Vastly different communication styles at play.

I like this vignette about Tony and me because I think it so vividly highlights not only our different communication styles, but also why freaking out is not the answer.

Last Thursday night I had been texting him a bit before putting Liam to bed. I signed off with a “ttyl” as I try to focus exclusively on Liam at bedtime. That was around 8:30pm.

I was busy with stuff and didn’t try to communicate with Tony until I picked up the phone to call him and say goodnight, just before 10:30pm. He didn’t answer.

So I sent him a quick text that said:

“Was just calling to say goodnight. Will be up for a bit if you have a minute to call.”

No response.

Twenty minutes later I still hadn’t heard back and was now fully ready to sleep, so I sent:

“Okay I’m off to bed. Hope everything is okay … Sleep well. xo”

I was mildly irritated to not hear back. A tiny voice started whispering maybe he was out with his female “divorce lawyer” who isn’t really helping him with his divorce (since he’s not actually negotiating) but helped him buy furniture for his place (hello!! Intimate action!!) and who called the Saturday morning Hy was at my place (I know what kind of “friend”s call each other at 10am on Saturday, right?).

I told that voice to shut up; I knew he was working or deep into some sporting event.

But when I woke up and saw nothing – no “oh fell asleep on the couch sorry will talk to you tomorrow” – I was miffed. I didn’t send anything right away but decided to just reach out and say hello.

I’ve been practicing not being snotty in my texts when I feel snotty. It comes from my choosing to believe – or act as if I believe – the positive version of events. I literally tell myself that it’s nothing and ask what kind of message I would send if I knew it was nothing. Because I believe the more I’m a snotty bitch, the less he’s inclined to respond. Why would he want to continue to feel like he’s doing something wrong, when he’s not?

The counterbalance to that is making sure I do take care of my feelings. I have no interest being a relationship martyr who is always sucking things up to my detriment.

It’s a fine balance.

So we had the following exchange:

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One thing I sometimes forget is Tony resents feeling like he needs to respond to texts when he’s busy or otherwise occupied. I’m just not the same way. Mornings between 7:30-9 he’s with his son and I’m pretty good about not reaching out during this time or expecting to hear from him.

I felt this exchange was a positive one, even though it may not seem that way. He told me his texts were making him anxious. I didn’t take it personally – it was fine even if there’s a small part of me rolling her eyes.

So I let it go. While saying “okay sorry” may have sounded snarky, I know there’s no need for anything else with him – I don’t need to tell him to call me when he has time or any of that nonsense. He will call or text when he can.

And that’s exactly what he did.

My phone rang an hour later.

He was incredibly stressed. He told me that the vacation we’re taking is compressing all the other stuff he has to do over the holidays. He has a long list from his ex Mary of stuff he’s supposed to do for their son (painting his new bedroom, etc). He has two film shoots before Christmas. He said he won’t be able to do as much of the “back and forth” running around over the next couple weeks (which means him coming over late at night and then having to leave early the next morning).

He was on his way to renew his passport which he needs for an overnight trip we plan to make prior to Christmas, as well as Jamaica. He had to print out a bunch of stuff but doesn’t have a printer at his place and is pissed his great printer at his former house.

Basically, he was grumpy. But he called me, which I really appreciated. He wasn’t retreating, he was reaching out for my support. I made all the right noises and offers to help. He said venting was helping and he appreciated my listening.

I went back to work.

I was surprised to see his name and face show up on my phone four hours later. He was in a much much better headspace and apologized for being crabby earlier in the day. He reminded me that he was with his son that time in the morning so sending texts made him anxious because he doesn’t like to respond when he’s with him. I have no issue with that at all.

He reiterated he wanted to spend the overnight with me the following weekend. He was happy to be charging through the stuff he needed to get done.

All in all, it was a good conversation and I was pleased I didn’t react negatively. The more I keep my mind open to his frame of reference, the calmer I am. I also believe we end up with better outcomes and the more he trusts me.

47 thoughts on “Vastly different communication styles at play.

