DEAR AMY: My boyfriend and I seem to fight every time we are together (daily). We have boiled it down to the fact that we are both insecure and do not yet fully trust each other. On top of that, it seems that we cannot communicate and hear each other well.
Each of our arguments ends in a relatively loving and hopeful way, but the fights continue.
I know that I want to be with him, but I don't know how to properly communicate. We have even tried writing to each other.
What are good ways to communicate feelings during moments of high stress or tension? -- Dukes Up
DEAR DUKES: Partner counselling would help both of you to create different communication patterns, but you two have some core problems -- your mutual insecurity and combativeness.
There are some very commonplace tools to help people communicate more effectively.
Don't communicate during a time of very high stress. Wait until your heart rate goes down.
Be an active listener. This means that you concentrate on what is being said instead of forming your comeback while your partner is speaking. Wait until the other finishes talking -- and then breathe before you speak so you can formulate your response. If your partner interrupts, stop speaking and wait.
Mediators sometimes use an object to assist in this regard. The person must be holding the object in order to speak. For instance, pass a salt shaker back and forth -- the person holding it may speak. When the person is done, he "passes the salt" (hint: no sharp objects, please).
Concentrate on using neutral language. Repeat your partner's main point before rebutting: "I hear you saying that this bothers you." Speak only to your own feelings, not your partner's actions: "I feel disrespected when I have to wait a long time for you" instead of, "You're always late."
Accept responsibility for your own negative actions and ask for forgiveness: "You're right. I was late and I'm sorry. Can you forgive me?"
You both should read, Communication Miracles for Couples: Easy and Effective Tools to Create More Love and Less Conflict by Jonathan Robinson (2009, Conari Press).
DEAR AMY: I met a woman who I thought was flirting with me. I eventually introduced myself and asked her out. She responded that she was just out of a marriage that ended badly and that she was not ready at this time to date.
I understood her feelings and had no problem with her answer (outside of the fact I think she was extremely overboard with her flirting if she was not interested in me).
A couple of months later I saw her. I asked if we could be friends. She responded that we could not be friends at this time, which really confused me.
Now she seems friendly when we are near each other. I keep catching her staring at me, and we seem to make eye contact a lot. She smiles at me.
I know some divorce blogs talk about how long somebody should wait before dating, and even though every case is different they suggest at least a year. I have no way of knowing how long she has been divorced but I wonder -- do I have a right to ask her how long it has been and if there is any chance she would go on a date with me when she feels she is ready? -- Wondering
DEAR WONDERING: You have a right to ask these questions, but your expectation should be thus: If she is truly interested in you, she will take it beyond eye contact and smiles. Let her do so. You've already made a declaration. Now you need to step back.
DEAR AMY: Your response to "Mowed Over" was wrong, wrong, wrong. There is no such thing as an allergy to grass caused by lawn mowing. Allergies are caused by pollen, not grass. This woman was trying to control her neighbour. -- Outraged
DEAR OUTRAGED: I know people who have to wear a mask while mowing; WebMD.com lists several common grass types that release pollen. I could imagine a neighbour's mowing schedule would have an impact on someone with an extreme allergy.