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Question about communication and visibility in a relationship

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In a romantic relationship, how much should Partner A be able to interpret and support Partner B's values and interests, and how much should Partner B need to be direct and clear about her expectations of Partner A?

For example:

Last fall I ran a half-marathon. I had trained for it all summer and talked about it nearly every day. Before the event I asked my boyfriend if he would be coming to watch me. He was non-committal. He did not come. After the fact, I told him I'd wished he'd been there. He said, "You should have told me to. If I had known how much it meant to you I would have gone."

For another example:

For the past year I have been working on starting a home craft business. I got accepted to be a vendor in a farmers market, and had the opening day last week. I have talked about it incessantly for months. Before the event I told him when and where it was, but I did not specifically say "YOU MUST COME." He did not come. Remarkably, colleagues and other newer friends I hardly know DID come to support me. After the fact, I told him I was disappointed that he had not come. Again he said, "You should have directly told me to."

And isn't he right? Logically I can't expect him to be omniscient. On the other hand, if he can't pick up on how important these things are to me, then it seems like he doesn't understand me at all and I feel completely invisible. Further, I don't want to tell him specifically to watch me in a running race or go to a craft show if he'd only be going out of duty, obligation, or guilt.

Any insights you might be able to offer would be most appreciated. Thank you. :-)

Edited by NewEdit617
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"Again he said, 'You should have directly told me to.'

And isn't he right? Logically I can't expect him to be omniscient. On the other hand, if he can't pick up on how important these things are to me, then it seems like he doesn't understand me at all and I feel completely invisible. Further, I don't want to tell him specifically to watch me in a running race or go to a craft show if he'd only be going out of duty, obligation, or guilt. "

Have you tried telling him this and seeing what he thinks first?

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Have you tried telling him this and seeing what he thinks first?

I'm not entirely sure what you're asking, but yes, we talk about this frequently. He says this is just a difference between men and women (that women usually expect their needs to be known without directly stating them).

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In a romantic relationship, how much should Partner A be able to interpret and support Partner B's values and interests, and how much should Partner B need to be direct and clear about her expectations of Partner A?

If communication is highly valued and recognized as important to maintaining a healthy relationship, then I'd say B should always be direct and clear about expectations to A. No one is a mind reader, and talking is the best way to let anyone into your mind. It is not a sign of distrust or devaluing the relationship to say directly what you want.

You talking a lot about something does not necessarily mean you value it extremely highly, sometimes you can talk very little about something and it means a lot to you. Maybe he honestly did not think it was as important as other activities in your life at the time and focused on those activities instead. Maybe he thought it was so important to you that he wanted to let you do something completely independently of him. Maybe he was glad for you but wasn't interested in those specific activities very much, so he didn't go, particularly because you didn't ask him to (the sort of thing where two people may go to a movie, but only one person wants to see it, so the other goes because they're asked to go and likes spending time with the other anyway). It's not intuitively obvious what things are valuable in what way.

However, if these activities are integral to your life and he's not interested enough to ask you if he could go, it would seem that no, he won't provide much visibility. You mentioned your boyfriend in another thread, and from what I recall, he doesn't participate in or value equally much of your values. A relationship should be pleasurable because it furthers your values, not because it's just a "thing to have" like a car or a toaster.

It's completely silly of him to suggest that this is just a difference between men and women. LOTS of people of both sexes expect their needs to be known without being direct.

Edited by Eiuol
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I have experienced this and as a boyfriend i usually just outright ask if my girlfriend wants me to be there. But trust me, it is really nice when I am given a very clear desire from my girlfriend to attend an event. People are busy and sometimes have a fair bit on their plates; it doesn't make you a better couple to communicate less and "read eachother's minds". It's cool when it happens but you can get a lot further by being clear about what you want.

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Further, I don't want to tell him specifically to watch me in a running race or go to a craft show if he'd only be going out of duty, obligation, or guilt.

