Is it wrong to put in a letter?

Ugh, I really don’t want to make this long and drawn out so here goes.
Lately my partner and I can barely get through a conversation without bickering. For the past couple of months she’s working a third shift and I work the 8-5 grind. So we get about 1/2- 1 whole hour a day to see each other and then half a day Saturday and all half a day Sunday. Needless to say, this lack of time is not conducive to discussing any of the issues in our relationship and believe me, there are some that are cropping up, or barreling toward us like a freight train rather. We haven’t had alone time on these weekends and will not probably for another 3 or 4 weeks. So, I’m at my wits end regarding getting this stuff dealt with. It feels, lately, like our relationship is circling the abyss and I don’t want it to spiral in.
Here’s my question, would it be out of line or wrong to give her a letter? I want to tell her my concerns and how I feel, then maybe she can reply with a letter of her own. I just can’t take trying to dance around the elephant in the room any longer but I’m afraid that a letter to someone I live with would seem, I don’t know, cold.
So, what say you, Dopers?

Jeez, sorry for the crappy use of commas. And to think I want to write a letter. :smack:

The only thing about a letter is that you can’t really add emotion.

With different schedules, would it be possible for you to call her on your lunch hour and talk? It might ruin the rest of your day, but at least you would be able to talk person to person…

If I were you, I would write her not a letter but a note saying what you just told us “I feel like our relationship is circling the abyss and we never have time to talk about it. Can I write you a letter telling you my side of our issues? Then maybe you can write me a letter telling me your side?”

A letter detailing all the issues you apparently have at present might be a little overwhelming–if your relationship is that bad off, why are you even trying? (worst case scenario of her point of view, not my actual point of view). But a note asking to start a dialogue should be less threatening, and then you can work from there to start actually discussing your issues on paper.

Yes, a letter lacks the spontaneaity of an in person or on phone conversation, and lacks the body language or the voice tones as well. but on the other hand, you can think about what you want to say until you get it right, rather than having to respond immediately.

But a lot depends on the other person as well.

I wouldn’t do it. I’d take a day off work instead. Screw the money, this is your partner and your relationship future.

Too much can be misconstrued in writing (sez the message board addict). If it’s important to you to save the relationship, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices, and this may be the first one. Call in sick, do what you have to, but make some time to sit down together and talk.

If my husband took a day of work to talk to me, I’d pay attention. It means something big is up and he’s aware, and that’s going to make me more aware.

Talking on the phone doesn’t work. If every moment is not filled with conversation she wants to hang up, and I like to think a moment before speaking. I do like the idea of writing a letter just addressing that there is a problem and it needs to be discussed.

You asked “why bother?” because it’s worth it. We’ve been together 3 years and things just started getting really strained in the past 2 months. It’s clearly too early to just throw in the towel. I guess saying “circling the abyss” may be a little melodramatic. I chose those words because lack of communication is the kiss of death for a relationship. If we don’t get this worked out now, it will spiral out of control.

I know hitting all the issues at once in a letter seems harsh but at the same time, it gets what I want to say out there and she can digest then respond, saying what she wants to say without any weird flare-ups or fighting. When you’ve only got 30 minutes tos speak to someone, it’s hard. If we had time, we’d talk, maybe it would get heated, then a cool down, then resume, then maybe a resolution. But with limited time, it’s discuss-argue-she goes to bed.

Sky-writing would be overkill, huh?

Good advice. Very good advice. Ya know, I’ve got to wonder, Whynot, if I’m so sick of bickering that I’m using the letter to avoid confrontation. Or maybe, that my fear that she’s not as into this as I am will be revealed if she doesn’t take me seriously when I set out to discuss some things that are bothering me. Hmmm. I could leave work early tomorrow.

I can’t give you any better advice than Eureka and WhyNot. So, I’m just wishing you good luck. I hope you can sort these issues out and stay together.

Thanks Miller, I hope we can figure it out too. I have to admit, I’m not 100% confident. I actually started writing down, yesterday, some of the things that are serious problems or at least things I have a hard time dealing with and that list was not really so much as long as it was, heavy. It’s funny, about 10 years ago I was in an abusivemarriage with someone who cheated on me, stole my money, knocked me around and put me down constantly.
K doesn’t cheat, knock me around, steal my money, but lately I feel alarmingly like I did when I was with Abuse-O the Assclown.
I think it’s her (seeming) unwillingness to talk about our “shit” when any of said “shit” is her fault. If it’s mine then we have to “Have A Talk.” When it’s her, I get the “So, then why are you with me?” routine. This is partly the reason I want to write the letter, just to get it all out before it gets twisted and convoluted and I’m left defending that I even feel sad rather than getting to address “why.”

