"Communication is the core of any healthy relationship," I explain to him.
They sound like wise words but I uh, read a lot of dating advice discussion forums on fetish sites and listen to my friends lament about their disappointments with men, and warily laugh at the toxicity laced in the humour behind some of the viral relationship memes circulated around Tumblr and Twitter. So I'm not going to pretend it's a groundbreaking statement, but I've come to realize it's the only thing that's ever going to make it easier to be protective of my heart.
In my personal relationships, I often stress the need for us to try to communicate better. And when this need is met, it makes a noticeable improvement. Of course, it's not like I'm perfect either. I'm guilty of shutting down when crisis strikes, and I can be really withdrawn just for the sake of not making a scene. More often than not, I prefer to find a way to internalize turmoil and give myself closure rather than face confrontation.
So sometimes maybe he's vague and sometimes I'm too shy to speak up when my feelings are hurt. The journey to improve the trajectory of how we align with one another requires me learning to assert when something is Wrong and for whoever i'm with to avoid, for example, issues like being too detached or cryptic.
It's a learning process.
But the reason I advocate so much for communication is that it's a way to evade misunderstandings. Being clear about your intentions and expectations puts you on the same page. Otherwise it's easy to make assumptions or start reading into things that aren't there. Miscommunication is a breeding ground for drama, an anathema to any bond, be it platonic or romantic.
In my mind, when you communicate and you both Understand each other, it's easier to assess compatibility. Because once one or both of you start to stray from that agreed upon path, you can just conclude that it's not working and go your separate ways. I think it can be super disheartening, and painful, to no longer be in sync with someone in the same way you were--but I don't think it's ever personal. A person doesn't shift to being unable to meet your needs out of spite, but rather because their own priorities and preferences have adjusted for pretty much any number of reasons.
At the end of the day, incompatibility is not a reflection of desirability.
If you are honest, and you tell someone "I need X" and they don't do it, or can't, or start to but stop--if "X" is no longer something they can accept or offer, then you're incompatible. It doesn't mean you were necessarily wrong to request X. The other person isn't automatically flawed for being unable to fulfill that request. Objectively, the reality is that some people just aren't able to offer us anything sustainable, in the long run. And it's okay. It doesn't make either or both of you bad people.
I don't think incompatibility should require someone to be the villain. You can be upset that "X" was a dealbreaker but still recognize that the other person's preferences are just as valid as yours.
Incompatibility has gotten easier for me to recognize with the more experiences I accumulated through dating or growing close to people. I'm learning that there are certain needs I'm willing to compromise on if other, more critical ones are being met. I'm learning not only what my needs are, but the root of why they're necessary at all--a question that often goes unasked when shopping for a partner.
Incompatibility rears its head in my dating life all the time. When I call up my best friends and sigh about the latest boy to make me cry, it's really more of a venting session. Some of my friends would take that same affront to their vulnerability as a cue to be more guarded with their hearts, but I do just the opposite: This one wasn't it, but maybe the next one...
Granted, incompatibility that is blatant in the early stages of courtship is always more palatable than incompatibility that rears "unexpectedly" after a prolonged time of the supposed opposite. It's why people seem to have 'checklists' for ideal potential partners and red flags that cue their intuition in the beginning. Finding out someone is a scam before you emotionally invest in them is no problem, and most people are grateful to have 'dodged a bullet'. But the devastation of any cathexis revealed to have been made in vain can be overwhelming for some.
My understanding is, it's important to be able to recognize toxicity in your personal life and aspire to better: to interactions that are fulfilling rather than draining. You can assert this without either of you having to be a "bad person". Not being the perfect match for someone else isn't a fatal character flaw, and learning to process disappointment without throwing a tantrum is always your best bet.