catch up, and knock out some household business. The problem is that I always have to remind my wife to do it because she HATES doing it. 🙂

      1. 1.1.1
        Robyn

        And that’s why a “deal sweetener” is needed 😉

        Putting the shoe on the other foot, if there’s something that she’s been nagging you to do regularly that remains “not done”, add a scheduled time-slot for that job to the calendar (and stick to it 80%+ of the time).

        If she sees you “sucking it up” to take care of something you “hate”, maybe she’ll be a wee bit more inspired to “not forget” the dreaded meeting(s).

  2. 2
    De Elle

    This is by far your best post ever! Thank you so much for generously sharing your humanity and vulnerability.

    1. 2.1
      Shay

      One of the best yes! 🙂

  3. 3
    egle

    so agree with De Elle – to give out publicly such a raw and vulnerable content is amazing!

    in our relationship, the overlapping issue is sex, but not him wanting more from me, but me wanting, and wanting all the time and getting it around once in 1-3 months. i feel this issue overwhelms the relationship. if to imply the convo and thought model showed by Evan, we did have these kinda convos, and nice how strength and bond works in.. and i do understand my partners reasoning however to me it is too huge of a deal… and i think my only fear is – is this VALID enough to end the relationship..coz his biggest stake is the great bond w my daughter…. ah, feel like been suffering all these years…

  4. 4
    Jeremy

    Oh gosh, Evan, I could have written this. There is just so much involved here – gender roles, assumed responsibilities, but most of all personality types. An abstract personality (you) coupled with a concrete-oriented personality (her). I can very much relate.

    People sometimes ask me why I’m so interested in personalities and motivations. It’s for exactly this type of situation – one where two people who genuinely love each other meet and talk and agree and really HEAR each other….and nothing changes. Over and over. Nothing changes. And perhaps someone has the presence of mind to overcome their inertia and ask the question, WHY, rather than having monthly meetings that result in 2-3 days of change, followed by regression.

    Some personalities naturally focus on the concrete, and others on the abstract. Those that focus on the concrete can think about abstract things, but effortfully, not intuitively. Those that focus on the abstract can think about concrete things, but will never care as much about them as one who does so intuitively. And so, each spouse in a concrete-abstract union will set his/her priorities on that aspect that they prioritize, and neglect those of their partner, unless given a good reason to do otherwise. And here’s the thing about that: For a concrete-oriented person, a “good” reason is a concrete reason. And for an abstract-oriented person, a “good” reason is an abstract one. Guess which one “Do it because otherwise I feel neglected” is? It’s feeling. It’s emotion. It’s abstract. The concrete one may agree to do it, may do it for a few days, but will always, ALWAYS regress. Because focusing on an invisible feeling can’t compete with the tangible laundry in front of her. Because remembering how you feel when she does laundry can’t compete with the immediacy of how she feels when the laundry isn’t folded. The upshot of this is that it will almost always be up to the abstract-oriented one to compromise. Because they are the only one to whom doing so will actually occur. The concrete one believes that she is compromising by doing the things she wants to do, because she doesn’t believe she’s doing them because she wants to, but rather because she HAS to. The notion that one does not HAVE to do a thing is abstract.

    Sigh. It’s hard, so hard. And it helps to remember all the advantages of such a union to the abstract-oriented one. A partner who will generally be happy, to offset the moodiness of the other. A partner who will take care of the logistical details that the other simply wouldn’t think of, or want to do. A ground to the other’s electrical wire, a reality check. Necessary, helpful, essential. But there’s a cost. There ought to be a class….

    1. 4.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      I know, man. I know. 🙂

    2. 4.2
      jo

      Hi Jeremy, two thoughts on this:

      1. It’s interesting that you categorise it as a concrete vs. abstract personality difference. That could be it, but I would have thought it was more of a ‘get things done’ vs. ‘do it whenever, some time in the future’ personality difference (J vs. P a la Myers Briggs).

      2. Having been in the shoes of the person who prefers to think abstractly (like you, I am an NT) but has been forced to think and act concretely because I’m surrounded by abstract thinkers who can’t or won’t, I feel much more sympathy for the concrete one who gets things done, including the laundry. You wrote, ‘The notion that one does not HAVE to do a thing is abstract.’ Apparently, so abstract that it doesn’t square with most of modern life. In real life, laundry does have to get done, and the person who does it is the one who deserves credit, like the man in the arena of Teddy Roosevelt’s famous quote. The bathroom does have to get cleaned. The meals do need to be prepared.

      To claim that it is always the abstract one who compromises is missing out on the fact that the concrete one would love it if the abstract one took a large weight of the physical work off his/her hands, instead of being caught up in abstract thoughts. The concrete one is compromising with his/her physical labour. This deserves appreciation. TBH, often I can’t find myself caring too deeply about someone’s feelings if they are ‘letting’ me do all the work and not lifting a finger to help.

      1. 4.2.1
        Jeremy

        Didn’t mean to imply that fingers were not lifted to help 🙂 Indeed, laundry does need to be done and bathrooms do need to be cleaned. But does laundry need to be folded crisply, just so, in such a way that only one person knows how to do it and doesn’t trust the other? Or dishwasher loaded exactly so? Does the bathroom require cleaning that day, when spouses have not yet spoken or connected? How dirty is the bathroom? How lonely are the spouses? Which should take priority? And what happens when the one act that takes priority doesn’t leave enough time and energy for the other?

        I don’t think it’s a question of judging vs perceiving (action vs procrastinating). I think both spouses want action in this case. They just differ in the action they prioritize, though both agree in theory that both should be done. A case where one spouse has to take action because the other is slotting around totally listless is another matter. But care should be taken prior to accusations of listlessness, because concrete people often see abstract people as listless because the work they are doing isn’t tangible.

        1. Rampiance

          I so agree, Jeremy. I’m a very abstract type, and I nodded yes yes yes all through your two comments here.

  5. 5
    jo

    Oh Evan. Such a complicated and realistic post. I appreciate your sharing all this personal information, and it touches a chord with many of us in relationships.

    From a woman’s point of view, I can share a thought from the wife / girlfriend’s perspective. You don’t want your wife to associate your meeting times with only discussing things contentious, boring, or mundane. If you do, it’s no wonder she would feel happier and appear to prioritise her meetings with friends and other mums even if she loves you best of all: because they are having fun conversations or ‘bonding’ times, and planning fun activities.

    So is it possible to ‘mix it up’ a bit? To have your meeting times also include things she enjoys (you know what those are better than any of us: maybe it’s massages, walks, eating out, etc.)? That way, she doesn’t associate meeting with you as that one more thing is being placed on her to-do list, or that you’re a ‘manager’ or ‘boss’ to her, but a lover and partner first and foremost.

    Interestingly, I think this story you shared today relates to one of your earlier posts, where you talk about the loneliness of men vs. women in relationships. You want her to prioritise you, ideally more highly than her other friends or activities. But have you shown her that you prioritise her? That’s what I wonder – not about you specifically, but a lot of men (including my bf now and bfs in the past) and the story about your father. If a man wants to be prioritised as #1 in his woman’s life, it would be fair to prioritise HER as #1, in a way that she feels tangibly, which isn’t ‘working longer hours.’ When women don’t feel #1 in their men’s lives, sometimes they complain, but other times they do what I consider healthy: making other friends and interests so that they don’t rely on their man for all, or even the majority of, emotional support.

    So anyway… this all ties back to your point about not wanting to fall into ruts. It’s so easy when one is in any kind of LTR, marriage or otherwise. That prioritising the partner always needs to take place, and both sides need to make sure they’re doing it, in ways that resonate with their partner and make them want to spend more time prioritising the other rather than work or other friends and activities, in a virtuous cycle of sorts.

    1. 5.1
      Jeremy

      I think you have some good points here, Jo, and also some points with which I might disagree.

      To start with agreement, I agree that sometimes people de-prioritize their spouse because they themselves feel like less than their spouse’s top priority. That sometimes that can drive a spouse to seek connection with others, such as friends and family and hobbies and work. I also agree that “mixing it up,” ie. incorporating that which the spouse finds enjoyable into the meetings, is a reasonable thing to consider.