Could be.

My husband and I were handfasted instead of a traditional white wedding, and one of the things we were told by our officiant was that the tie (the literal tie - it’s like a long belt) that tied us together would always be our symbol for “This is important to me.” The little bickery things happen as they will, but when one of us is feeling like something is so important we need the other’s undivided attention - the life or death of the relationship talks - we bring out the handfasting tie and lay it out in front of the other. It’s an instant attention getter that just lets us both know that this is an Important Talk and all TV, reading, cleaning, cooking and other frittering about should Stop Now.

We’ve only used it twice in six years. Its power is great. It helps get past that initial hesitation we all feel when starting a serious conversation. It says, “Honey, we need to talk”, so I don’t have to say it.

Perhaps you could suggest something similar to her, maybe even buy a special scarf or silk flower or something. Or maybe you have the wine glasses from your wedding, or a seashell from your trip to the beach or something. Take it out and tell her how much you treasure it as a symbol of your togetherness, and that, with that symbol as a reminder of all the good things in your relationship, you need to have a talk full of love and painful things, just like every relationship is going to have.

BUT, if you’re afraid of things getting all twisty, don’t hesitate to write a letter to yourself. Jot down notes to remind yourself of everything you need to say, and refer to it while you’re talking to make sure you get out everything you need to. But when you’re done, burn the notes. Don’t keep them around to hurt after their use is finished.

Like Miller, I, too, think that both **Eureka ** and **WhyNot ** make valid (yet disparate) points. However, I’ve always found that, when I have something difficult to discuss with someone–and because I’m a much, much better writer than I am an extemporaneous speaker–writing a letter works better for me than does an in-the-moment conversation, especially when the subject is emotional in nature.

For one thing, it gives me to time to think–to really think–about what I want and need to say, and it gives me the opportunity to make sure that I say what I need to say in the way that I need to say it. (It is true that you can’t–well, not always–imbue the written word with vocal inflection and (certainly never) body language, but I think that the degree to which you can do this rests upon your skills as a writer and, perhaps, on the reader’s experience with/knowledge of you.)

Also, writing a letter takes pressure off of the recipent to feel that they have to respond in the heat of the moment. Hell, they need time to think, too, right?

So, yeah, I’d go with the letter. Or, alternatively, as **Eureka ** suggested, I’d go first with an exploratory note (saying what **Eureka ** suggested), and then see what develops from there. And if your partner indicates a desire for a sit-down convo, then go with what **WhyNot ** said and just sacrifice a day’s pay or whatever it is that you’ll need to sacrifice (reasonably) in order to hash this out.

Here’s hoping for the best for both you and your partner–whatever that might ultimately look like. Be well.

You make good points, L’il Puck, and made me think of a third option: writing a letter and then reading it to her. Get written what you want to say and how to say it, but deliver it in person so you can judge how she’s taking it, elaborate where you need to, and answer questions immediately, rather than waiting 'till she’s all steamed up about something that was just a simple poor choice of adjective.

So far, this is all amazing advice, and I can’t offer much more.

If you’re really worried about how she’ll react, (and it sounds like you may have a tough time with this conversation, even if you both have the best intentions) then write the letter after all…but don’t give it to her. Not right away.

DO have a face-to-face conversation, even if it means leaving work early, and DO have the letter with you when you talk to her. If there’s any point at which you feel you aren’t expressing yourself properly, or she isn’t hearing you, that might be the time to take out the letter and give it to her, and sit by patiently while she reads it. This gives you the opportunity to have the best of both worlds: your thoughts clearly expressed, and the chance to be there one-on-one for the discussion.

Good luck. I hope it goes well.

Whynot, Again, with the great advice. We aren’t married in any traditional (not legal in this country yet) or non-traditional sense. But I do like your idea.
We’ve never had a ceremony but for all intents and purposes we are committed and in for the long haul (well, hell I know I am.)

I found out we may have a few hours together tomorrow, so I’m going to head out of work a little early to try to use that time to talk. I haven’t asked her yet if she’s willing to make use of that time. God, I feel like crap.

As my last therapist used to say, “Take my advice - I’m not using it!” (ba-dump-bump) :smiley:

Seriously, good luck.

One of the things that, surprisingly, helped me and my wife get through a rough spot was IM.

It lets you think and compose, it’s interactive, and it’s just emotionless enough to keep the misunderstandings to a minimum.

