There are many ways communicate. There are various written languages, sign language, semaphore, signal lamps. They all have one thing in common: they don’t work by themselves. Someone has to actively use them to get a message across.
I was married for 24 years. As you might imagine, we knew quite a lot about each other by the end. All the getting-to-know-you questions had long since been answered. “What’s your favorite holiday?” “What’s your favorite season?” “What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?” “What do you like on your toast in the morning?” “What kind of music do you like?”
Not only that, but we knew each other’s preferences. He knows I am not much of a morning person. I know that when he comes home from work he needs an hour to decompress before you approach him with a problem.
Now I’m seeing someone new, and all that familiarity is gone. We’re back to the getting-to-know-you questions. I’m OK with those. It’s when we start getting into likes and dislikes that I begin to struggle.
Asking him is easy. I have no problems asking him what he likes to do, what he wants to do that day, where he wants to go for dinner.
Telling him what I want, that’s harder.
We’re supposed to be equals. We each have likes and dislikes which should be respected. If he wants to do something I dislike, and I go along with him and do it anyway, how much fun are we really going to have? If I don’t tell him I dislike the activity we’re doing, all he will know is what he can see: that I’m not having a good time. Being the kind and caring man that he is, he does want me to enjoy myself when we’re together. This means he’ll keep trying to get me to enjoy the activity, which I won’t. I’m not having fun and he’s getting frustrated.
This is not fair to either of us. It’s not fair to me to have to do something I dislike, and it’s not fair to him that I’ve set him up for failure. I don’t expect him to read my mind, but that’s exactly what I’m making him do.
One simple statement from me at the beginning would have changed the course of the entire evening, yet I remained silent. When I realize he’s getting frustrated, that’s when I’ll him that activity isn’t my thing. He’ll suggest something else, and this time I will let him know if it’s something I like. If it is, we’ll go do that. If not, we’ll discuss it and figure something out.
Done. Simple. Easy.
If I care about him, which I do, shouldn’t I set him up for success? If I care about me, which I do, shouldn’t I be honest about what I like, want and need?
No one else is going to know what you like, want, and need if you don’t tell them.
Speak for yourself. You’re the only one who can.