      But. Problem comes when one tries this and observes that it fails to make a difference. When the other spouse comes to suspect the good, because they know it will lead to the “bad.” Like when the sexless wife looks at her husband loading the dishwasher and thinks he’s just doing it for sex. She’ll take the dishwashing, but isn’t any more likely to want the sex. In the same way, the spouse who legitimately doesn’t want to prioritize the wants of his/her partner will come to suspect the good when they know what else is coming. Especially if it’s a re-run they’ve seen before and didn’t like then. They’ll listen to it. They’ll agree. And they’ll regress to baseline in less than a week.

      Along those same lines, when one partner does try to prioritize their partner as #1, that certainly does NOT always lead to the partner reciprocating. Because the only way this would apply is if the reason that spouse 2 wasn’t prioritizing spouse 1 was revenge. And revenge isn’t the most common reason. The most common reason is simply differing priorities. In such a case, spouse 1 makes a concerted effort to prioritize spouse 2, and spouse 2 gets super happy, super comfortable…and accepts spouse 1’s behavior as the new normal. NOT as impetus for change. That would be a covert contract, you see.

      I think your suggestions are reasonable places to start. I just don’t think they will often work long-term. Not unless both spouses are well-motivated and abstract-oriented (in which case prioritizing their partner’s emotional state would be a meaningful priority long-term), or similarly concrete-oriented (in which case there would be no need for discussion/motivation).

      1. 5.1.1
        jo

        Jeremy, this might be a case where the abstract needs to be made concrete, then – both sides should tell the truth about what they want, and trust their partner enough to be honest and vulnerable. In a good relationship, that should happen anyway. Then it is not a matter of feeling manipulated by one’s partner doing something kind. It’s showing a willingness to provide what the other wants and hope and trust for a similar generosity of spirit in their partner.

        And yes, this discussion may need to take place many times for it to sink in… but no one said a relationship was easy or that people could learn things the first, second, or third time. Patience is a key virtue in relationships.

        1. Jeremy

          It’s not that I disagree with your suggestion of a concrete conversation. Again, I agree it’s a good place to start. That is Relationships 101. But Relationships 201 is what happens when that fails to yield a result long-term.

          Ultimately, people do what they want to do, and prioritize what they want to prioritize. Most people, concrete or abstract, prioritize their relationship when that relationship is new and fragile. But once it is no longer new, once it is perceived as solid and non-fragile, the concept of “relationship” is perceived differently. Perceived by the abstract-oriented as a way to BE, and perceived by the concrete-oriented as a thing to DO. For the abstract, the being naturally leads to certain doings. For the concrete, the doings lead to being.

          You can tell a concrete-oriented spouse that you want him/her to sit with you for 30 minutes and communicate at the end of each day. It’s a concrete instruction, they can prioritize it. But you can’t make them WANT to do it. And so, it becomes yet another thing on their laundry list. They view it as a chore. And because they’re DOING without BEING, the abstract person won’t perceive them as prioritizing them at all, won’t get anything out of it. They can be together, and the one can almost see the other’s attention drifting to the list of chores she just can’t get out of her mind. Even if they’re tomorrow’s chores, today’s already having been done.

          And, to be fair, the concrete one has equal complaints in kind. When we were stuck in Covid quarantine, my wife obsessed about the cleanliness of the house. Each day I’d vacuum, do laundry, wash the floors. But the baseboards, God, the baseboards. They apparently were dusty. And I didn’t even notice. How could I not notice. So there she was, washing and wiping the baseboards. Re-loading the dishwasher after I’d done it not to her satisfaction. Wiping the excess water away after I’d washed the floors. Things I didn’t even notice, things that mattered to her, things that didn’t register at all for me, abstract-oriented as I am. For her, doing leads to being. I will never, EVER, see the world as she does, prioritize the things she does. No matter how many lists she gives me of things to do. The reverse is also true.

          Everything has a cost. It does no one any good to pretend otherwise. To believe in simple cures of conversation. The conversations go nowhere if we believe their purpose is to have our partners prioritize as we do. Rather, if we perceive their purpose as simply connecting and leaving the conversation feeling good about each other in that moment, then they have meaning.

      2. 5.1.2
        Emily, to

        Hi Jeremy,
        I don’t remember exactly, but I think you said your wife is someone who is very busy with a long “to do” list. Do you have time (or do you want time?) to spend maybe 30 minutes or an hour just the two of you once the kids are in bed, discussing your day? No phones, no TV. Emotionally present. The older I get, the more I have begun to realize that a lot of people are not good at doing that. (I’m working at it myself.) They can sit with you, but are they really tuned in and listening? There ‘s a disconnect.

  6. 6
    Jeremy

    Not so much that they aren’t good at it, Emily, I think. But rather that they simply don’t prioritize it. We prioritize what we want to prioritize. If our partners wanted to do it, they would. Oh, they SAY they want to do it, and they believe what they say. They make all sorts of excuses as to why they aren’t doing it when they want to. But if they aren’t doing it, if they are doing other things, those are the things they want to do. Regardless of whether or not they believe they want to do those things. If one sees, over and over, that those are the things the partner chooses to do, in spite of any conversation to the contrary, one must ultimately accept the person one’s partner is. Or not.

    1. 6.1
      jo

      Jeremy, I pretty much agree with all of this. I would add that, if we feel disappointed about how certain aspects of life are turning out as we grow older, we need to remember not to blame everything on our partner, but to realise that a large part of it is simply ‘adulting.’

      Of course life is going to get harder when we become adults and become responsible for ever more people and things, like owning and maintaining our first home, caring for other people in that home, operating a budget for the first time, maintaining a car, etc., etc., etc. All these things happen at once, and for an abstract person like me, I find that sometimes I’ll be reminded of certain philosophical questions I used to have the luxury of asking and feel sad that now there’s no time, and somehow it’s been ages since I even thought that way.

      Well, that’s life. Maybe when we cross another hump and become even older, some of that luxury time will return, but then we’ll remember with fondness and regret the years when we were so busy, we didn’t have that much time to just sit and think. But THEN we can reconnect with our partners for both the abstract and the concrete. 😉

      1. 6.1.1
        Jeremy

        Agreed. And to focus on what we do have rather than on what we do not. It is so easy to focus on what we lack and to forget what we have, even if the balance is 1:9. We don’t focus on the 9 until we lose it. Such is human nature.

        I was recently asked why one should bother assessing one’s own happiness. What would the point of such be, should one not just either feel it or not feel it? Why assess it, over-think it? And I think that the answer is that we feel happiness only in relative terms. Happy, relative to WHAT? It’s a framing issue. When we focus on what we lack, our happiness is, de facto, lower than when we focus on what we have. What we “feel” depends on how we frame. This is just so important. Especially for those of us whose inborn baseline happiness isn’t naturally high.

    2. 6.2
      Emily, to

      Jeremy,
      “Not so much that they aren’t good at it, Emily, I think. But rather that they simply don’t prioritize it. ”
      I think you’re right, but where do you go from there? I was referring to family members during the pandemic who have been glaringly mia. I won’t bore you with the details, but I was very specific with one about the support I needed (just a phone call every now and then to check in and see how I am doing and really actually ask). And I do get phones calls, but they are filled with endless conversation about tv shows. It’s all surface. Am I asking for too much?

      1. 6.2.1
        Jeremy

        “Am I asking for too much?” IDK. Maybe? You can’t expect a concrete-oriented person to choose to talk about abstract topics with you of their own volition. They don’t think that way. Even though you do, and can’t imagine someone not doing so. They can’t imagine that you think any differently than they do either.

        I’ve said this before, but my step-father-in-law only talks about people, places, and things. Mostly people. On and on and on and on. He can’t fathom that I just don’t care. But the abstract meaning behind his mundane conversation is a genuine, heart-felt attempt to bond with me. As long as I understand that, understand his feelings, I can look at is as simply a language. He’s telling me that he loves me in Greek. I can learn to understand Greek. I don’t need to hear it in my own language, because he just doesn’t have the wherewithal to speak my language.

        1. Emily, to

          Jeremy,
          “I don’t need to hear it in my own language, because he just doesn’t have the wherewithal to speak my language.”
          Doesn’t have the wherewithal or chooses not to? How concrete can my request be: Ask me how to I’m doing ? I feel like I indulge his personality. When does he indulge mine? And just as I type this I am getting an email about where to buy masks! I’m sure he thinks we are close and he is being helpful, but we don’t talk about anything. He has no idea who I am and vice versa.

