I Can Explain It to You, But I Can’t Make You Take It Seriously

a neon sign that reads "heartbreak"
Image by Paul Iddon / CC BY

I write a lot of articles about my quirks. And I will frequently get a specific kind of comment whenever I do. Ones that go little something like this: “It’s awesome that you know yourself so well. Just make sure you tell your partners when you start dating.”

And of course I do. Setting aside the public easily reviewable record that is this strange blog that explains me, I do spend a lot of time and effort in the early days of a new relationship explaining myself to the other person. What I’m like. How I work.

It can be an interesting dance. Because I don’t really like to sit and talk about myself (I know, shocking. But I tend to get a lot of that out by writing, and so I’m more interested in talking about the other person and learning what they’re like than the inverse). So I try to bring important points up as they become relevant, so I’m not constantly interrupting what we’re doing.

Still, there’s a standard bunch of things that I typically will need to tell someone when they first start dating me. (And frankly, often when I become close friends with people.) These are my greatest hits of “standard ways that people have misunderstandings with me in particular.”

But yes. I do explain myself to the people I date. Sometimes more than I’d like.  A necessary (though tedious) part of getting close to people. So it goes.

And that’s good! We all should be doing that as best as we can.

But there’s something else that’s important to keep in mind. While this is something we should be doing, telling people about us doesn’t safeguard against novel misunderstandings from cropping up anyway. It doesn’t ward off the specter of actual incompatibility.

And least often addressed — explaining things to other people doesn’t mean that they’ll take you seriously.

I Can Explain It to You, But I Can’t Make You Take It Seriously

We act  sometimes like simply explaining yourself to the people you’re getting to know will be enough.

But sadly, I’ve discovered it doesn’t always work that way. There are times that you can explain yourself — and the person you’re talking to just won’t believe what you’re saying.

Maybe they nod and agree but silently decide that they know you better than you know yourself (and I guess, in their defense, it’s possible to be so self-deluded that this is true, although it’s insulting when they start out assuming this and also equally strange that they would intentionally date a person who is that self-deluded).

Or maybe they actually interrupt you and disagree with you and let you know.

But in either case, the end result is the same: When the shit hits the fan, when what you warned them about has come to pass, when you turn out to be exactly as you told them you were, they’ll nonetheless act surprised. They’ll be caught flatfooted.

Even though you warned them. And warned them. And yes, sometimes warned them again.

The upside of this is that you’re better off not being with someone like that. With someone who doesn’t take what you say seriously. But that’s more of a cerebral interpretation. Something you remind yourself after the fact. It sure as hell doesn’t do a lot for the heartbreak you feel in the moment. It doesn’t magically erase the disappointment. The feeling of hurt that something that meant so much to you didn’t work out.

Even though you did everything you were supposed to. Even though you communicated the best you could. Let your true self be known to that other person, regardless of how difficult that was to convey. And how embarrassing it was to be that vulnerable.

They ignored what you said anyway. Overwrote it with some other image of you they had.

And now here you are.


Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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  1. Thank you for this. It took a long time to figure out, but my husband has done this exact thing. He has no intention of changing his expectations, but it’s good to remember that it’s not my fault that his image of me is not in line with reality.

  2. For several relationships now, I have tried early on to explain several things about me early on, the things ppl have often told me to wait until later into a relationship to talk about (particularly mental health issues). In one recent relationship in particular, whenever those things did come up later, I was accused of using my initial explanation as a “don’t blame me” card when it did come to pass later in the relationship. It seems like this partner thought I was describing flaws that I should be changing instead of realities of who I am. Maybe in the future I do need to frame it in terms of misunderstandings that happen. I guess I already have done that in the development of the most recent relationship. “In arguments, I freeze up. It’s not silent treatment but letting my rational brain catch up. I will try to give you a time frame in which I can answer but my brain sometimes shuts down, esp if it’s heated and I feel at all threatened.”

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