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Tell Me About It | by Carolyn Hax

Find the maturity to communicate appropriately

Find the maturity to communicate appropriately

Q: One relationship, two distinct ways of dealing with conflict. The guy needs time alone, approximately one day, and will return happy with the problem being almost nonexistent (and will get slightly perturbed if issues are brought up for discussion too quickly after reunion of guy and girl). The girl wants to discuss problems immediately, while they are still quite relevant, and can't stand the idea of conflicts dissolving into thin air (but will avoid bringing them up to reignite fights). What's the compromise here?


A: There is no compromise here, there is only maturity.

Some conflicts don't dissolve on their own, but instead recur, unless you talk your way to a mutual understanding and acceptance; those tend to get bigger when you ignore them.

Some conflicts don't recur, but instead are merely situational; those tend to get bigger when you keep bringing them up.

So neither of your "distinct ways" will be effective, productive or healthy on its own. Each has to be paired with judgment to work well, to distinguish which approach is necessary. (Two level heads work wonders, too.)

That judgment can arise from experience, but I think humility and flexibility are better bets. The humility is to help you accept that Your Way isn't necessarily always the Right Way, and the flexibility helps you override your natural impulse to talk talk talk — or, in his case, retreat retreat retreat. It's not about meeting each other halfway so much as it is about meeting each other where the situation itself suggests.

And that's the conversation you and the guy need to have. Raise the issue of conflict in general, and not the latest specific issue(s). If even that gets him "slightly perturbed," then there might not be enough maturity to work with here. If avoiding certain conversation topics is the only way you can get along, then that's not getting along; that's just smiling for the camera, at best.

It's not the bad luck;

it's how he handles it

Q. I am 20 and he is 27. Met at our community college and hit it off. We've been together for almost four months now and things have been wonderful. The problem is that when we started dating he was smoke-free, has since picked it back up, got laid off from his two-night-a-week job, has yet to fix up his car, and is living off his disability check from the military.

He has been self-supporting in the past and I think he is just going through a hard time financially. I love the time we have together, and I know he appreciates all that I do. Am I wrong to still want to be with him despite these negative aspects?


A. Aside from the smoking, everything here could be bad luck. You don't dump somebody for that.

But you do dump someone — or, by the same token, vow to stand by him — for the way he handles bad luck. Give his character a chance to have its say. If he doesn't sulk, stays in school, pounds the pavement, finds another job, fixes his car, kicks the cigs and accumulates a steady history of not blaming his problems on others, then his "negative aspects" could just as easily serve as notice of your good fortune.


Find the maturity to communicate appropriately

06/07/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 9, 2008 10:26am]
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