Speaking as a guy who has missed one or two of these things in his day, if my girlfriend at the time had been more direct and just told me what she wanted, I would have gladly done it, not done it out of duty or obligation. If you're in a relationship with someone, you (hopefully) really do want to make them happy and show them support, and I much preferred to be directly told about these things, rather than missing out on the opportunity to be supportive. Her telling me about these types of things was a concession to my needs (as an oblivious guy) that I greatly appreciated, not an imposition.

However, then and now, I completely understand the perspective that one should be able to pick up on a lot of these things without being told. I've definitely run into that "how well should you be expected to know me" question a lot, and there's no easy answer when two people's expectations differ on that kind of thing. I always appreciated being told directly, but was also regretful that I had to be.

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"A difference between men and women" really means "a difference between me and you."

The broader context of your relationship is important. Even great values between a couple do not need to be shared as long as in net the relationship is the value to you that you want it to be. Does his behavior as a whole not meet up to your expectations? Another couple will have different expectations about who goes to what, how much support is needed, what support even means, and so on. But in this relationship, does having to be asked to go to something you really care about reflect a totality of your unmet expectations by him?

Another thing to consider is your expectations themselves, as others have pointed out with "reading my mind." A certain amount of mind-reading might be expected in any relationship, but, of course, only to a point as a mind can't actually be read. Consider your other expectations honestly. Can you expect them of any partner, not just your boyfriend now? If yes, how important are they really to you? Is it something you need, or something you think you should need? I think this reflection of expectations is important in a relationship. I personally found that the limits of virtually all of my expectations were altered by me, sometimes significantly, as they were tested. Other times, however, I found that the expectations held true as something I really needed in my relationship.

Edited by JASKN
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On the other hand, if he can't pick up on how important these things are to me, then it seems like he doesn't understand me at all and I feel completely invisible.

Reasonably your partner can fully innocently miss some things sometimes (and when he does you should be understanding) but overall the trend should be that he is able to pick up on what is important to you without you asking. This is not mind reading because what is important to you is reflected in your behavior and in the choices you are making (if you have been keeping to yourself about some great value of yours then it would be understandable for him to miss it ). However, considering just how much effort and dedication it requires, and the level of physical achievement it represents, unless you run marathons very often, It is not reasonable to conclude that this was not an important event for you. Your friends picked up on it and you did ask. When a family member (let's say a teenager) gets a part in a play and asks another family member: "Are you going to come to the play?" it is commonly understood that he is asking for this family member to come and watch his performance, otherwise he would not have mention it at all. This is not mind reading - this is what reasonably follows considering the circumstances.

Don't ignore your feeling of invisibility. Ask yourself what the tend in your relationship has been and that will help you to decide what to do about it.

Edited by ~Sophia~
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Yeah, just to kind of speak on the "not asking for mind-reading" side of things here, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the goal and desire here is for him to figure out what she wants him to do without her saying so and doing it. Rather, she would feel more valued and visible if her partner came out to her activities because just doing so made him happy because he takes pleasure in her rather than him just deciding to go along with it because she wants it. Or paraphrasing from a movie, Party A "You want me to do the dishes, so fine, I'm doing the dishes. I don't see why you're still upset." Party B "No, you don't get it. I don't want you to do the dishes, I want you to WANT to do the dishes."

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Your mistake is making this a "should he ... " issue. The events you describe are bigs ones in your life. Even I, a total stranger, can figures that out. If a so-called "friend" isn't there for cheer and support, how does he rate the definition of friend. It's the least I expect from my friends. It has NOTHING to do with mindreading.

Two years ago, I was in the worse situation of my life. Literally life and death. A friend I thought would be there for me absolutely wasn't. I didn't ask myself if she should or should not have to be there. My only criteria in judging the situation was that SHE DID NOT met my criteria of friend. Her reasons are her own. She had every right to ignore my very bad need for a friend. Just as I had every right to decide she wasn't a friend.

Is this guy meeting your needs? Just wondering.