        2. jo

          Emily and Jeremy, I guess it’s different strokes for different folks. 🙂 I LOVE people who show their caring like that: telling me where to get masks, caring for me through actions and showing they are looking out for my well-being, rather than pretty words. In the long run, pretty words only mean something if they are backed up with loving actions. On their own, they’re meaningless and usually more about people-pleasing than genuine care for the other person.

          Because I’ve noticed this so strongly over time about the people in my life (and not just in romance, but in friendships and work), I’ve deliberately made efforts to flatter less and to do more for others. This is not to knock a love language that might mean more for you, Emily – maybe yours is quality time or listening (or maybe they’re the same thing) – but truly, beware of pretty words divorced from acts of caring.

          And whoever this family member you describe is, he sounds like a sweetheart.

        3. Jeremy

          “Doesn’t have the wherewithal, or chooses not to?”

          I honestly don’t know. I think it depends on how far along the spectrum a person is. I don’t think my father-in-law has the actual wherewithal. But my mother-in-law does, and she’s fairly concrete. Depends on the person. But here’s a question to consider: If you did tell him to ask about how you were, and if he did it, would it be satisfying, or would you feel that he was only doing it because you asked? Did you ever buy the masks he’s sending you info about and thank him for his concern? If not, maybe he feels the same way you do? In his way? IDK.

        4. Emily, to

          Hi jeremy,
          I appreciate you bringing up this topic because I have often felt he and I were having 2 separate conversations, but when I ask him if he agrees, he has no idea what I’m talking about. And now it makes more sense. We ARE having 2 separate conversations. 🙂

        5. Jeremy

          Exactly Emily. You are. And yours is no more valid than his, believe it or not. That took me a while to understand. Because Jo is absolutely correct – words divorced from acts are fairly meaningless to most people. And some skip directly to the acts. I’ve often been guilty of this.

        6. Emily, to

          Hi Jeremy,
          “If you did tell him to ask about how you were, and if he did it, would it be satisfying, or would you feel that he was only doing it because you asked? ”
          He did ask once but it came off as “how you doin’?” Like you would ask some guy on the street. It wasn’t what I’d asked … No depth. What I wanted was … “I know you live by yourself. You work from home. It’s isolating. This has been difficult. How are you feeling?”
          “Did you ever buy the masks he’s sending you info about and thank him for his concern? If not, maybe he feels the same way you do?” Probably does. I guess I just feel the the mask suggestion is borderline comical, almost ridiculous. I need your emotional support, and you’re offering me a mask.
          Jo,
          “but truly, beware of pretty words divorced from acts of caring.”
          It has nothing to do with pretty words. I don’t need to be flattered. I just don’t feel we have a connection. Sending me news articles is not connecting.

        7. Leah Bryce

          Jeremey, Emily,

          good lord. What a great reminder of why I stay single and generally avoid people. Humans are entirely too complicated. Just reading all of that gives me a headache. How do you guys deal with people on a regular basis?

          Just the thought of having to navigate all of that gives me heart palpitations. Non-human animals are so much easier.

  7. 7
    S.

    Evan, I didn’t watch it because I’m working, but I read the transcript. Thank you for your insight and vulnerability here. And great advice. 🙂

    I’m in a new relationship and negotiating just these things. Overall, we are very happy. But we approach some things differently and always will. It’s a lot about how you fold into those differences or if they take over as you say.

    Our baseline always goes back to the good. How much we love each and genuinely know we each are trying to make each other happy. And how that’s generally easy to do. That ease is so essential. If 90% is easeful, then it’s not as difficult to do the 10% that is real work. Thanks too for reminding me (us) that 100% happiness all the time is unrealistic. 🙂

    I’m so glad your wife could hear how deprioritized you were feeling. It’s that feeling that can really make someone feel badly in a relationship, especially when the person is trying to connect in a ways that are important.

    Thanks for the transcript! And to Emily and all, hi! And I’ll give details in a few months. I always thought I would after quarantine but now know there is no official ‘after’ so I’ll wait until my relationship hits six months before sharing. I’m happy and Evan’s advice all these years makes so much more sense to me once I found the right person. 🙂

    1. 7.1
      Emily, to

      Hi S.,
      I am happy for you, but of course I would like some details …. are you SOCIAL DISTANCING? 🙂 If not, we want the details!

