A few days ago, there was a Coffee Incident in my household that prompted a post. I got a lot of interesting responses, but I wanted to discuss the matter a little deeper and point out a core value that may have been overlooked.
For those of you who missed the last episode, The Prince made a pot of flavored coffee. I don’t like flavored coffee much, and made a very mildly snarky comment about it.
I had a response that someone who had lived with me for even a short time should know my coffee preferences. Probably so. But people are allowed their preferences, The Prince does like flavored coffee and he was the one who made the pot.
My snarky remark was, “That’s what cup-top brewers are for.”
Note: We have a method for making very nice drip coffee in individual cups easily available in our household.
Where I went wrong was not accepting responsibility for meeting my own desires, getting up and making myself a cup of the type of coffee I prefer.
I also went wrong by not saying, “In the future, if you’re making coffee that you intend for me to drink as well, could you please use the unflavored stuff.”
What I didn’t do was turn it into an Illustrative Example. You know:
You don’t love me. We’ve been together twenty years and you can’t even remember how I like my coffee? What if I had an allergy? Would you care enough to remember then, if my health were at stake? How can you be so self-centered? If I can’t trust you on the small stuff, how in the world can I trust you on the big stuff? What’s with you that you can’t remember this stuff?
That may sound extreme, but I see it frequently when people are discussing relationship problems. Yes, in the real world, coffee preferences are a very trivial example. But the principles of seeing yourself as responsible for your own needs and desires can definitely be applied to the serious stuff.
So, how does that go?
Ask for what you want.
That’s the most important part. If you don’t clearly and directly state what you want, you’re not holding up your end of the communication bargain.
In this example, “Honey, I don’t like flavored coffee. If you make me coffee, please use the unflavored stuff.”
If the person doesn’t give you what you want, consider yourself responsible for getting it yourself.
If there’s a pot of flavored coffee on the counter, I get out the cup-top brewer and make myself a cup of the good stuff. Problem solved.
If what you want is a deal-breaker, let them know clearly and up front.
Maybe I’m so allergic to the substance used to flavor the coffee, even a hint of it will make me go into anaphylactic shock. If so, “Honey, anything flavored with blueberries will cause a medical emergency in me. I can’t be in a relationship with someone who won’t remember this, so it’s really important.”
(Even this doesn’t HAVE to be a deal breaker. You could choose never to eat or drink something prepared by someone else and stay in the relationship. But you might or might not want to, and you get to choose your own deal-breakers. ‘Course the world doesn’t owe you relationships in the face of ’em, but that’s another column entirely!)
So, even though a Coffee Incident is trivial, I wanted to point it out. Practicing on the trivial stuff is actually a great idea. It helps develop the habit when (not if, when) you’re confronted with the big stuff.
4 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Boundaries, Preferences and Communication”
Okay, so I understand what you’re saying, and agree with it, but…
Is there some point where a partner should be more pro-active with communication when diverging from expected behavior? (yes, the dreaded “expectations”.) You state that he usually makes the coffee. One can assume that he also usually makes it in such a way that you enjoy it. One can also assume that he understands that you have a close, personal attachment to your coffee (the entire Goddess of Java thing if nothing else).
Does he have any responsibility to give you a heads up as you’re making each of you cups of coffee that what you’re pouring isn’t what you expect?
I’d just put this under the “surprises aren’t nice” category.
LOL. Interestingly enough, I’ve directly asked him to give me a heads up if he made flavored coffee. He agreed to do. The only way that falls under expectations is that I do expect him to follow through on what he agrees to do!
Wish it was so easy. I’m a grumpy bear in the morning and little things like those often blow up into insanity that calls for apologies later.
We know we are responsible for our own desires. Remembering that when I have been awake less than 10 minutes though … lol … not happening.
*wince* @Miranda I’m not sure that the diminutives and the cuteness really excuse not taking responsibility for behavior.