Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Open and honest communication seems to be a very popular topic in any discussion regarding successful relationships. What I find very ironic is that open and honest communication is almost completely absent in dating, or at least I have not seen witnessed it regularly in my experience. I have observed that this absence of, or resistance to communicating openly in the early phases of courtship is due to the notion that having to do so somehow diminishes the romanticism and spontaneity of dating. It’s almost as if it is expected that the relationship will happen spontaneously and romantically without either party having to openly communicate what they are thinking or feeling; and if communication is required too early on then the relationship must not be "meant to be.". I feel this is largely due to the impact that Hollywood movies have had on our perception of what romance and courtship is supposed to look and feel like. Movies often times (and I recognize I am over-generalizing here) portray the notion that romance, dating and courtship all happen spontaneously. A man and woman find each other in a series of spontaneous, happenstance experiences and before they even have time to discuss their relationship, they are kissing under the star-light in a Gondola ride while an Italian crooner sings “That’s amore.” Rarely do I see in romance movies two couples who openly and honestly communicate their feelings and intentions during the courtship process.

So, what is “open and honest communication,” in the context of dating? I’ll give an example from my life. A little while ago I was dating a girl, and it was going well. We were starting to see each other fairly regularly and it was clear that we had an interest in each other. A few weeks into our courtship and after seeing each other a few times that week I called and asked her out for Friday night. She let me know that she had to work until 9pm and had to get up early Saturday morning, but that she would like to see me still. I suggested an activity that would not keep her up too late but would allow us an opportunity to spend some time together, and she accepted the proposal gladly. However, the day before our date she called me and told me that she was cancelling our date because she was going to be getting off work late and had to work early in the morning. This excuse for cancelling the date surprised me, because we had already discussed those concerns when I asked her out. I was very much surprised that she would call and cancel citing concerns that we had already addressed as the reason for doing so. I could tell that something was off, even though she may have been telling me the “truth” about why she was cancelling the date, I did not feel she was being completely honest. Us human beings are masters at telling the truth, dishonestly. Her lack of being forthright and honest with me, caused a minor rift in our courtship, which in its infancy could have been disastrous.

Luckily, with this particular young lady, our courtship continued after this date cancellation, and as our relationship became a little more comfortable and sincere she confessed to me that the “real” reason she cancelled the date that night was that she felt we were spending too much time together. Even though we had a date planned for Friday night, we had ended up seeing each other on Thursday as well and she did not want to see me two nights in a row unless we were exclusively dating. She felt it important to make sure that she was still allowing herself other social opportunities until she was ready and certain that she wanted an exclusive romantic relationship with me. Now, had she expressed that to me when she cancelled the date I would have been completely understanding and supportive of her cancelling the date on me. However, when she cancelled the date on me she did not mention any of that, but used another excuse, which all though true, was not open and honest.

Feeling comfortable with communicating our feelings, thoughts and intentions is such a crucial component of all successful relationships, and it seems that lack of effective communication can almost always be discovered in failing relationships. If this is such a key component to successful, healthy and happy relationships, why not institute this key principle immediately in the dating process? I understand it may not be as romantic, and we would all like everyone who we have a romantic interest in to be able to read our minds and our subtle cues, but the reality is humans are not mind-readers and require at least some, if not quite a bit, straight forward communication before we truly understand how another person thinks or feels. Ironically enough the spontaneous relationships so glamorized in Hollywood movies are in reality by far the most scripted, planned, produced, rehearsed and down-right NON-spontaneous relationships on the planet! Screen writers meticulously write out every word the characters will say, and create the scenes where the characters will meet, and create the characters who are meant for each other, and the actors rehearse their lines and timing again and again to make sure the romantic relationship is portrayed as though it was a 100% spontaneous!

Now, I understand that there is such a thing as over-communication, and I understand that there is such a thing as two people being able to get on the same page without having to discuss every nuance of the relationship, but I do not feel over-communication destroys nearly as many possible relationships or existing relationships as non-communication, lack of communication, or dishonest communication. So if communication is so vital to successful relationships, and dating is the pattern and preparation for those relationships, why not start off day one of a new possible and hopeful relationship by committing to be honest, and open with your feelings and thoughts. Commit yourself to saying what is not just true, but what is also honest and forthright. I am convinced that doing so will not only alleviate a tremendous amount of frustration, guess-work, heartbreak and confusion in our dating and relationship experiences, but will also allow for more opportunities to attract a person into our life who is also a like communicator. Leave the scripted relationships to Hollywood and communicate honestly and openly with all whom you date, and interact.