  1. Great job using your self confidence to stay on track with Tony. He does need to respond more to fill those voids when you hear nothing. My mind would wonder to the negative if I didn’t get a least a text or phone call to assure my partner I am thinking of them. Staying positive does keep the relationship going unless proven otherwise.

    • Thanks Forester. I will find the right time to tell him while my texts may sometimes make him anxious, his lack of texting sometimes makes me anxious.

      I suspect I will need to reassure him that I don’t always need some big conversation but it means a lot if he just says “hey busy working hope you sleep well”.

  2. I didn’t find your “Okay.Sorry.” Snarky even if you did use periods. 😈 I do like your self-confidence showing by not showing him that you were irked. I think your communication styles are a little different. For example, if you sent me a ttyl text, I would think we were done. I wouldn’t be expecting to resume shortly afterwards for good-night texts particularly when he’s so busy. I would suggest trying to continue to relax about his communication style.

    Now, my question is why the fuck is he painting his son’s room at the soon-to-be Ex’s house? Hire somebody for that. His days of chores like that are over in my mind. I didn’t like the fact that she has a “Honey Do” list for him. I didn’t like that at all because that is telling me that he is not setting up reasonable boundaries with her.

    But you got him for a vacation and that’s what matters. Good job! You seem much happier and less anxious.

    • Eh, I don’t know. I don’t have this problem (no kids or ex-wives), but I can understand the bedroom painting thing. If he were painting his ex-wife’s bedroom, that would be one thing, but it’s for the son. It’s likely easier (and cheaper) for him to just do it himself than to hire someone. And better to maintain peace with the ex, for their son’s sake.

      I mean, obviously, I don’t know what else is on this “list” she’s given him, there may very well be some unreasonable chores there, but I don’t necessarily think that this is one of them.

    • I’m working on relaxing and it’s helping me significantly. I’m understanding him more and more, and not taking it personally, even if I don’t love it.

      I had the same response as you about his “honey do” list. It was irritating to me and I wanted to ask him why the fuck he’s still doing that. But it makes sense given how they’ve approached their son to date – he has only one place to live, which is with her. Until they get their stuff sorted there will probably be more connectivity between the two of them than “normal” for a couple that has split.

  3. I swear, sometimes I think the invention of texting was the absolute worst thing to happen to dating and relationships.

    First, it’s way too easy to mis-read “tone” in a text. An innocent message can become suspicious, or offensive, or angry, or anything else, depending on the mood of the receiver.

    And then even worse is how people are quick to read things into someone’s texting behavior, if someone doesn’t reply to soon enough, or at all, folks can freak and jump to conclusion.

    Not that I’m singling YOU out for this, Ann. This is a general problem that I’ve noticed. I read and post a lot in the dating and relationship advice forums on Reddit, and the issue of texting (when to text, when not to text, what did this person mean by this text, why aren’t they texting back, etc.) comes up all the dang time.

  4. The way you describe what’s going on for Tony right now (to-do list, extra busy with work, passport, printer – never mind Christmas itself), I can totally relate to his apparent feeling of scrambling to keep up. If I were receiving texts on top of that, I’d probably feel extra frazzled too – just when you feel like you’ve got everything lined up to be just barely manageable, along comes another (admitted small) task that seems to have a quick deadline.

    I’m sure you can negotiate a compromise here.

    • He’s like that fairly often but it does ebb and flow. I know the holidays just adds more stress because it reminds him of what he’s lost and what he misses.

      I will find the right time to tell him that while my texts sometimes cause him anxiety, the opposite is true for me – not hearing from him causes me anxiety. He’s doing WAY better than the first time we dated – so a little patience on my part is warranted 🙂

      • Clear communication of needs and generous interpretation of the other’s behavior will help a lot, I think.

        Maybe he needs to hear that just because you’ve sent a text doesn’t mean that he should feel obliged to drop everything and respond in 5 min. If he’s frazzled, I think he shouldn’t have to respond right away (otherwise he may get resentful). If he’s busy but not totally frazzled, he could use a quick code, such as “:-) …” which would mean “I got your message, I’m thinking of you too, will respond more fully when I’m able.” Just a thought.

