Throwing a tantrum at age five is an acceptable way to communicate your needs. Mom, I don’t want to wear this shirt. Mom, I won’t go to bed before ten. Mom, it’s time to leave the sale rack at Strawbridges and hit Dairy Queen.
At this age, the child is still a dependent, helpless figure in mom or dad’s life, which warrants him making one-sided, often unconditional and selfish demands on the parent and getting them.
Unfortunately for him, the bounds of a bond between a parent and a child are much different from those that child will later face with a significant other.
With age and maturity comes the responsibility of becoming a better communicator, especially in relationships.
Disagreements on everything from the toilet seat to the frequency of sex plague every couple.
Overcoming them depends greatly on how you handle the dispute. Once you surpass adolescence, the tantrum is no longer an acceptable form of vocalizing your distaste with a situation. In fact, it’s counterproductive.
This is news to some people.
So the question becomes, how does one bring up emotional or uncomfortable issues to a boyfriend or girlfriend and cause change instead of a ruckus?
Your first focus should be to clearly define your goal before you confront him or her.
If you’re disorganized with your arguments or unsure of what you want, the discussion will likely either be led off track or become more emotional.
We’ll start with the toilet seat scenario to keep it simple. If your goal is to drill into his head that the toilet seat should be put down after every use, concentrate on that, and be sure you’re focusing on the right issue.
If you are really furious that he’s spending time with an old girlfriend and your hurt or anger is being channeled into other areas, odds are the toilet seat itself isn’t that aggravating.
So we’ll say it really is the toilet seat. Next, weigh the consequences of voicing your frustration. If you tell him, will it irreparably damage your relationship? Are you willing to risk that?
Pro/con lists, while cliché, often help to get your information straight. If you know beforehand that he is a germ phobic and needs rubber gloves to sneeze, decide if it’s really a huge deal for you to handle the raising and lowering of the toilet seat yourself, saving him stress.
Do you have two bathrooms? Could you dub one for you and one for him, thus alleviating the problem all together? Just think, your very own, perpetually down toilet seat!
This depth of reasoning is especially key if your boyfriend or girlfriend is fixed on abstinence and you have a more rambunctious sexual background.
Offering someone a do-or-die ultimatum when that much is at stake could end up costing you your relationship or forcing him/her into making a decision about a highly moral issue.
As few things are black-and-white, try to find other solutions that involve both people’s needs.
If she’s not ready for sex, what level of involvement is the bare minimum you will need? Is this a workable option? It’s likely that there are more alternatives than the two on your mind.
If you can’t determine if you’re being rational, consult someone who is likely to share your significant other’s point of view.
Don’t ask your best girlfriend if she’s also irritated when her guy leaves the seat up. Try pitching the situation to a male friend and being as unbiased as possible. See if he gives you some new insight. This isn’t a gripe fest, it’s progress, so don’t go off on a tangent in other areas.
Once you think you’re in order, it’s time to pop the suggestion. As delving into your dilemma should take longer than it does to read this article, absorb all that and I’ll be back next week to advise you on initiating the conversation.
Finally, thanks to everyone who sent me ring advice. You overwhelmingly told me to give it back, so I am. Karma karma karma.
Nadia Stadnycki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.