  1. I think the ideas you expressed are the reason I was comfortable getting engaged after only 2 months of dating.. My husband and I skipped the pretending to be someone we aren't phase and went straight to communicating with each other. When I didn't kiss him the first time he tried, I told him why. When he saw me hanging out with another guy and it bothered him, we talked about our relationship and where it was going. I agree that open and honest communication is the way to go.

  2. Looking back on my youthful cluelessness, I deeply regret the missed opportunities to know people's hearts within the rich social oppportunities of the single life- school, parties, church activities. We would all be blown away by the amazing people around us if we would be more willing to divulge our real thoughts. We would also get a lot clearer about our real feelings if we would try harder to express them verbally. Bravo, Paul. Another valuable post.

  3. CamilleBJuly 17, 2012 11:07 AM

    I think sometimes people FEEL things, like hesitation or uncertainty, before they are able to ARTICULATE them properly. That is why we feel sometimes and act out of those feelings (needing space, time out) without eing able to honestly put to words what we need. Also, it is often those time outs that allow us the reflection time to be able to figure out exactly what IS going on with us in our intuitive, possibly subconscious realms that is affecting us in a weird way (weird because we cannot quite put our finger on what is going on yet). I think often a relationship has beats - and people have beats - and those beats happen naturally and fluidly when acceptance and allowing of the unfolding of whatever happens is alive in both parties. In short, if you prod in the early stages for the bud to blossom, or out of want to know why it isn't blossoming at a certain rate that you may like, you may damage or kill the bloom.

    Good things take time. Sometimes we speak out of fear, and wanting to pin the other down. As long as you are no acting out of fear I think it OK to have the "State of the Union" talks. But in the beginning phases there is so much being laid down in the foundations of a relationship that to talk about what it is might not yet be possible. Just my thoughts.

    I think the latter portion of your posting makes it clear that you are already conscious and thoughtful about your own contribution to your perceptions, and are looking to become more aware of your potential filters of fear or patterning, and thus will be liberated from those filters, in short time! :-)

    You are a heroic figure of a man, Paul.

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  5. I'm in complete agreement with Camille about the lack of ability to articulate our feelings at times. I know for me it can take some time and some focused internal observation to be able to describe what I'm feeling and why.

    Lack of communication is one of my biggest pet peeves in stories. One recent popular teenage romance series comes to mind where the heroine was so irritatingly closed off and unwilling to communicate that I almost stopped reading several times. I recognize that it was the author's chosen device to move the plot forward, but all I could think was: for goodness sake, would you open your mouth and tell someone how you feel?

    Regarding over-communication: my wife comes from a family where they do quite a bit of talking (which balances quite nicely with my tendency to do no talking). Early in our marriage, we had some issues to overcome with over communication. She would describe her feelings to me about her job and her life and because the negative feelings were the strongest, they got the most attention. That left me with the impression that life was hell for her. It wasn't. Communication is great, but what you are communicating is also important. There needs to be a balance or an emphasis on the positive, or the resulting conversation will so often be negative that you would be sabotaging your relationship.

  6. My friend with a degree in family relationships said that The Family Proclamation says how strong family relationships are formed. And Communication is not in that list. But it just might help me feel better when it feels like two people can never adequately talk.

  7. My relationship with my husband was based more off of chemistry and spontaneity, not necessarily communication. Luckily, my husband isn't a lying cheating player, so that helped a lot ;) Can I suggest a book for you to read? "An Affair Proof Marriage" it's written by a marriage counselor.

  8. Communication is key in EVERY relationship. It's because of communication (or lack of) that my parents are going through a possible divorce. People who lived and loved each other for 20 years just stopped because there was no communication and feelings were hidden that never should have. So communication and honesty may not be in the family proclamation but I truely believe if you don't have it, it can and may destroy that relationship eventually.