  5. My husband texts and calls constantly and expects me to drop everything every time he reaches out. Every. Fucking. Time.

    I call my phone my electronic leash and the past couple of days I get anxious when I see it’s him. Again. What else do I have to say? I’m sorry he’s bored, or stressed, but there’s nothing I can do, no new thing going on in my life, and I still have kids and job and a life to live.

    I wish he would respect some space and know that I will happily talk to him at times, but not every moment is perfect for this.

    • I think I appreciate Tony more having come out of the relationship with Fox – who was demanding from a communication perspective like your husband. I know how it made me feel and don’t want to engender that feeling with Tony. I like my space even thought Tony likes it even more.
      This is difficult shit to work through, isn’t it?

  6. I’m feeling stressed and anxious just thinking about all the stuff Tony has on his plate right now..so I totally feel for him. It sucks having all that to do and right before Christmas. I can also get the text anxiety thing. You made a good call during this exchange and I do think Tony is making some good progress.

    • Thanks Sassy. I know there are a few reasons why but I just feel so much more open to accepting Tony (good and bad) as he is. Taking what he says at face value has also allowed me to not freak out. I just hope he doesn’t give me any reason to not trust him!! That would suck.

  7. Ok…the beginning of this you sound like old Ann: “I was mildly irritated.” and then “But when I woke up and saw nothing – no “oh fell asleep on the couch sorry will talk to you tomorrow” – I was miffed.”

    Why don’t you give yourself nights off and NOT text him at all and just wait for him to call or text you so you don’t have to wait to hear back from him?!?! And THEN you won’t be “miffed” the next morning when u haven’t heard back from….u sound needy and I just want you to CHILL and ENJOY YOUR life….my two cents…

    • You think I sound needy in all this?
      I don’t think I’m ever going to be thrilled with bad communication… But I think I’m doing pretty well and definitely don’t see myself as needy. Do you think I’m fooling myself?

      • You even say “he will call or text when he can” so my advice to help u let go and let things happen as they happen is 1) don’t send two texts in one night or don’t even send at all and 2) he even said the texts are making him anxious so thats a HUGE clue to stop texting during the day…are u fooling yourself?!? i don’t know really by what u mean by that…but just CHILL…he likes you so don’t get all in your head….

        • Texts don’t always make him anxious – it’s only when he’s freaking out about work and it’s sometimes hard to figure out when that’s happening. He’s also said to me I’m never bothering him by texting him or reaching out. So it’s not so clear cut to me. Sometimes he’s bored on set and likes to text and sometimes he’s not.

          All that to say, I think I am chilling and that was the whole point of this post. I don’t generally get all in my head but am able to overcome the typical assumptions about what it means when someone goes silent. I’m trying to see the positive in how I’m approaching things – that’s what I meant by fooling myself… Seems you see me being negative and needy :/

          • Interesting perspective. Generally I hear women expecting men to be sending good morning and good night texts and lots in between, otherwise they feel its obvious the guy doesn’t care about him. I’m not in that place and am accepting of Tony’s inability to spend even a few seconds touching base,
            so I don’t frame it as needy. But I suppose it’s all relative. You must be mega chill 🙂

          • I like my alone time…I actually turn my phone off at 9ish and don’t turn it on in the morning (unless I need to for some reason)…my phone usually doesn’t come on until I’m done with work…and yeah, I’m chill =)

          • I like my alone time as well – too much for Fox! So I do understand that. The root for me of more liking contact is trust and security, I think. Or maybe I just like to know I’m on someone’s mind 🙂

          • For what it’s worth (but I think you know this Ann)… I don’t expect a good morning and/or a good night text. I think my relationship would be over by now if I did 😉
            Sorry, couldn’t reply directly to Ann’s comment, so had to go higher up in the conversation…

          • Oh, I agree, I love to read him in the morning or in the evening too. But I agree, it’s the ‘not expecting’ that makes all the difference 🙂

  8. It sounds like you’re doing great with this. I’m so glad to hear it.

    When I read this *I* get stressed (serious introvert here). I’m not a fan of meaningless little text exchanges. I find them boring and tedious and they feel like ‘work’. That has nothing to do with the other person. It’s just ‘ugh whyyyyyy??!!’