We were in a situation where I told her a few times I was not going to keep her from doing someething…and yet in conversation, it kept coming up that I wouldn’t let her do it. With the IM session, there was no ambiguity. We got everything out and agreed upon, then both SAVED the conversation. No ambiguity there.

All of you have good advice. I am sitting here hemming an hawing over what to do. I sent her a text asking her to call when she gets back from the store. I’m going to ask her if she can take the time to talk to me tomorrow afternoon. Now, I know from experience she will ask if she should be worried, if I’m going to dump her. I’ve told her I’d never set her up like that so when I need to just talk, that’s how I’m going to ask for the time. She will worry anyhow.

See, here’s another problem we have when talking about heavy issues.
She interrupts, I get angry, she gets frustrated that I’m angry.
She’ll accuse me of raising my voice, even if I haven’t. (A tactic to turn the blame on me)

This was not always the dance we did, this is how it’s been for two months. Hence the desire to write the letter. OTOH, I’d like to try to sit down and talk again. I think I will try to talk with her, if that doesn’t go well, I will inform her of my intent to write it down then I will do just that and give it to her.

Damn, when writing all this out, it makes it seem that the relationship is really in the shitter. It’s not, I don’t think. I have been in long term serious relationships before, I am 8 years older than she is. I have to wonder if my seeing this turn of events as potentially damaging isn’t a sign of my experience and her seeming lack of concern is just due to not really having to deal with this kind of thing much in the past. Not at this level anyway.

Update She called me back, I asked about talking tomorrow. Yep, she thought I was leaving her. Assured her that I am not and she was very receptive to talking. I flat out told her that I am tired of fighting with her and that we need to discuss that and that we needed to just talk in general before things get out of control. She agreed.

I’ll let you all know how it goes.

Thanks for all the input! I really needed the outside viewpoint on all of this.

OK, one more piece of advice - take it or leave it.

A timer. You get 10 minutes to talk (or 15 or whatever you agree on), and she cannot interrupt. Period. Not *even *if you get her name wrong. Then she gets the same amount of time with no interruptions from you. Make the timer the antagonist, not each other.

When you get better at it, you can just agree not to interrupt without the timer, but when you’re just learning, the timer helps take the pressure off - you know she’s not really going to drone on forever, and sooner or later you’ll get your turn.

Taking relatively long turns cuts way down on the bickering because bickering, by definition, is fast and snarky and involves not really listening to the other person before trying to one-up them. (My husband and I are bickerers, too, so I know where you’re coming from.)

FWIW, I don’t think it sounds like your relationship is in the shitter, I think you may just need a regular outside perspective and new ideas to keep you communicating effectively. cough relationship counselor!

Whynot has a good point. Similar to one I was going to mention.

When I was in a tumultuous relationship we learned (in counseling) about mirroring. It is a way of communicating without getting too worked up. Really, I was the emotional one in the relationship and I was surprised at how well this technique kept my emotions in check.

First, try and keep your statements to “I” statements. Such as:

I feel ______ when you ______ and I wish you would ________.

These types of sentence fragements allow you to state your feelings without getting caught up in the blame game.

Next, the person listening (and here’s where it differs slightly from Whynot’s approach only gets to mirror (or repeat exactly or slightly paraphrased) what you said. I think you could use a combination of timing and mirroring and be very successful. You still have to take turns. The mirroring allows you to acknowledge your partners feelings (and her yours) while still letting her (and you) talk about what’s bugging you.

For instance:

I’d say: “I feel hurt and embarrassed when you show up 45 minutes late to where you’re supposed to meet me for the show and I wish you would try and be more punctual in the future.”

He’d say: “So, you’re saying that when I show up late you feel hurt and embarrassed, is there more?”

And I’d say: “Yes, I feel disrespected when you ogle other girls when you and I are out together and I wish you would pay more attention to me”.

And he’d say: OK, I think I hear you saying that you feel I’m disrespecting you when I look at other girls when we’re out on a date. What else? "

And we’d keep going that way until I’d gotten all of my stuff off my chest then it would be his turn. He could spend part of his turn telling me his feelings about what I just said or he could bring up his own issues but once again I could only parrot back to him what he said.

I think the most important thing to remember is that you love this person and she loves you and you want to talk about things because you want your life together to be good and happy. This isn’t her against you or you against her, it’s both of you embracing your relationship and building on it.

One more thing.

The other thing we used to do was a do over. When we got into an argument where we both said things we’d regretted once it was over we’d sometimes go back to the statement that sparked things off and just do it over the way we wished it had gone.

This was very healing for us at the time and dissolved lingering bad feelings.