Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Updates: “Complicated Communicator” Responds

It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today we hear from “Complicated Communicator” who wrote in way back in June of 2011 in what became one of the most popular columns of this site to date. Remember “My Boyfriend Thinks I’m Too Opinionated” about the woman whose boyfriend of four months got really upset when she made a disparaging comment about a TV personality he liked? “He said I invalidated his opinion with mine,” she wrote, “and that I do it all the time, and it’s getting to the point where he doesn’t know if he can ‘do this’ anymore because I talk to people in such a way that makes them not want to talk to me.” She continued: “I really dig the guy, and we’ve had zero problems before this, but I don’t know if I should just call it a day here, or if this can be fixed. Please help!” She got jumped all over in the comments on that column, as did I for the advice I gave her. She was hesitant to share an update even three plus years later, saying: “How vividly I remember being excoriated in the discussion of this letter!” But here she is with an update, and I respectfully ask that she not be excoriated again (although I think many of the commenters on that original thread are now gone and this site has become more welcoming in the years since then).

Honestly, after reading a majority of the responses to my letter, I walked away from the site for a while. It’s hard to read through an entire community of people telling you how awful you are, when you’re asking for advice.

There were definitely some useful replies in there for me to look at though – someone said that they knew how I felt- they get excited, and jump in, without really taking the interruption part into consideration. That was me. And someone else gave me the idea to have him tell me, as it happens, when I am being rude or dismissive when we talk, so we can get it sorted out then, rather than let it fester.

Immediately after writing, our communication didn’t really improve. I made attempts, but he seemed intent on shutting down. Inevitably, shortly after, we broke up. I turned to the forums when we broke up, where I was given a lot of great advice, kindness, and encouragement. Some time passed, he reached out, we talked, his explanation was that most of his behavior in the month or so prior to our breakup was him trying to create distance and make me break up with him. He was dealing with some stuff that he didn’t tell me about, and, as we started to talk again, he opened up to me more.

It was like night and day difference. He told me that he loved me, and he was freaking out about it, because he didn’t plan to be in a relationship again after his divorce. I told him I wasn’t going to be with someone whose response to negative emotion is shutting down and shutting people out. It’s fine to be that way, but it’s not someone I want to be with. We agreed that he’d point out at the time it was happening if I was being overbearing in conversations, I would point out when he was withdrawing when he should be communicating, and, honestly, much more that needed to be sorted out.

That was 2011. Here, in 2014, I can happily say that all that stuff is behind us. We are still together, the communication between us is excellent, we’ve both grown a lot – learning to trust and to open up. We moved in together about a year and a half ago, and we are happily living in sin.

So thank you, Wendy, for understanding my point of view, and to the commenters who gave me useful advice. I know you caught some heat for your response, but it forced me to be direct and open with him when we got back together. I am who I am, and, while I can definitely work on my tact, I’m never going to be the person who doesn’t share her thoughts. Your advice gave me a jumping off point to reconcile our differences in how we communicate, which has been massively beneficial in the long run.

 

Thank you so much for your update. I’m really happy to hear that you two were able to work through your communication issues, that you received some helpful advice through the column and the forums here, and that you two are together and doing well. Best of luck to you for continued happiness and relationship harmony!

***************

If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at [email protected] with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.

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6 comments… add one
  • Miel

    Miel October 27, 2014, 12:42 pm

    It’s always weird to go back and read a letter from many years ago. I feel like the community has evolved a lot since then, and most of it has been a big improvement 🙂

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  • kaluu

    kaluu October 27, 2014, 2:01 pm

    That’s good! I’m still curious if the LW had had the “you’re so obnoxious” reaction much before the incident. I’m guilty of occasionally reacting too strongly as well. It’s never ideal, but what is helpful is to either apologize, like, “sorry I got too excited there,” or explain, like, ” ok not asshole, but selfish and rude because he did x.”

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  • Diablo

    Diablo October 27, 2014, 2:09 pm

    LW, I was going to abide by Wendy’s request and not excoriate you, until I saw that in your next to last paragraph you admitted to “happily living in sin.” Sin! Which we all know is a bad thing. Andy yet, you don’t even attempt to defend this, this… SIN! Lucky for me, all my non-marital sex was absolutely sanctified by the presence of true love, so I’m in a position to cast the first stone. I love the moral high ground! So good luck with your life of sin. You gotta be you, I guess.

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  • Lyra

    Lyra October 27, 2014, 2:16 pm

    I don’t remember this particular letter, but LW I’m sorry you had so many people attacking you. 🙁 Glad things have worked out.

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  • FireStar

    FireStar October 27, 2014, 2:43 pm

    I had to re-read the original comments to see why people were upset with you because I didn’t notice anything in the post to get mad at. Then again, I generally don’t have kid gloves on when speaking to my husband – and our synapsis do NOT fire in the same way.
    Anyway, I’m glad you are doing well and both of you are happy.

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  • coconot

    coconot October 27, 2014, 5:11 pm

    I am like LW, in that I say what I think, usually without too much of a filter. I never expect or necessarily want anyone to agree with me, but I have noticed instances where people get offended when they don’t agree with me.
    .
    For example, I told my friend “I hate long pants jumpsuits”. Turns out she really likes them, and she got personally insulted I said this, and got sulky for a few hours, when we were visiting each other cross-country for just a few days. Its not like I’ve ever seen her wear jumpsuits, so I don’t see why she found it personally offensive (maybe she just bought a pair?), or at least how I was supposed to know it was a taboo opinion to state. Same thing happened when I recently told a guy (who’s never owned a dog) that “outdoor dogs are not as happy as indoor dogs”. Obviously I know there are exceptions, and that this kind of statement could offend an outdoor dog owner, but I thought I was safe saying this among friends who weren’t even dog owners. Apparently not. For the next several hours, my friend periodically reiterated how insensitive, irrational, and “idiotic” I was for making the statement, and brought it up as an example in a later argument to demonstrate that I was “incapable of being logical”.
    .
    In those two cases, I think the reactions were totally out of proportion. If they had just countered with a respectful “I disagree, and you probably shouldn’t make such a strong statement because… ” that would have been reasonable, but that’s not even close to what happened. Instead, they had to make me feel really bad about stating my opinion. I think these examples are similar to what happened with the LW and the bf, though obviously on a smaller scale. I try to be sensitive to others’ opinions, but it is a bit exhausting to “watch” what I say all the time. My feeling is, around friends and especially a bf I want to be able to say what I feel. As long as I am not trying to force them to share my opinion and as long as I am not giving my opinion at an inappropriate time or for something that’s not my business (e.g. I hate that wedding dress you can’t return/ I really disliked your recently deceased mother/ your kids shouldn’t be eating so many sweets), I am not going to feel bad about it. And if a friend or boyfriend tries to make me feel really crappy for stating the opinion, well I probably won’t be sharing many more opinions or conversations with that person…

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