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Lost in Translation - Communicating is Key

Lost in Translation - Communicating is Key

Just how important it is to talk about difficult subjects, is a realization that started with my parents. It was at a seminar about leadership and values, which described how one may fall into depression in the unhappy (but very likely) event that one of your parents die. You regret not having said things or showed your love because you were embarrassed, it felt weird or it wasn’t appropriate. You realize that you had wanted to do more things with your parents before they left, but something had always come up. In the modern adult life focusing on one's own career, traveling the world and finding the right partner generally tops spending time with parents. 

I grew up in a very traditional Asian family where talking about your feelings, expressing emotions and showing them is not something you are supposed to do (and for which I sometimes envied my European friends who seemed much more comfortable about it). Dad was the head of the family and you couldn’t publicly criticise his choices. And when you haven't practiced in your childhood, it doesn’t come easily later on. Because it’s weird. And so you move on. Which unfortunately in many cases means spending less time with your parents. 

Soon after the seminar, I reflected upon myself and realised that it’s also important to talk about difficult and intimate issues with your partner, such as bringing up key childhood memories, that explain why you act in a certain way. For example, our family didn't have lots of money growing up, but with my decent job and enough disposable income, I started spending and overcompensating my childhood's shortcomings. My partner had a different experience growing up, and so in her eyes I was materialistic and extravagant. Only by talking and sharing about my childhood experiences could she better understand my perspective, which helped grow our relationship. 

What I think is really important is the way to approach such a talk. It has to be the right situation and the right mood. Ask for permission to talk about something more personal and intimate, as it can be overwhelming if your partner is not prepared for a more emotional discussion (it may also be weird the first time you ‘ask for permission’, but it will help set the right frame of mind). Don’t be accusatory and generic, try to reflect on the behaviour you experienced when you felt a certain way (good and bad). Try to be as specific as you can. What you think is weird, might feel very normal for your partner. Start with positives examples about your partner, rather than with the ones that annoy you. My personal experience is that we tend to complement each other too little and seldom give each other feedback. Hence my partner brought up a moment she liked when I tipped a fruit vendor generously and wished him well. I smiled and was genuinely friendly to him; she gave me this immediate feedback which I enjoyed and felt good about.  

Make it a normal thing as part of your relationship to talk about your feelings and your observations. There is no right or wrong in your observations and feelings as they are yours. Add a pinch of vulnerability to it and show that you care, which I think will be a great foundation for a mutually respectful and caring relationship. 

This is also very true for sex, what you like, what your partner likes. Start with little things, to understand intimate elements of your partner better. Create time and space where it’s not awkward to talk about it. Your partner may not want to have this talk with friends, whereas you are ok to talk and share with your buddies about what you like and don't. Respect each other’s’ preferences. Create a bridge from relationship happiness and satisfaction to sex and the toys that help with that. In general, break the taboo of talking about sex-related matters, and make it a normal and important part of your relationship. My recommendation is to begin with sharing your personal feelings as this is the basis to build trust, to then approach the topic of sex, which is generally a little less discussed in most relationships.