Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: I’ve recently started dating someone who is much less communicative than I am. I think we both like each other, but is this a red flag? I tend to be an over-communicator, so I’m not sure if my way is really the correct way to do things, so I’m hesitant in ending something over a difference like this.
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DEAR DATING DISASTER: Oh my. You’re using your own self-doubt to rationalize away a concern about someone you’re dating.
You know the cliché that you can’t love another until you love yourself? Taken literally, it’s a stretch, but at its core is the truth that intimacy isn’t possible until you’ve made peace with who you are.
Your question is an excellent illustration of why: You sound uncomfortable with your own emotional style, and so you’re willing to believe there’s something “wrong” with it, and so you’re willing to treat your own judgment as unreliable.
The thing is, there’s no “right” way to communicate except to be honest and true to yourself. If you feel happier and more fulfilled around people who share your emotional style, then don’t apologize for that — heed it, and know you have every right to break up with anyone who doesn’t feel like a good fit. If you’re naturally outgoing, then don’t apologize for that, either.
Maybe you suspect you do cross the line sometimes and you aren’t entirely happy with the way people respond to you. That’s OK, too — but don’t try to correct it through the person you date. Fix it internally to your own satisfaction and to comply with your own standards, not to impress or attract others.
Why? Because the people you want to impress and attract are the ones who like you in your natural state. The hard work of making peace with yourself is worth it for that alone, but there are other benefits in the way you see and evaluate others. Being at peace with yourself allows you to notice different communication styles without the burden of constant comparison — and so you can appreciate someone, or distance yourself from someone, without the guilt and second-guessing that come with self-doubt.
If this leaves you with a swell long-term plan but no idea whether this guy, right now, is or isn’t a good fit, then by all means get to know him better. But don’t do it because you think you have some obligation to be more circumspect, or more open-minded about people who are.
DEAR CAROLYN: My husband has told me to not use profanity in his presence. I’ve curtailed my use of it, but I wonder whether this is controlling behavior on his part?
DEAR ANONYMOUS: Asked = OK. Told = not OK.
People who share space necessarily make small adjustments for each other daily; it’s part of the deal, and actually crying abuse or control on all such requests is its own form of abuse and control (having fun yet?).
And, people who genuinely like each other and take their commitment seriously will try to accommodate each other on matters too small to dent their senses of self — with “too small” being governed by pragmatism and mutual respect, not individual entitlement.
I’d give examples, but one person’s “small” accommodation is another’s deal-breaker.