Despite (or perhaps because) this is the revelation that I had first and feel is most important, it is the last (and hardest) to write. I started off by calling the post “what I could do differently,” and then I tried to come up with a name that had something to do with compromise, but nothing was working and I just couldn’t get started.
Then I had a conversation with Jake this morning before leaving for work that cleared things up for me. Despite not being especially philosophical, he is definitely a logical thinker because of his profession :-) Here’s what I realized:
There’s a lot of focus out there on people’s so-called “love styles.” In case you haven’t heard of this, you can read about it here, here, here, or here (For starters. There are similar quizzes everywhere). The styles are physical touch, quality time, gifts, words of affirmation, and acts of service. However, each and every “love style” is more than that – it is also a preferred communication style, which means it’s also your fighting style. And it’s just as important to know how to communicate when your relationship is under stress as it is when everything’s great (maybe more so).
When Jake and I started dating, our first disagreement (I’m not remembering what it was about at the moment) led us to exchange a set of lengthy e-mails about our preferred method for dealing with disagreements. Part of the reason this was done over email (in case you think that’s totally strange!) is that I consider myself a writer, not a speaker. I am really uncomfortable speaking extemporaneously on topics that I think are extremely important – I need time to consider my words carefully, to edit and revise, and to send a final product that I think is a true representation of what I think and how I feel. Most of my truest communication in our relationship has occurred over e-mail.
Come to think of it, Lance’s and my friendship also really didn’t deepen until we were exchanging e-mails after I moved to Arizona. I was an avid diarist when younger and (before I basically abandoned it to blog here) had hundreds of entries in my MySpace blog, writing almost daily. Jake, on the other hand, prefers to have discussions in person. The agreement that we reached at the time was that we’d talk things over, I’d mull over what was said, and then we’d have another talk. That way, everyone got to express themselves in the way that was most comfortable for them.
Now that we’ve been together for over three years, though, and this most recent stress in our relationship made me realize that (like many things) we are perhaps not always consciously aware of what we need and why. Jake’s love style, for example, is quality time. When we’re angry or upset with each other, then, he needs time completely alone in order to think things through, process his emotions, and move on from the triggering incident. My love style, on the other hand, is physical touch. This means that when I’m angry or upset, I need a hug.
Of the few major upsets we’ve had in our relationship, I would have to say that every one of them has been prolonged by the fact that we essentially need completely opposite responses when we’re frustrated. This is especially true since neither of us ever thought about it in that way before, and so didn’t know what to ask for. That is, when we exchanged the original e-mails after our first disagreement, we did so with the purpose of providing the other person with the type of information that we needed to know to minimize fallout (since once you are upset, you’re hardly feeling like explaining rationally to the other person what you need them to d0). This new information that has come to light, however, illustrates that our understanding of each others’ communication styles was incomplete.
Now that we know this, we also know that in the future, we have to be especially conscious of what the other needs – even if it feels to each of us like the absolutely wrong thing to do, and even if it makes us uncomfortable and/or anxious to go against our own instincts.
Jake’s take on the whole thing?
“Is it too late to change my love style to gifts?”
What’s your fighting style? Leave a comment below, and then check out these other fine posts: