I like to say that communication is not the words we say, but the results we get.
In my communication class, I say that communication has three parts:
- Transmission (speaking, texting, emailing)
- Information (what we say)
- Confirmation (they understand it)
So, what happens when we say the words, and they say they understand, but something else goes wrong?
- Maybe they hear and understand the words, but don’t believe them.
- Maybe they hear and understand the words, but don’t agree, and choose to take another path, anyway.
- Maybe they hear and understand the words one way, but don’t REALLY understand or accept them in the way we mean them.
It used to be that I felt like I’d done what I needed to do. I’d communicated. They understood. If they chose not to believe me (or whatever), that was not on me.
I wonder, now.
Because I’ve been in that situation SO MANY TIMES. And I’ve seen the pattern play out. And the RESULTS are not what I’d hoped for. So, obviously, my communication is off.
Because what I said was not heeded.
And sure, I could say that’s all on them. After all, I spoke only the truth. They heard it. They agreed.
But if it happens over and over, and I can see it happening, then that’s a pattern in my life. And I’m the one running that game. In some way.
A friend and I had a discussion this weekend about the challenges of “the feelz” in relationships. As I wrote last week, I don’t do relationships the same way many do. I tell people this, and they say they understand. They even agree.
And if it goes well, at about the six week mark (sometimes they make it to 8!!), it starts going wrong.
They want MORE.
More than I told them they could ever have from me.
More than they agreed to.
More than I signed up for, or am comfortable with, that’s for sure.
And it’s flattering. Ultimately, though, it is the beginning of the end. Because I can’t/won’t/don’t want to provide that. And it does make me sad. Because it was going well. But not well enough.
So, what happened? I said the words. They heard them. They agreed.
- Did they ignore them, wanting more? (This is common, and I wrote about this earlier this week.)
- Did they change their mind?
- More importantly, did I communicate something without my words that convinced them that I didn’t really mean what I said?
I think it’s often a combination of all three.
And that last one is on me.
Because while I’m definitely looking for FWB, with an emphasis on the FRIEND part, they get girlfriend vibes from me. I know it. Because they tell me.
And over the years, I’ve gone back and forth about that.
Because I like the things that give girlfriend vibes. I enjoy those with my friends and people I love (but not just people I love romantically).
Like sleepovers. Like making dinner for them. Like casual dates. Like chilling together. Like cuddling.
To me, those are things that are fun to do with people I sleep with.
To others (most others), those are things girlfriends do.
Even when they say “I don’t want to be more than friends (who sometimes enjoy benefits).”
Do I give those things up?
No. I don’t. Because they are part of what makes the benefits enjoyable. If all we do is get together for sex once in a while as a booty call, we are not friends. And I lose my lady boner. Even if they are stellar in the sheets.
I do feel bad, though. Because I know now that no matter how many times I say it, no matter how clear I try to be, they are probably not going to understand it the way I meant it. And they will get hurt.
So, am I the asshole for KNOWING and still doing what I do? Probably. Am I responsible for their hurt? Partially, maybe even mostly, if I’m being honest.
And I still don’t stop.
Because I want what I want, too. And it’s not worth it for me to go through the motions without it.
What are your thoughts?
Have you had an experience where you tell someone honestly and clearly something about yourself, and find later that they seem to be ignoring that and trying for something they want from you instead?
Did you also realize, thinking back, that you might have given “mixed signals,” or at least what counted as mixed signals in their interpretation?
Did you feel that SAYING it and being honest from the beginning was enough, or where did you draw the line?