Well, I promised you on Tuesday that I would follow through with this week’s strategy and ask my husband what he finds most difficult about being in a relationship with me. The results are in, and it ain’t pretty, folks!
When I first asked, my husband tried his best to get around the question without answering it directly. He told me that the most difficult thing about our relationship, like any relationship, was finding ways to balance our separate wants and needs and make our way to workable compromises. Obviously, that’s a tricky thing to balance in any relationship, but I couldn’t let myself off that easily, so I dug deeper.
After a few unsuccessful rephrasings of the question, I finally hit on one that worked: “What is the most obnoxious thing that I do in our relationship?” He was reluctant to answer the question, which tells me that he is not naturally inclined to upset anyone and that I tend to be defensive enough that stating frustrations directly can be tricky.
He finally shared two frustrations because he said he couldn’t decide which one was a bigger deal to him. First, he felt I could be emotionally needy at times, needing hugs and cuddles when he wasn’t necessarily ready or able to give them. Second, he said that I sometimes don’t take his priorities into account as much as my own.
These weren’t necessarily the things I expected him to say, but I can see where he is coming from. I don’t think I’m extremely needy emotionally, but I have my moments, and since he not emotionally needy at all, I can see how that could be frustrating for him. I can also definitely see that giving more weight to his priorities is something I should work on. I can get so stuck in my own plans and goals sometimes that I’m not willing to let them be sidetracked by anything, even if he has an equally valid consideration that I should consider.
Now, I must admit that the reflections I’ve shared above were not my first thoughts. I tried to be accepting while he was telling me his thoughts, but I caught my mind trying to wander off into defensive patterns a few times. I found myself thinking, “Well, he does that too!” or “Yeah, but he does this…” Fortunately, I was able to catch myself and recognize that my thoughts were an attempt to protect myself, not valid additions to the conversation. Instead of voicing any of those thoughts, I thanked him for giving me the information and told him that I think it is helpful to know what he thinks because it can point out blind spots I haven’t recognized.
It was a tough conversation for me, and it required considerable bravery and self-control both to have the conversation and to resist defending myself. However, I feel like it was very beneficial. Not only did my husband have a chance to voice his concerns, but I feel more comfortable because I can be confident now that I know what he is struggling with, instead of wondering and guessing, which leaves a lot of room for interpretation and unnecessary worry. I also feel closer to him because only people who are truly close can talk that honestly with each other and not fear that the relationship will fall to pieces.
As scary as it is to ask your partner what you do that makes the relationship difficult for the other person, I can now say from experience that I think it is worth the risk. After all, your partner already has these thoughts. By giving your partner a chance to speak their concerns into the open, you can address their concerns, your partner can feel listened to, and you can both feel closer because you are communicating with openness and vulnerability.