      1. 7.1.1
        S.

        LOL, Emily. And the short answer is:

        No. 🙂

        More later down the line!

        1. Emily, to

          Good. Just say NO to social distancing. 🙂

        2. SparklingEmerald

          Congrats on the new relationship ! Wishing you the best !

    2. 7.2
      Buck25

      Hi S.!
      New relationship? Really happy for you!

      1. 7.2.1
        S.

        Thank you! You all are so kind. 🙂

  8. 8
    Rampiance

    This video touched me, and I really FELT your love and care . . . and how your love and care feel stymied or lost in translation. Thank you so much for sharing from your heart and whole being. I feel more in touch with my own now. <3 Hearts & Hugs!

  9. 9
    Mrs Happy

    A few simple practical points struck me as I read Evan’s transcript.

    1. Most people abhor financial tasks. People without an accountant’s soul really avoid them. Individuals for whom managing money is challenging, maybe they’ve been in debt or strained economically in the past, might feel judged or negative, and have a visceral shudder, about those sort of tasks. If someone is trying to allocate that sort of task to them, of course they’ll avoid that meeting.
    I think it’s a mistake to wrap up with that task request any sort of personal affront feeling. It’s not a personal slight of the spouse, it’s avoidance of a triggering discomfort for the bad-at-finances person.

    2. Lots of us want our spouse to do the tasks we don’t particularly want to do. In my house, one such is throwing the food out of the fridge if it’s old/off. Another is opening mail and paying bills. Without either of us ever agreeing, I’ve decided those are my husband’s jobs. But he is a hoarder, so he won’t throw until there are black dots growing on that piece of lemon. It’s positively unhygienic. Every so often I come across such in the fridge, and huff and puff. I don’t want to do this job, but I expect him to – in no way is this reasonable.

    3. Covid has increased everyone’s stress load. The parent home with their kids all day, and schooling them, and supervising various recreational activities, all of which jobs they used to be able to outsource to 20+ providers, plus dealing with everyone’s emotional disintegration, is buckling under the mega-load. The parent earning the money might be feeling the pressure to survive financially. Everyone is stressed. Any extra task being added to an already-too-long list will be resisted in a massive way. It’s not a personal slight, it’s human nature to survive stress by minimising jobs. And because of point #1, of course the unwanted tasks aren’t going to get done.

    4. Kids are born and suddenly neither spouse has as much time for the other. It’s interesting to look at patterns and expectations. When someone says, my wife isn’t doing much for me, she does all this stuff for everyone else, I accept that is true, but I also wonder about the flip side, i.e. is the husband doing much for her?
    What does he want her to do – listen to him talk? have a financial meeting? jump up and kiss him? – everyone varies in what they want from their spouse, right. What does she want him to do – listen to her talk? have a kid-related meeting? leave her in peace for an hour at 8pm?

    How often is the average wife being a wife, and how often is the average husband being a husband, as in, each doing something specifically just for their spouse? I don’t know but I’m guessing an average of a few minutes a day max. People will say “I work all day to earn money for you and the kids,” or “I clean the house and cook and care for the kids for you,” but really, even if their spouse died, those people would still do those tasks, the tasks aren’t exactly being done FOR the spouse. They’re being done basically because at a practical level they need to be done, plus, perhaps the person doing them wants to do them. Otherwise they’d swap roles.

    Evan’s title of this piece is about managing conflict. I think much conflict can be almost completely avoided by decreasing expectations, getting realistic about human nature, and trying not to be too sensitive to hurts and slights. All easier to type than do, as well I know.

    1. 9.1
      Jeremy

      But this is a slippery slope. Because ultimately expectations can get so managed and so lowered that the spouses no longer remember why they married. They married BECAUSE of their expectations. Not in spite of them. I really don’t think that lowering expectations of the other spouse is the answer. Instead, we should introspection about our expectations of ourselves. In the plethora of activities on our daily laundry list, are the ones that matter most to us the ones that SHOULD matter? Are the ones we’re spending most of our time and energy on the ones that we believe matter? Oftentimes not. That’s the problem.

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