Here's a newsflash: Your partners cannot read your mind.
I repeat: Your partners cannot read your mind.
A fundamental tenet of any satisfactory relationship is communication. The tricky part is even ineffectual, half-truths are communication, right? Too often we fall into the trap of sharing partial stories or saying only the things we assume our partner wants to hear. This communication strategy is guaranteed to wreak havoc.
Imagine you are sailing with your partner and you are navigating. You are looking at the instruments and you are gazing ahead to assess your course. Now you see a huge log floating directly in your path. You know this is going to flummox your partner. You know that this will create urgency, perhaps even chaos while the two of your work together to navigate around this unexpected obstacle. But in that moment you decide to say nothing, or maybe even yell back to the helm, “No need to be concerned…everything is fine.”
After you hit the log and the two of you are assessing the damage to your boat, your partner asks dismayed and frustrated, “Why didn't you tell me about the log?! We could have avoided that altogether.” You shake your head, perhaps teary, “I just didn't want to upset you. we were having such a beautiful sail.”
Hyperbole? Maybe. I would argue that that is an accurate illustration of many people's communication with their partner. Add more partners to that mix when you are an ethical nonmonogamer and that kind of communication wreaks exponential havoc.
The solution is face value communication. Take the risk to say the hard things and the beautiful things. When you encounter an obstacle, say it out loud. And say it all out loud in good faith and bringing your best, most compassionate, most loving self to that communication.
Face value communication is direct, honest, thoughtful, and giving. Face value communication implicitly sends the message to your partners that you trust them to reciprocate with face value communication. It demonstrates your trust that they will hear whatever needs to be heard and generously work with you to create a solution.
Sometimes face value communication can feel unsettling, even threatening, as in the sailing example. However, it is a necessary strategy for sailing the relationship waters, especially for those of us who multi-partner. The feeling of discomfort upon sharing and hearing certain factual or emotional details from your partner doesn't mean you are doing something wrong or bad. It signals that now is the time for you to dig in together, listen a lot, and work toward a solution.
Trusting each other that you have the love and connection to honor each other during face value communication creates positive momentum for all of your relationships. Just like any skill, it takes practice. Be gentle with yourself and each other as you adapt to the more effective level of honesty and frankness. When you all hold the vision of a beautiful relationship, you will realize over time that face value communication is really the only effective way to sustain. Although you will continue to face obstacles, your reward for face value communication is sailing smoothly together around anything you face.
Thank you Ginger! I have been learning this lesson a lot recently. Moving from co-dependency to what I call “living authentically” has been hard work, but it has improved my primary relationship in ways I never dreamed possible!