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Thanks for all of the input. It gives me more to think about.

It's interesting to hear from those who like or need to directly be told things that they truly did not interpret. Perhaps because my personality is so conscientious, I'm constantly anticipating or thinking about what other people might like. Not everyone is this way and that doesn't necessarily mean they are evil and/or willfully hurting me.

On the other hand, I think the context of my situation is more along the lines of what Bluecherry indicated, as well as the overall trends others mentioned. I posed the same question on a different message board and someone wrote, "If he saw you struggling to lift a heavy object, would he come over to help, or would he just stand there and watch you struggle, waiting for you to ask for help?" I had to laugh out loud because that exact situation has happened time and again. Over the course of our relationship I moved several times (all within the same general area) and my BF never offered to help. I recall loading my car for about an hour while he sat reading blogs at the computer. And no-- blogging is not a major value to him; he often says it is a waste of time.

My struggle is that, because I am so independent and value that same selfish independence in others, I logically understand that I shouldn't expect anyone to invest time or energy for me. I hesitate to ask for help or support because I don't want to sound like a needy nag. But what, then, makes a friend? If someone allegedly is a friend and likes to be with me, why wouldn't that person want to help me move or come support me at a race? Why do we prefer some people over others if no-one understands us any better or worse than anyone else does?

But since justice and fairness are very important to me I have to figure out whether BF fails to meet my reasonable expectations, or whether my expectations are too high and therefore it's my own fault when I'm disappointed by his actions (or lack thereof).

On a related note-- is it possible for someone to not notice the things that are important to me, because he is not an impassioned valuer in his own life? If there is nothing in his life that he values as much as I value my values, then it would make sense that he couldn't comprehend how important my values are to me. Based on my 3+ years of observations this seems to be a likely explanation.

Edited by NewEdit617
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I think its silly for you to think he doesn't know the things are important to you. OBVIOUSLY they're important to you. *HOW* important, well - he may not know that, or he may - but that's beside the point.

What obviously isn't obvious to him is that HIM BEING THERE is important to you. Let him know BEFORE hand that it would mean a lot to you if he could be there for you.

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Over the course of our relationship I moved several times (all within the same general area) and my BF never offered to help.

To me that sounds like not even so much about needing to be told as much as at that time acting as though the reading the blogs was more important than helping you do something that would also be a nice favor to someone important to him. It's one thing for him to want to be told about some things you felt were important in a particular way (I gave some possible justifiable reasons for him to act as he did in the examples you gave before), it's another thing for him to put more value in the blogs than offering to assist you a little.

My struggle is that, because I am so independent and value that same selfish independence in others, I logically understand that I shouldn't expect anyone to invest time or energy for me.

Independent is not the same as not asking for help. It means to pursue goals and ends with your own mind, while not depending upon the unearned. A person investing time in you doesn't mean someone is acting a little selflessly, it also can mean that investing time in you helps you to foster the values that you pursue that the other person values in you. Asking for help or support doesn't make you sound like a needy nag if your life is made a little easier and your values are furthered as a result. Moving is a matter of furthering values, even if a minor move, so asking for help in such a case isn't bad. It is not like asking someone to find a job for you because you're too lazy and you'd rather stagnate.

I probably overemphasized the "mind-reading" point before, but if you are important enough of a relationship for him that he'd call you his mate, I would almost expect him to at least *inquire* about what the marathon meant to you because he wants to understand your values better. Being oblivious at times is not the same as not bothering to try to understand what is meaningful to you.

On a related note-- is it possible for someone to not notice the things that are important to me, because he is not an impassioned valuer in his own life?

Perhaps. If he were just drifting through life, then he'd practically need to be told what and how to value, which seems actually to be the case here.

Edited by Eiuol
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I don't like commenting on someone else's relationship, but since you put it out there - let me ask a question. This guy isn't there for your important marathon, he isn't there other exciting events in your life; he lets you lift heavy boxes without lifting a finger. What on earth does he offer you that's so important?

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