I really liked your article “I Wish I Didn’t Feel Like Having Deep Conversations Right Before Bed.” It was relevant to me because I’ve been in both positions. I’ve been the person wanting to talk about something heavy at the wrong time and also the person who just wants to get to sleep already and is annoyed.
You really captured the “I want to talk about it” side of it well, but I gotta say… The ending was a little unresolved. Felt like you left me hanging. Maybe that was intentional?
How did it go? Did he ever get back to you? Were you able to talk things out? Did you have any tips for dealing with these situations? Thanks.
Aww, so glad you liked the piece. Yes, the ambiguous ending was intentional. That writing was less of a how-to article and more a validation post/slice of life for people who might experience similar conflicts. I thought about writing in some emotional closure, but as I was trying to capture that unresolved feeling, I decided to end it once I’d sent the message but before he wrote back.
You weren’t the only one who wrote in by the way! I received a few other private messages and several comments spread across Poly Land’s social media presence that expressed similar things. “I hope he got back to you sooner rather than later” or some variant thereof was something I heard a few times.
Here Is What Happened
Here is what happened the next day, after I sent him the issue in text chat: He got back to me an hour later. Again, we were both at work, so this is actually pretty speedy. He is in a lot of meetings for his job, so he has swaths of time where he’s unavailable. And even though I’m a full-time writer, which is a fairly interruptible and asynchronous gig, I do have times when I will get very focused on whatever I’m writing and sometimes will lose two or three hours and not respond to text messages or calls either.
I sent him 155 words and an emoji, spread out over seven lines of chat. So it wasn’t short but wasn’t long
He sent two lines of chat back. One line of chat was an emote. The second was a short sentence of four words.
I sent a couple of sentences back to him to confirm that I understood where he was coming from.
He wrote me a third line of chat. It was “yup.”
I wrote back “okay good.”
And we moved on to other things. The issue is resolved. I feel good about things.
Part of me does wonder if we could have just had that quick talk before bed, since it really was easy to resolve. But I think he dreaded that it was something that would go on and on. And I knew that pressing him would likely create a secondary fight that absolutely would keep us up all night. And it was a fight that I would be blamed for, for insisting on addressing something right then (even though I suspected it would only take a second).
Tips for Managing Communication Timing Clashes
You asked if I had any tips. I feel like I’m getting better at these sorts of communication timing clashes all the time — but that I still have a lot to learn.
I do have one that might be of help. A big part for me transforming this from a BIG DEAL to a minor annoyance has been learning to manage ambiguity and waiting a little better.
Obviously, as I said in the first piece, I didn’t sleep great, but I also managed to wait until the next day to put out the information in another way.
In the past, it would have been very easy to push the other person to have the talk anyway — and end up in a grumpy fight that had NEITHER of us sleeping well at night.
In general, becoming more patient about hearing back from people has been a really important skillset for me to develop. I’m really glad I’ve built it up over the years. Just because we’re all virtual now (especially right now, during the pandemic), it doesn’t mean that people are at our beck and call. Even those closest to us often have other important responsibilities that rival deep romantic or friendship bonds — like work (gotta get your survival situated), childcare, activism, etc.
It can be tough when you’re waiting to hear from someone, and it’s all crickets. I’ve found distraction helpful in situations like that. Sometimes it’ll take me a few tries to find something to shift my attention away from waiting on a response. But it’s well worth the effort.
I’ll Turn It to You: What Have You Found That Helps?
But as I’ve far from mastered this area, I’d like to turn the question to you, readers. Do you have any insights or tips that would help our letter writer or other folks in general? This could include advice that addresses the other side of things, the person who wants to go to sleep but someone is trying to talk to them.
Anything would be appreciated. Thanks in advance and thanks for reading!
Have a question about a post? Maybe need some advice about a relationship or situation? Write me. I love getting messages from you.
Your letter and my answer might be featured in Advice Friend. I regularly change identifying details and/or completely rewrite letters to preserve anonymity.