My partner and me have very different conversation styles, which can often cause contention between us. In my estimation, I talk less, listen more and ask lots of questions so I’m sure I understand. I’m also quieter when I talk, which means I often struggle to be heard in groups that contain louder voices than my own (which is basically everyone). For this reason, I’m not a huge fan of big groups. Give me a one-on-one any day, at least that way I feel like I can actually have a conversation with someone. Really anything bigger than three or four is a lot for me.
Jared is probably the exact opposite when it comes to talking. He will easily dominate a conversation, skipping from one topic to the next, confident in what he has to say and able to project his voice so everyone hears, even if it means occasionally talking over someone. He doesn’t ask many questions and is rarely at a loss for something to say. We joke that he loves the sound of his own voice but there’s some truth to it. We almost never got together because, on the first night we hung out, he spent the whole time talking about himself (although there were extenuating circumstances).
I think the difference lies in the way we perceive conversation. In my mind, good conversation comes down to listening more than anything else. It’s an exchange of ideas and stories yes, but, in order to understand someone fully, I think we need to ask questions. If I’m talking about something that interests you, ask me more. Get me to tell you more than what I’m saying at face value. Yes, of course, share your stories too but the way I gauge someone’s interest or show my own is by asking them more about their experiences, about their understanding, rather than bringing it around to me.
This difference in conversation styles has caused issues for us. We once had an argument because I felt he didn’t ask or show any interest in how my day was. For a long time (and even sometimes still now), I thought he wasn’t interested in what I had to say because he would invariably hear me, nod and then start talking about his experience with whatever I was talking about. It would make me angry because I’d wonder how he’d ever learn anything about me if he was always just waiting to pounce on a spare moment of silence so he could talk about himself? How could he be so genuinely disinterested in what I had to say that he never felt the need to ask a single question? “Yes, but I…” was just his standard response to anything anyone said no matter the subject.
I now wonder whether it’s just that we have very different communication styles. By acknowledging what I’ve said, he thinks he’s done his part in ‘being interested’ in what I have to say. For me, the fact that he doesn’t ask any follow up questions means that he’s not really interested and just wants to get it over with so he can talk about whatever it is he wants to talk about. A slight exaggeration but actually pretty close to what I think on some of my crankier days. I sometimes find myself resenting the fact that we talk about him so much but I’m usually the cause because I’m the one asking more questions simply because I’m interested in what he’s saying! AAARGH!
How do you solve a problem like Mar-eeee-ahh? Sorry, slight Sound of Music diversion there. It felt right and I regret nothing! But seriously, how does one solve a problem like this? Perhaps it’s something I’m just going to have to continually remind myself not to get worked up about. We’re different in many, many ways and I’m sure there are things I do that bother him: my tendency to be very easily offended, my mood swings, my desire to share a shower with him of a morning – although not so much now he’s getting up so early – I could go on.
It may sound a bit sad but the gloss kind of wears off when you’ve been together as long as we have. It becomes very easy to focus on the faults and not the things that work. To pick and pick and pick until you’re both shabby and frayed and there’s nothing left. That’s right around the time when ‘Why did I fall in love with this person?’ can become a very hard question to answer, depending on what day it is. Just think about it – it was ten years ago (maybe a bit less) when we fell in love! I was 23 and he was 20. We’re such different people now and, looking at it that way, I can see how people grow apart.
It’s almost like you have to find ways to fall in love over and over again otherwise it just fades away. And it’s hard work. Once that shiny veneer is gone, you’re on your own to make something from what’s left of that fiery love at the beginning. It’s definitely not easy and it’s nothing like any fucking rom-com I’ve ever watched (I try not to watch them at all these days). But, when things go right, even if that’s only 6 days out of 7, it’s worth it. And then you just have to survive that seventh day. Maybe by hiding under the doona and not coming out? I’m told that’s the best way to not fuck anything up.
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