Good Communication Involves Anticipation.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 0.603% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Too many people treat their relationships like they’re playing The Sims.

Now, if you’re one of today’s lucky 10,000 who’s never played an electronic God over simulated humans, the Sims is a game where you maintain and monitor little people. Lots of people turn out to be very cruel Gods, but if you want to quote-unquote “win” the Sims by making your people happy, you have to nourish them – feeding them, making sure their home is clean, ensuring they don’t get lonely or bored.

You don’t have to pay too much attention. If things get bad enough, little thought bubbles will appear over their head as they fume about the filth or they dream about a turkey dinner – wait long enough, and they’ll tell you what they want so you can do it.

This turns out to be a terrible way of maintaining a relationship.

Yes, clear communication is a must-have for any relationship, but too many people have taken the lesson that the only communication that matters is what people say verbally in that moment. They play a game of verbal gotcha, where nothing counts unless you come to them specifically and tell them “I am unhappy.”

So they’ll play videogames for hours, not paying attention to their way their partner is cleaning the apartment or clearly wants to play a game themselves, shutting themselves out until their partner comes to them and explicitly says, “Hey, I need you to do this for me.”

At which point, then they finally get off their duff and do the work.

But a healthy relationship consists of a steady stream of check-ins. You don’t just wait for your partner to buzz in with the “HEY I AM BURNT OUT” – you touch their arm at a party and say “How you doing?” to see if they’re ready to go home. You hear that rattle in the car and know it’ll worry your partner until someone takes it in to get it checked. You see the dog needs walking and don’t wait for your partner to ask you.

You proactively tend to your partner rather than waiting for them to get fed up enough to tell you.

Because waiting for them to tell you all the time sends a subtle message: I don’t think about you unless you make me do it. Which is, at best, a passive-aggressive game to play with someone you theoretically love, and at worst is downright neglect.

Look. Good communication isn’t mindreading. I’m not saying you should be anticipating your partner’s every need like some sort of miracle valet. But at the same time, “knowing what your beloved likes or dislikes” isn’t mind-reading either – that’s hard cold evidence, accumulated over the years, and if you have dated someone for six months and don’t have an idea of what their basic needs are, then I’m gonna gently suggest you’re doing a pretty rotten job as a partner.

Sometimes, love is flowery speeches. Sometimes, love is hard discussions about what’s really needed to make this work. But in truth, a lot of love are these mundane little get-aheads, where you see something that’s gonna make your partner’s day worse and clear it up before they get there.

If you’re really lucky, they’ll do that for you too.

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous Alex
    Oct 5, 2019

    I want a Miracle Valet(TM)!

    -Alex

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