A week ago I had the opportunity to sit with a young man and have a meaningful conversation. I will start by saying that I am glad to not be young in this day and age. The loss of privacy between this generation and mine is astounding. The social media causes one to either be completely antisocial or more visible than they are comfortable with. If I had to deal with that in my early 20's and try to maintain a relationship, I never would have made it.
We talked about how I had a long-distance relationship (with my now husband) throughout college. He was astounded that we had a phone date once a week where we spoke for an hour. That it all. The bill cost too much for anything more, although we did have an occasional 5 minute quickie conversation, we really only spoke once a week... for 4 years... and saw each other on major holidays.
When we compared this to how the young people's conversations work, with daily and sometimes hourly texting, he asked me to draw a comparison... I could not. My husband and I don't even communicate like the young people do these days. Keeping track of each others every move and their every mood. I don't know if our relationship would have survived such a thing.
Finally, he asked me a question that I feel like I could answer... how did we handle arguments and
how does that apply to now. Here is my answer.
You must have rules of disagreement.
Back in my day... because we didn't speak often, we avoided disagreements until we got to see each other face to face. If one of us was upset for one reason or another, we would say we were upset and either change the subject, or politely cut the conversation short. We never, ever argued. The next time we talked, we were rarely still upset, or we had a better perspective on the issue and could politely express ourselves and then continue our conversation. If we were still upset when we met face to face, we had a conversation, that had been well thought out by that time. It was usually squashed.
So how does one apply that to todays' culture he asked.
You still need rules of disagreement. You are in each other's face all the time. It is easy for tempers to flare and misunderstandings to happen. You must decide in advance how to deal with these issues. I basically explained how my husband and I now handle disagreements.
1. Never blame: you can say "that comment made me feel bad" not "you said something bad". (see the difference)
2. Never pile on: If your significant other has a bone to pick with you, let them say their piece and don't debate it by saying something like "well that thing you did last week sucked too"... just say, "I'm sorry you feel that way, and other apologize or explain that you did not intend to make them feel bad.
3. Sleep on it, but not too long. It is OK to walk away upset. The world will not end. You're not going to agree on everything, and you will both need time to digest your differences and think them through. Get back together after a couple of days when your mind is clear to discuss these issues.
4. When an issue is over, it is over. Instead of facing the actual issue, too many people bring up and old issue that is easier to argue. Deal with the issue at hand and leave the old one in the past. Bury it.
It is so good to see how some of these young people have grown and it is a joy that now that they are adults, and not crazy teens that they appreciate our opinions and can weigh them and absorb the parts of the conversations that they find useful.
Being old and wise(r) might be fun.