Adventures In Dating

Every couple has a few issues they need to work through.
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You know it and we know it: There's no such thing as a perfect relationship. Every couple has a few issues they need to work through. Meet Melanie and Kevin, a real-life couple (we've changed their names) with a real-life dating dilemma. We'll offer some advice to help them build a better relationship.

Melanie Says: Why Doesn't He Listen?

Sometimes talking to Kevin is like talking to a wall. It's like I start telling him about what happened in class, or the dumb thing my brother did yesterday, and he totally tunes me out. He nods his head like he's listening, but I know his brain's a billion miles away.

I'm not asking him to have some brilliant response to the things I say; I just want him to show me that he hears my voice, you know?

The truth is, it kind of hurts my feelings when he doesn't listen to me. It seems to me, if you care about a person, you care about the things they have to say. I guess that's the real problem. I want to feel like I'm important to Kevin. But when he doesn't listen to me, I feel like he's telling me, "You know what, Mel, I've got better things to do than listen to you chit-chat." Is it really unreasonable to expect my boyfriend to pay attention when I talk?

Kevin Says: I Can Only Listen So Long

OK, I know I'm not always the greatest listener in the world, but I gotta tell you, Mel can talk your head off. Sometimes I just want to hang around with her and watch TV or whatever, and she starts telling me about what her dog ate for dinner or something like that. It's not that I'm not interested in Mel or the things going on in her life. I just can't always act interested the whole way through some 20-minute story.

Mel and I do have some great conversations sometimes—you know, the two-way kind. But when she's just talking and talking about something that's not very interesting to me, it's pretty hard to stay tuned in.

I wish I could figure out a good way to tell her I'm not in the mood for a long story. Or better yet, I wish I could get her to talk about stuff we're both interested in instead of always telling me about the little details of her day.

Carla's Advice:

Neither Kevin nor Melanie is doing anything wrong here, although there are things both of them can do to improve their relationship. They need to start with clearer communication.

Melanie needs to tell Kevin how she feels when he doesn't listen. She can calmly explain that to her, listening equals respect. But it's equally important for her to understand Kevin's desire to just relax sometimes. Melanie also needs to mellow out her chattiness. There's nothing wrong with being talkative, but good communication means paying attention to your listeners. If Kevin expresses interest in the things Melanie's talking about, she can take that as a signal to keep going. But if Kevin starts to tune out, she can ask him, "Do you want to hear the rest of the story right now?" If he says no, she can wrap it up or tell him the rest later.

Kevin also has a part in making their communication work. Melanie's not a mind-reader, so if Kevin feels like vegging in front of the TV, he needs to politely say so. He could say something like, "Mel, that sounds like a funny story, and I'd love to hear it after the show's over." Then when Mel starts in on her story, Kevin really does need to pay attention. Sure it can be hard to listen when someone's telling a long story, but Kevin's probably told a few lengthy stories himself. No doubt he hoped people were listening to him.

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