“I don’t know that we communicate well,” I say to him.
“This is news to me,” he replies.
“Really,” he says. “I love talking to you.”
“I do, too,” I say. “We have good conversations.”
“But you just…”
I sigh. “Just because we have good conversations doesn’t mean that we communicate well.”
He frowns. “What are you on about?”
“We’re entertained by each other, that’s for sure. We make each other laugh,” I say.
“And that’s not enough?”
“Well, I can’t help but notice that we walk away from our conversations with radically different understandings of what the other meant, what we discussed. I always feel like I understand you in the moment, but then something will happen, and it’ll be clear that I misunderstood. ”
He nods. “Some of our biggest arguments have happened that way.”
“And I can’t tell you how many times that we’ll be talking about something, and you’ll fixate on one small thing I’m talking about and miss the entire point of what I’m saying.”
“I don’t do that,” he says.
“Well, that’s the thing. You wouldn’t think you did that. And I would think that you did. And we would both walk away from the conversation with the impression that we were both correct.”
He groans. “I hate when you do this.”
“Look for things that are wrong with our relationship that aren’t there,” he says.
“See? That’s another example of what I’m talking about. You don’t think these conflicts are there. But you’re not walking around feeling misunderstood all the time the way I am, because you’re confident you’re understanding where I’m coming from, but what you’re saying doesn’t reflect it.”
“You’re an excellent communicator. How could I misunderstand you? Are you saying that I’m a bad communicator?”
“No, I’m not,” I say. “I’m saying that we don’t communicate well. Or at least I don’t feel confident that we do. That what we’re each trying to convey to the other is reaching home.”
He shakes his head. “I can’t believe you’re calling me a bad communicator.”
“I don’t think you’re a bad communicator. I think we aren’t finding ways to meet in the middle. I don’t know why, just that it’s not happening.”
“Drop it,” he says.
I’ve always hated that phrase — it reminds me of how people tell a dog to stop chewing on something they shouldn’t be. But as the boundary is set, I honor the request. I don’t say anything else about it.
We date for a few more months and eventually break up after the communication issues lead to a complete inability to actually work out other conflicts that crop up.
We have amazingly entertaining conversations up until the very end, however.
(Note: This conversation happened several years ago in the past. Yes, this person and I aren’t dating one another anymore. But it’s for the best. We’re both happier.)