Thinking Out Loud


We spend a good deal of time in our lives watching and waiting for the opportunity to do or say something. In our intimate, relational worlds this is especially true.

We want to say something of importance to our partner. Is it a good time? Is the other person in the right frame of mind? Will I be able to say exactly what I want to? Maybe the other person will say or do something soon that will offer me an opportunity to act. These types of watching and waiting questions take up more internal space than we often recognize.

To some extent this is necessary. It is part of being thoughtful—looking for good opportunities. However, much of the time it is deadly and follows a circular feedback loop with plenty of good reasons not to act: he had a bad day, our anniversary is next month, I’m too tired, it won’t work anyway, she’ll just argue with me, there will be a better time than this, etc.

There is, yet, another kind of deadly waiting—waiting to feel differently. Sure, I feel this way now, but maybe later something will change. It’s true, our feelings change all the time. And sometimes it is wise to wait and see if what you think needs to be discussed continues to be important. That’s the good kind of waiting. The bad kind of waiting is the wishful thinking kind, and it usually is connected to a wish for the other person to spontaneously change or do something differently to make you feel better. That’s a really dangerous tactic. The other person cannot read your mind, even though you think he or she should know what’s going on.

Finally, most everyone is busy and, often tired. Of course it’s a good idea to approach difficult subjects at a time when there is enough energy and space. Frequently this is hard to find, so you must do your best to ask for and create the time and space. “Sarah, I know we’re both tired and this isn’t a great time to talk, but I would really like to find the time to talk about our money problems. It’s a difficult subject for us, so I’m nervous about it, but I’d really like to try. Will you help me figure out a time for us to do this?” Tone of voice, intention, sincerity, and vulnerability can all be communicated in this request. Sarah is likely to pick up on that and be willing to try, which is all you ask.

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