We’ve said them. You’ve said them. Everybody has said (out loud or in our minds) these three very innocent words whose combined meaning packs a mean punch that can knock everything that’s sweet and wonderful right out of a relationship.
In fact, these three average and ordinary words can even make it impossible for someone who is single to attract the kind of partner she or he is looking for.
“This means that….”
If you’re wondering how these mundane members of the English language could do any damage to a relationship, here are a couple of examples:
Kim’s phone has been strangely silent all day long. Her boyfriend has been working out of the country for a few months and it’s been a tough transition, but they’ve made the best of it with frequent texting throughout the day and regular sexting at night. But all of this has tapered off over the last two days. In fact, Kim has texted him 6 times already today and he’s not responded once. Her mind is running wild with worries and fears. She confides to her sister her nightmare: “This means that he’s met someone new.”
Jared can’t understand why his partner won’t move in with him. They’ve been dating exclusively for over a year now and he thought they were on the same page. He thought his partner would be thrilled when he suggested that they look for an apartment together…but she wasn’t. She became quiet and things were instantly awkward after Jared asked. His girlfriend still hasn’t said, “yes” or “no” to moving in together and he tells himself, “This means that she isn’t as serious about our relationship as I am.” He’s wondering if she’ll break up with him soon.
In both of these situations, the truth is very different than what either Kim or Jared believe. Kim’s boyfriend has been swamped at his job (where he’s still relatively new) and misplaced his phone charger. Jared’s girlfriend is embarrassed to admit to him that she’s more interested in talking about getting engaged. She feels old fashioned and doesn’t want him to know that she’s morally opposed to them living together before marriage.
How many arguments, sarcastic comments, cold silences, hurt feelings and emotional distance could be avoided if we all just stopped saying, “this means that…?” A lot!
When presented with a reaction or situation that is unclear and confusing, it’s common for anybody to try to make sense of it. We fill in the blanks with what we guess might be the “real story” of what the one we love wants or is trying to say…and we’re usually off the mark or completely and utterly incorrect.
“This means that…” causes trouble in our relationships just about every single time we use it.
The initial urge to fill in the blanks may be unavoidable, but we CAN refrain from building on this troublesome phrase. It comes down to interrupting ourselves mid-sentence or train or thought. Notice it when “this means that” pops into your mind. As soon as you recognize the words, back up and really think about what you’ve just thought or said.
Really question the assertion that, “This means that he doesn’t care…” or “This means that she’s lying to me…” or “This means that I’ll always be alone….” If you don’t have iron clad proof to back up what follows “this means that,” it’s likely to be untrue and isn’t doing you (or your relationship) any good.
As you interrupt and inquire, remind yourself of the facts that you do know. Take out a sheet of paper and write them down if you’re confused and your emotions are intense. Pretend that you are a scientist observing a natural phenomenon and record anything you have been able to verify with your senses.
What emerges when you do?
Probably more facts than you previously thought you knew and also some lingering questions. You might still be unsure about what your partner meant or wants. The more you approach this as a scientist, the better off you’ll be.
Go to your partner with your questions. Please remember to ask your partner to clarify and help you confirm what his or her meaning is NOT with accusations or interrogation, but with curiosity and an open mind.
Jared says to his girlfriend, “I’ve been worried because you still haven’t told me whether or not you want to move in together. Will you please help me understand why you aren’t answering me?”
As you are calm, honest and loving with your partner, he or she will feel safer to be open and honest with you.
THAT constitutes healthy communication which is absolutely essential for a healthy, happy and long-lasting relationship.
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