“I wonder what he/she’s thinking about.” I’m fairly certain that thought has rolled through everyone’s mind a few thousand times in their life in regards to their partner, and for good reason. Communication is always the fire-breathing dragon keeping you from the saving the princess (and consequently the world, queue applause). Though it affects everyone to varying degrees, we have somehow decided that it’s a path we must travel alone, so as not to appear so desperate and insecure. The scariest thing about talking to your partner is that it doesn’t really matter if you’re great at it. You both have be honest and talk to each other; there is not one relationship that survives with one-way communication. It’s a terrifying realization; to find that your relationship is in trouble and there is nothing you can do about it. It’s like going through life with a perfect driving record, only to watch helplessly as a drunk madman side-swipes your ’96 Ford Explorer and keeps on driving. You can’t pretend the damage isn’t there, and sometimes the inability to acknowledge it just allows the already-deep wounds to fester.
So, the question remains; how do you get someone to open up to you? The truth is that you can’t make anyone talk about anything, but it’s important to understand that most people are just afraid. The nakedness that kind of honesty brings also gives light to quite a bit of ugliness. Whether it’s a rough relationship from the past or the terror of someone knowing the real you, we spend far more time worrying what people will think than we do understanding that everyone has these fears. I spent years thinking that I was just an odd dude (I know that I am now, thank you very much) because I was terrified to open myself up in relationships. My first thought was always, “How can I phrase this so she doesn’t wish I was someone else?”. I did that for years until I started to comprehend the damage that I was doing to myself. I stopped worrying about what made me happy, and my made-for-daytime-television responses became automated. Relationships died because I didn’t even understand why I was unhappy. It became a bigger issue than just my relationships; it slowly enveloped my friendships and relationships with family members until I just lost myself in the fear of rejection. Being afraid to speak my mind turned me into someone that was just afraid to be myself.
Somewhere along the line, I stopped caring so much. It seemed so climactic, kind of an end-all be-all event that allowed me to feel like I was independent all over again. But really, all it meant was I could tell people how I felt again without giving myself an overwhelming amount of anxiety and grief. I stopped complicating situations because I was afraid of messing things up with people. And you know what? People either liked me for that, or they didn’t. It was literally the same results as before, without all the self-destructive behavior that comes from worrying too much. All this five hundred-some word drivel boils down to is this: You can’t worry what the other person shares with you in a relationship; instead, give your partner unabashed and compassionate honesty. He or she will either follow suit and love you for your strength, or…well, they won’t. Either way, you will be a better you. Things will unfold the way that they’re supposed to, and those deep breaths you take will be more enjoyable. Slay the dragon, save the princess.