Dear Carolyn • I wanted to check this disagreement I'm having with my fiancé against a neutral third party. Every once in a while, I notice a situation in which his preferences or perspectives might be different from mine, and when those come up I like to communicate with him about those preferences and how strong they are respectively, to figure out the optimal course of action. For example, we had planned an evening together for a certain day, but a close friend with an extremely busy schedule wanted to have a short phone call to catch up that night. So I asked my fiancé, "So-and-so would like to talk Thursday for a little while, but I know we had planned to spend that whole night with each other. Would it be OK to talk with her, or should I try to reschedule that for the future?" He said that was fine, but later expressed that he didn't understand why I didn't just assume he'd rather I spend the time with him, and that in general he'd prefer I sometimes try to anticipate his desires rather than always asking about them. I feel like this kind of communication is an integral part of a healthy relationship, and I'm not really inclined to do less of it and more guessing. What do you think?
Dear Communicating • I think there are times when I want to apologize to everyone for advising so much talk. Your fiancé is right that there's merit in treating some things as obvious. You have plans, so you can assume he wants to see you, right? But there's more to it than that. By running your conflict by him as you did, you basically assigned the Thursday night decision to him without taking any position of your own. That can seem respectful on its face but notice that you're not actually saying, and owning, what you would prefer. If you instead had come clean then you'd have given your fiance a chance to weigh in without crossing the boundary into making your decision for you. And it is a boundary issue, if a subtle one. Communication isn't just about asking questions and seeking input. It's also about knowing yourself, making clear and consistent choices and being transparent about them with others.
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