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Picture this:

You walk over to the bathroom sink. You pump some lavender-scented soap onto your hands. You wash, you rinse… and you scowl as you see that the sink is full of hair – again.

“We’ve talked about this,” you say to your partner, annoyed. “Could you please remember to rinse your hairs out of the sink after you shave?”

“Oh, right,” he replies with an exasperated sigh. “Sorry.”

Understand Each Other to Have Happy RelationshipWhat’s really going on here?

He’s not stupid. He’s not stubborn. (Okay, maybe he is stubborn, but that’s not all that’s going on.)

He is quite literally living in a different world.

In his world, the sink is not disgusting.

Those pesky little hairs are invisible to his eyes.

Imagine if your mother pointed to a spotless kitchen floor and said to you, “See those stains? We’ve talked about this. Could you please remember to clean the stains off of the floor?”

You look more closely, and you see tiny faint stains that are practically invisible, and have basically become part of the tile. It seems ridiculous to you that your mother would even be able to see those tiny faint stains, much less freak out about them.

That’s what it’s like for your partner when you point out the hairs.

They’re invisible to him. They’re not important. They’re not worth noticing.

They don’t bother him, and so it simply doesn’t make sense to him that they really bother you.

It’s not that he doesn’t believe you – it’s just that he doesn’t get it, and so when you talk to him about it, it doesn’t stick. It doesn’t sink in.

What you can do about it:

There are 3 steps to helping your partner “get it.”

Step 1: Keep your eyes peeled.

Understand Men, Understand Women
Illustration by Martin Whitmore, from the cover art for The Usual Error

You can’t solve a problem unless you first notice it. Some tipoffs might include:

  • Confusion
  • Misunderstanding
  • Feeling frustrated about something you’ve talked about many times not “sinking in”
  • Your partner making a wrong guess about what you’re thinking or feeling
  • Feeling not seen, not heard, or not understood

When you notice any of these tipoffs, proceed immediately to step 2.

Step 2: Take a breath.

Remember, if you want this to get better – if you want your relationship to be deep, passionate, and stable – yelling or nagging isn’t the way.

Instead, take a deep breath, and remind yourself:

He’s living in a different world. He’s not being stupid. He’s not being stubborn. He’s just being human.

Step 3: Build a bridge.

To help him understand what it’s like to live in your world, you need to build a bridge that connects his world to yours.

Here’s an example:

“Hey, honey.”

“Yes?”

“Remember that one time I ate crackers in bed?”

“Yeah. I was tossing and turning all night because there were crumbs under the sheets!”

“When I see hairs in the sink, it feels to me like crumbs under the sheets feels to you.”

“*long pause* Oh.”

That long pause is your partner walking over the bridge you just built. He’s finally stepping into your shoes, seeing the world the way you see it, understanding how you really feel.

If you know your partner well enough to know which bridges to build, and if you love your partner enough to make the effort, you will be rewarded.

Every bridge you build brings you closer to understanding each other more deeply and connecting even more closely.

So keep your eyes peeled for this kind of misunderstanding! Catch it in action, take a deep breath, and build a bridge!

Over to You

  1. Leave a comment and tell me: What’s one example of you and your partner living in different worlds?
  2. Get access to your free eBook “Find Your Path Now,” to STOP living on autopilot and START living the wholehearted, unconventional life you were meant to live. Visit my bio below to get it!

Understanding each other deeply is the key to a long-term, passionate, fulfilling relationship. But what can you do when your partner just doesn’t get you?

Pace Smith

Pace Smith is the Pathfinding Coach. She helps sensitive spiritual nonconformists live wild, crazy, meaningful lives.

She’s the author of The Usual Error: Why We Don’t Understand Each Other And 34 Ways to Make It Better. She’s also a teacher, a speaker, a Sufi dervish, a bi poly trans gamer geek, an open-source Reiki healer, and a tournament-level Dance Dance Revolution player.

Download your free eBook, Find Your Path Now, to STOP living on autopilot and START living the wholehearted, unconventional life you were meant to live.

What Do You Think?

7 Comments | Join the discussion

  • AlabamaGirl May 3, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    I need a bridge for this situation: I became very ill several months back, spent 42 days in the hospital and 3.5 weeks on life support in ICU and was still sick 2 months afterwards! I’m much better now though! Before I got sick, my boyfriend would text me with Hey Baby, I really miss you, can’t wait to see you. I love you! He was there for me while in the hosp and took me to the emergency room on New Year’s Eve. He took such good care of me and my heart was so full of love for him! I know my getting sick took a toll on him and it was uncertain if I would make it through. Although he’s still loving and I can tell he cares for me, the Hey Baby, I really miss you, can’t wait to see you. I love you! have stopped for the most part. When I tell him I love him, he says I love you too, but I want him to initiate it!! He never brought me flowers when I came out of ICU and he didn’t give me a Christmas present ( came home 19 Dec) because he said he didn’t know what I wanted and that we would go shopping when I got better. I was terribly hurt!! I waited a year before I went all the way and had intercourse with him in an effort to try to get our relationship back on track like it was before (I wanted to have sex!). He still hasn’t taken me shopping for my Christmas present and I’m still hurt by that. What is happening in this scenario?

    Reply
  • Stephanie Apr 27, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    Lol @ Julia… Yea about the stove sink counter thing… I get so frustrated when I ask my husband to wash the dishes. And if there are dishes anywhere other than in the sink they aren’t getting washed. Wth is up with these guys. I seriously have to pile them all in the small sink Basin to make sure they all get done… Aaaaaahhhh men!!!

    Reply
  • Julia Apr 27, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    Yup, yup, yup! Excellent example, very nice read! It reminded me of Alison Armstrong’s concepts of “diffuse awareness” (female) and “single focus” (male). I have many acquaintances that would say this is backwards sexism, and I disagree: acknowledging gender differences does not make us unequal, it just helps us understand each other better. Of course there are exceptions, and of course people are not going to behave the same all the time, but I’m a firm believer that certain helpful generalizations can be drawn, along with gender differences (and I’m very, very curious about how trans people fall on such scales). And after we acknowledge the gender divide, we have to also acknowledge individual divides (though I think for some people the other route might be easier and less triggering).

    I don’t have much relationship experience, but I’ve been living with flatmates for a few years now, and I find it to be extremely educational, especially to share a living space with both genders (and sharing living space with men I’m not involved with allows me to become tolerant without being hurt; if my flatmate does something that feels annoying to me, I’m not going to get mad, but if a boyfriend did the same, some years ago I might have jumped to the conclusion that he doesn’t love me and does it to spite me—luckily, I learned better in the meantime!).

    Here’s one example that I saw several time: asking someone to clean the stove. Men will diligently clean the stove, leave it spotless and shiny. Women will clean the stove, then (even a pretty lazy woman like myself) will notice that the kitchen sink is dirty as well, that there is a stain on the counter, and so something about those as well. When you ask the guy why he didn’t clean the stain on the counter, he will say, with adorable genuineness: “Oh, I though you wanted me to clean the stove?” :))

    Reply

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