Saturday, October 01, 2005

True Love

Now, I’m not a marriage expert or anything, but I have been with Peter for 10 years, which has allowed me to draw some conclusions about relationships. It seems to me like most arguments are either about money or about a misunderstanding, a flawed communication process.

I realise there’s probably a third cause – jealousy – but we’ve been lucky enough never to have to be afflicted with that. In fact, I point out chicks in short skirts and those ridiculous but inexplicably-fashionable suede snow boots and he points out buff guys running without shirts. (Sadly, there are far too few of the latter and far too many of the former.)

This morning we were discussing the possibility that there is a tiny possibility I might become gainfully employed in the near future, which would scupper my plans to accompany him on a photographic expedition in deepest, darkest County Cork at the end of the month. Peter joked about who would keep him warm and entertained on those long, cold Cork nights.

Then we had one of those conversations that could end in tears if you don’t have the right sense of humor and understanding.

Him: So, if I were to have a fling…

Me: But you’re not, right.

Ed. Note: I trust him, but it’s that whole motive, means, opportunity thing. As it’s possible he’ll have the second two soon, I want to make sure we’re both on the same page in the motive department.

Him: No, of course not.

Me: Right. Carry on then.

Him: So, if I were to have a fling, would you rather it be with an Irish girl or a Continental European girl.

Me: Irish girl.

Him: Why?

Me: Because an Irish girl is just an Irish girl but a Continental European girl is all sexy and shit.

Him: OK, so then would you rather it be an Eastern European girl or a non-Eastern European girl?

Me: An Eastern European girl, definitely.

Him: Why?

Me: Because if it’s an Eastern European girl, then I could imagine that she was just all skanky and whorey and that would just mean that there was something wrong with you. But if it was a French or an Italian or a Spanish girl and she’s all sexy and sultry and every-thing-I’m-not, then it’s that there was something wrong with me.

He laughed, then I turned the tables on him.

Him: So, a fling with an Irish guy or a European guy? An Irish guy would be worse. If it was a European guy then it was just fooling around but if it was an Irish guy, that would mean he was just like me, like you were looking to replace me. It would just be more serious.

It was a fun, silly conversation. I know he’s not going to run off with a sultry Simone or Monique and he knows I’m not going to shack up with a regular Liam or Séan. But just because we can joke about torrid affairs doesn’t mean we always listen carefully or communicate perfectly. Most of our arguments are rooted in fundamental communication breakdowns. I was thinking about this yesterday and I realised it was because what we hear isn’t always what was said. Here are a few examples:

He says: We’ll leave soon.
I hear: We’ll leave in five minutes.

I ask: Can we go do some weird activity that I’m going to love and you’re going to tolerate?
He says: Perhaps.
I hear: No way, José.

I say: Can you please do the laundry.
He hears: Can you please do the laundry sometime in the next century.
He knows: If he doesn’t do it soon, I’ll do it and he’ll be off the hook.

I say: Can we go to the beach now?
He says: No, how about this afternoon.
I hear: At precisely 1pm, we will go to the beach.
1 pm rolls around.
I say: Can we go to the beach now?
He says: No, I need to finish this first.
I hear: I have no intention of going to the beach today. You’re going by yourself if you’re going at all.
He meant: Not this minute, I’m doing something important. We’ll go in a couple of hours.

Like I said, we’ve been together for ten years. I know that we have these miscommunication problems. I should know by now what he means by “perhaps” and “soon”. But, like they say in the advertising industry, perception is reality. My perceptions are hard-wired, based on my innate personality. I’m a do-things-now-go-go-go terrier of a person. He’s more of an I-like-to-have-fun-but-I-also-like-to-lay-around Lab-Great Dane mix.

Whenever I have a meltdown because I thought we were leaving now and he wants to leave in a few hours, I remind myself that it’s no one’s fault but mine for not listening and asking questions to pin down details. But since we can recognise that it’s happening, we can quickly get over it and get to the part where we laugh and point out chicks with snow boots and discuss hypothetical affairs. If that’s not true love, I don’t know what is.


At 5 October 2005 at 01:13, Blogger Arbusto said...

My girlfriend and I have had some of these communication problems. There are things I've said over which she gets upset. The thing is I never mean it how she takes it. So I've told her, "if there are two possibilities to how I intend something, one of which hurts you, I mean the other." Or something like that.

At 5 October 2005 at 22:36, Blogger -Ann said...

Is she a law student too? I imagine that two law students together could be a scary thing and that arguments could devolve into word splicing and semantics.

But I like that idea, to apply a sort of "harmless intent" to all statements. Unfortunately, logic is very difficult to apply to emotions. Any man who has said to his woman "you're looking healthy today" and had to hear back "are you saying I look fat?" knows this all too well.

At 9 October 2005 at 00:39, Blogger Career Guy said...

Peter would have another problem besides you if he was fooling around. :-))

At 9 October 2005 at 03:27, Blogger Arbusto said...

No, she's not a law student.


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