    It seems like you are both trying really hard and it’s difficult to tell where the middle is, but THAT’S where you need to get to. Since it’s your blog we see you doing all this emotional work and we don’t see his side except through your eyes. I wonder if he’s doing the same amount already to give you this much.

    I wonder how you would feel if HE seriously said ‘Texting doesn’t feel sweet to me, it just makes me anxious that I’m going to disappoint you or that I HAVE to respond or that I have some obligation to ‘do something’ etc: can we just cut it down to ‘important stuff’ please?’ or something similar in order to better meet his preferences?

    That’s not my question though. My question is this: where’s the middle? It sounds to me that you’re pretty close to it now: it sounds like you’re both a bit anxious and stressed about it (I made myself laugh, but it does seem true). It seems that an even amount of anxiety and stress is pretty fair :).

    Ferns

    • (I’d add here, that if I know my partner needs a certain level of communication, I might try because I care for them and want them to be happy, but I *will* resent it at times, and it will mostly feel like a chore that I’m doing for them, not a sweetness that I’m doing for us).

      Ferns

      • Yes. I had that with Fox who wanted much more than I would normally give. It’s why sometimes I deliberately try to just back off with Tony and give him space. I don’t need to be in constant contact and I don’t want to be a nuisance!!

    • A healthy balance of stress and anxiety… Funny way to think of it. I can meet him in the middle especially as my trust grows. That’s the biggest thing right me for now – not worrying about whether this time he actually means it when he says he’s okay with dating / having sex with only me.

      If I’m secure I can be good; I do believe that. I’m not there yet but working on it. I think he’s worth it.

  9. While I haven’t exactly figured out what’s so great about the Apple Watch I bought myself, one thing that I DO love is the ability to reply to a text very quickly and easily with a pre-fab response like “OK” or “Can’t talk right now, busy, ttyl…” Or anything you want to set up. It’s just a quick press that might eliminate some anxiety and pressure about responding. So when you get to the gifting stage in your relationship, you have a potential gift idea. I am not leashed to my phone as much, and the reminders and alarms are worthwhile.
    I’ve been reading a lot of your Tony posts and I can relate to the anxiety that you feel when he goes radio silent. A very traditional work friend of mine was listening to my endless dating woes once and told me how both she and her best friend read and followed “The Rules” (it has a full, longer name I can’t actually remember but something along the lines of “how to get him to marry you”) and it worked to attract their spouses. I had heard of this book and the concept, but to me it seemed like the height of game-playing and I absolutely couldn’t see myself not pursuing something that I wanted, just because you are supposed to give the man the opportunity to chase you. I thought that as a modern woman, if I want someone, I can do the chasing right? But the philosophy behind this book is that men are wired to enjoy the chase and that by following the “rules” they lay out (even if they go against what YOU want!) you will be so attractive to the man in question that they will drop everything to pursue you. The drive to pursue and chase increases the feelings of attraction and makes them want you even more. And apparently, if you act disinterested, they want you even more! I wasn’t so sure about that idea- but they also say that if you act blasé, and they give up pursuing you because they think you don’t care, then they just weren’t that into you in the first place. (I think there is a whole other book on that topic too!) Anyway, the last time I tried following the rules it actually worked. Instead of doing the pursuing and being anxious when he didn’t respond to my texts, I stayed busy, kept dating several people and let him know that I had options and value, and he actually had to compete for my attention. It made him nuts he told me, and I think in his mind, I was more attractive than if I’d sat around waiting for him to call.
    So “the rules” were the exact opposite of my natural tendencies, but now I am a believer. I had to have a “rule buddy” to talk me through my natural reactions to break my old patterns, and it was like having a drug craving when he didn’t text or call, or i wanted to call or text him first. It was torture. But I never became the needy, high maintenance girlfriend he was afraid of- I was the cool, confident, busy, social butterfly that he just had to have.

