Twisted Talk: We Hear What We Want To

Have you ever had this type of exchange with your lover: "You've been dating other people? Why didn't you tell me?" "I did!"

So you wonder…how could such a big miscommunication between two people who are close have happened? Easy! We don't really listen. We hear what we want to hear. We misinterpret because the intended meaning is scary to us, and we assume the best instead of facing reality. We want to believe that our lovers have our best interests at heart, but that's not always true.

See if any of these examples of twisted talk sound familiar.

Twisted Talk #1: Polite Parting
She says: "I had a good time tonight, thank you."
He hears: "I really like you and can't wait to have another date with you as soon as possible."
She means: "The date was okay, but I don't plan to go out with you again."
What went wrong: He's projecting his feelings onto her.

Twisted Talk #2: Failing to Follow Up
He says: "I'm busy tomorrow night."
She says: "What are you doing?"
He says: "I've got plans with a friend."
She says: "Oh, what about the next night?"
He says: "I'm not sure. I'll call you."
She hears: "We'll plan another date as soon as I'm free from these pre-existing obligations."
He means: "I'm dating other people and don't want to hurt your feelings. I'll call you if these other women don't pan out and I'm bored." What went wrong: She made an assumption that they were in a relationship because they had a few dates.

Twisted Talk #3: Juggling Options
He says: "I see you're still active on the online dating site."
She says: "Oh, yeah, I got an email I needed to answer."
He says: "Well, I don't want to be sleeping together and dating other people."
She says: "Oh, I just haven't had a chance to take that profile down."
He hears: "I'm not looking for dates, and I want to be exclusive with you."
She means: "I want to sleep with you and keep dating other people."
What went wrong: He was direct, and she was purposely vague. She was trying to keep her options open until she decided whether he was worth being exclusive with.

Twisted Talk #4: The Marriage Question
She says: "Would you like to come to Christmas dinner with my family?"
He says: "That sounds good. But I don't want your family thinking we're getting married or anything. I'm not ready to get engaged."
She hears: "I'm glad I finally get to meet your family. I think this relationship is headed toward marriage, but I'm not ready to propose yet."
He means: "I don't see us getting married, but I like spending time with you for now. So I guess the family gathering is hard to avoid."
What went wrong: He brought up marriage and used the word "yet." His words had the opposite effect from what he intended. But she's assuming way more about the relationship because they haven't been clear on where they stand.

These situations happen over and over with couples. The continuing problem is that we hear what we want to hear and don't always listen carefully. We interpret our partner's messages in the way that matches our own desires. Instead of asking follow-up questions to really understand where our sweetheart is coming from, we assume. And we all know what happens when we assume.… You lose the u and me, and you see what you're left with?

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