DEAR AMY: My boyfriend and I have excellent customer-service skills. Our customers appreciate the way we handle things — and yet we don’t know how to communicate with each other.
I try not to be rude when I express opinions, suggestions and advice, and I don’t think I am inconsiderate. In my head, for instance, if I tell you that you’re overweight, that doesn’t mean that I called you fat.
I am a very good writer; yet when I have to tell my guy to pick up after himself, “slob” and “lazy” are my choice words. But if I chose different terms, he’ll say, “So you’re calling me a slob, right?” and I admit to it. So I can’t win.
He has a beautiful smile, but needs to take better care of his teeth. If I suggest that, I am a nag, or I am offensive. If asked for my honest opinion, I give it. That’s just me! We are crazy about each other, but we fight all the time, and I am exhausted and saddened.
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I don’t know if this is a textbook case of needing a counselor or some communication boot camp. I’m taking the first step by writing to you. What’s next?
— Communication Challenged
DEAR CHALLENGED: Here’s a news flash: When you tell someone he is overweight, he hears: “You’re fat.” Why? Because that’s what you’re doing. When you tell someone to pick up after himself, he hears you calling him a slob, because this is one of your go-to put-downs.
And saying: “You have a great smile but need to take better care of your teeth,” is just an insult.
You should apply some of your customer-service skills to your relationship.
There is no more powerful way to love someone than to love him just as he is. This goes for him, too. He needs to realize that your bluntness is part of who you are. Couples counseling will help you learn to speak (and listen) differently.
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