    • I am weary of any ‘rule’. I prefer not to play games. So if I feel like sending an email (our favourite means of communication, I know, how outdated! But it does mean he only sees them when he has time for them so it’s less of a pressure on him I guess), I do.
      But it’s never emails demanding a reply. Sometimes I’ll ask questions but I learnt not to expect an answer right away.
      Just as much as there is danger in sounding too needy when you overtext, there is a risk of resentment from your part if you wait for him to constantly be the one reaching out, if you consciously refrain from communicating because ‘a rule told you so’.
      I think the key is in being honest… with him and with yourself. Don’t expect too much from him. Live your life. It’s nice to chill!
      Though not everyone has the same level of chill and what is chill for someone is going to feel like disinterest or neediness to another.
      And I talk as if I had it all figured out, don’t I? Sorry!

      I think you’re doing good! The most important part was learning to not take his silence as rejection. You seem to succeed most of the time, so good for you Ann!
      XO

      • It’s still hard to not see his silence as disinterest (I know it’s not rejection). But even yesterday, I told him by text that I missed him and he didn’t respond in kind. He never does, with that kind of stuff. So it’s a bit shitty, as it’s hard for me to distinguish whether he actually doesn’t feel the same way, or he just can’t say it.

        • Take it from me: he can’t say it. But he’ll show it in little ways, like trying to make time to write or text, or call 🙂
          Those are all very nice ways of saying ‘I missed you, wanted to hear your voice, see you, ready your words, reach out’. 🙂
          Somewhere in a comment, I read you said this relationship is teaching you resilience. That’s exactly it! That’s what it’s taught me too. I don’t know where it’s going, but I’ll have grown from it 🙂
          Hang in there. XO

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment!! I’m familiar with the rules and while I have a bit of an allergic reaction to them, I have come to understand more about most guy’s communication patterns and what happens when you push them faster than they wish to go. I’m generally willing to let Tony set the pace, but he also knows I’m not blase and I absolutely have to also take care of my own needs.

      I agree that if you back away and they don’t keep in contact, they aren’t that into you. Tony does continually communicate with me, it’s just always in the way (or timeframe) I’d most like. But I’m becoming more accepting of that as I learn to become more self-reliant.

  10. I’ll start with the negative stuff first. A lawyer told me a loooong time ago that living together (which is what I was still doing after the divorce was final) and/or allowing him to come over any time he wanted to see the kids is not “Divorce” …it’s called “Married.” Where I’m going with this? I think – and this is only my opinion – Tony should NOT be painting his son’s bedroom. Honey-do list? Oh – HELL no. Separation is separation is divorce-pending. But, I can also sympathize with his conflict. Now that that’s out of the way…

    Ann, I think you’re doing just fine. This is the second time around with Tony and admittedly is different on both sides (in a good way). You have your communication style and expectations – and while they may have shifted since the first time – nothing happens overnight. It sounds to me like you’re working hard on being real with yourself and aware. That’s progress in anybody’s book. I liked Sex’s suggestion above (sorry, too lazy to type out the whole name) that maybe he could just send “code” to respond. Keep on keeping on…

    • I too can sympathize with his conflict but knowing being around her makes him miserable (most of the time) I want to shake him and tell him to just GET THE FUCK ON WITH IT. But I know that wouldn’t be particularly helpful 🙂

      Thanks for seeing the positive too. It’s hard…some days easier than others. Some feel effortless, and other days (or hours) I’m frustrated. But there are way more good days then bad. I’m trying to focus on the positive and just be excited for our pending trip and take every day as it comes….which is not my natural state!

    • Cara, it makes me anxious too… I have trouble trusting him and feeling secure. But I’m trying to not act that way, as much as I can. Some days its exceedingly difficult, but each time it gets easier.

      I just don’t want to end up being miserable because my needs aren’t being met while I’m so busy being all chill. But I know it’s good practice for me even if things don’t work out with him. I said to my Mom yesterday he’s helping me practice resilience 🙂

What do you think?