Dating Interview: “We Need To Talk” Not the Best Way to Start a Conversation with Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is the author of the advice colummn “Ask Lauren" where she answers a variety of questions about sex, love, and dating. She’s also the daughter of John Gray, author of the best selling book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Today she shares some advice on how to keep relationships interesting and when, maybe, a relationship should end.
What is the most common question you get asked about dating and relationships? What advice do you give?
The most common question I get asked from women is “Why doesn’t he contribute to the relationship the way I do?” It’s frustrating to feel like you are putting more into a relationship than you are getting out and that leads to resentment, which can be the undoing of a happy relationship. So it’s important to understand why he does what he does so that you don’t take it personally. The reason he doesn’t contribute to the relationship the way you do is because romance is not necessary for men like it is for women so it’s hard for his brain to make it a priority. The oh-so-romantic “little things” are just not in his vocabulary, especially after the initial pursuit. So my advice is to stop doing romantic things for him, sit back and ask for what you want instead. Make specific requests like: would you make me a cup of tea? Would you rub my feet? Would you bring me flowers? I like roses. When he delivers, thank him profusely with smiles, kisses and glee. Give a dog a treat and it’ll train him to repeat the behavior.
On the flip side the most common question I get from men is, “She always seems upset with me like I’m in trouble but I don’t know what I did wrong. How do I make this lady happy?” Haha. The answer of course is romance! She’s upset because she wants you to plan dates, light candles, give her massages, send her cute love texts, wash the dishes, take out the trash, pick her flowers, do more foreplay and you don’t. But here’s the kicker…she wants all that without her having to ask for it. So obviously we can add “read minds” to that list as well. Most girls have these desires in common so try out a few of them and don’t be discouraged if she doesn’t have a big reaction. It may take time for her resentment to melt away and be replaced with butterflies and sunshine…but it will happen.
What’s the worse thing a man can do in a relationship that while well intentioned will cause resentment or issues with their significant other? What about the other way around?
The worst well intentioned thing a man can do in a relationship is put on the “Mr. Fix It” hat and offer solutions when his woman wants to talk about her day. For a woman, talking and sharing is a form of intimacy and bonding. But a man will interrupt her with solutions for how to solve her problems or how to make her “negative” feelings go away. Men will say things like, “Don’t worry about it,” “You’re overreacting, it’s not a big deal,” “Just do this…” “Don’t think about it anymore, everything is fine.” He genuinely wants to help her be happy again and this is what he comes up with. Unfortunately, this destroys the intimacy and bonding opportunity for the moment and it makes her feel like he is minimizing and disrespecting her experience. When a woman talks, she wants her man to listen, make eye contact, nod, make little “uh huh” noises, if she cries get her a tissue, hold her hand, when she goes silent interject small empathetic sayings like, “that sounds really frustrating,” when she is done, ask her, “Can I do anything to help?” Most of the time she’ll say, “you already have.”
The worst well-intentioned thing a woman can do is offer unsolicited advice. When things are good, women want to make it better, we can’t help the impulse. But what women need to know is that when you tell a man how he should change for the better (ex: “slow down, you’re going to get a ticket” or “don’t wear that, you look homeless”) it’s just as annoying as when a man tells a women how she should feel. For a man, unsolicited advice in the form of “helpful” suggestions can easily be interpreted as criticism, complaints and nagging. So unless he’s asking you for advice, don’t give it to him. At the same time, if a man feels appreciated in a relationship a woman can practically do no wrong.
If there are issues in a relationship what’s the best way to bring up and address the subject? Does this vary depending if you are a man or a woman?
The first impulse everyone has is to start with “We need to talk.” This will just put the other person on the defensive and over-dramatize the situation from the start. So my advice is to edit that impulse out. If you are angry and want to confront your partner about something, don’t. Go cool down, go for a run or a drive, talk to your friends, journal. Not only will this help you approach your partner in a calm way later on but it will also give you a chance to self-connect and articulate what you want/need from your partner. “We need to talk” has a lot of baggage but when you’re calm, cool, collected and ready to talk, try saying, “When you get a chance, can we talk about something?” This casual statement will give your partner the reassurance that they’re not about to be attacked. During the discussion, instead of complaining, blaming or criticizing your partner, describe the situation you want changed and ask for what you want. This creates an opportunity for your partner to succeed and can be the difference between a fight and a peaceful resolution.
If you’ve been dating someone for several years how do you keep the spark alive? Especially when there might be temptation or the “grass is greener on the other side” mentality?
We only look to someone else’s grass when we are dissatisfied with our own. As long as you get your needs met from your relationship, you won’t cheat. The key to getting your needs met in a relationship is communication. As soon as an issue arises or you notice you have a need that isn’t being met, talk about it with your partner and resolve it. Never avoid the confrontation. If you do, it will lead to suppressed feelings, resentment, rejection and the end of a happy relationship.
When it comes to keeping the spark alive, in addition to the above advice, it’s important to have sex regularly with your partner. Not the 3 minute pump and grunt, although quickies can be fun sometimes. I’m talking about making love, connecting, foreplay, Play! Keep it spicy by trying new positions, experimenting with toys, talking about what you like, what you’re curious about trying. Remember to play with your partner. If playful connecting sex is regular and you deal with problems as they arise, then all your attention, devotion and care will be directed toward your own grass and there won’t be anything left for someone else’s.
When do you think relationships should end? Let’s say for example a couple has been doing OK, but lately has been growing apart. Maybe they’ve talked about it, but nothing changes. Is that when they might consider end the relationship?
A relationship should end when it feels hopeless; when you’ve exhausted all other solutions and you see that you’re never going to get your needs met. I always recommend that people self-connect with their priorities and make a decision based on that. If you love someone and you want to get married but they don’t, do you stay with them? What’s more important: getting married or being with this person? See? If you love someone who isn’t financially secure but you want to start a family soon, do you stay with them? What’s more important: financial security, keeping up a certain standard of living, or starting a family with this person? Prioritize what you need in life and then make a decision based on that. You’re never trapped. You will find love again.
If a couple is simply growing apart, this isn’t the time to break up. This is the time to seek help to better your relationship. Seek out counseling, read a self-help book, read Mars Venus on a Date, check out my dating advice column at marsvenus.com, etc. This is the time to invest new energy into the relationship and fix what needs fixing. Probably you’ve started to take each other for granted. So my advice is to go back to the beginning, where a man plans the date, where a woman gets dressed up, where you hold hands, slow dance, hike, have a picnic and just spend quality time together. This will often bring back the original spark and connection. That way you can then build your new relationship skills on a solid foundation of fun, trust and love.
But ultimately, if the damage is too deep, you can’t salvage the spark and you’re not getting your needs met then it may be time to say goodbye and move on to something new.